Mid-Week Notebook

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Head coach Butch Davis spoke to reporters following Wednesday's practice, as the Tar Heels prepare for the Miami Hurricanes in Kenan Stadium at noon on Saturday.

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Butch Davis Wednesday Post-Practice:

* Red-shirt sophomore Jermaine Strong has been a hot topic of conversation dating back to the preseason. But not for his play on the field – rather, for his lack of play. After all, Strong was arguably North Carolina's top cornerback in 2006, collecting 18 tackles and breaking up five passes.

The Shelby, N.C. native gradually improved as the season wore on, culminating in an outstanding performance against Georgia Tech, holding NFL first-round pick Calvin Johnson to just 13 yards on three receptions.

But Strong struggled at times learning the new staff's defensive schemes and lost his starting spot to senior Kendric Williams. But with Williams out for the season with an ACL tear, Strong is back with the first unit and ready for a shot at redemption.

"He's done good," Davis said. "He's practicing very well. We've got a lot of confidence in him. He's had playing experience, which I think lessens the anticipation."

* The NCAA released the Graduation Success Rates for the 1997-2000 timeframe on Wednesday afternoon, and North Carolina posted a 79 percent mark, up from last year's 70 percent score.

While Davis was still the head coach at Miami during that period of time, he praised his predecessors' work to maintain those solid numbers, and added that he would like to improve on those numbers down the line.

"I aim for 100 percent," Davis said. "Clearly, I think if you're in the seventies, [then] you're doing a really good job, because when you take a look at the number of guys that potentially leave early for NFL careers and sometimes guys just – college isn't necessarily for them…

"You'd like to think that you're always in the seventies. Anything below 70 [and] you're struggling for some reason or another. I think a lofty goal is [that] you'd always shoot for a target above 80 percent, I think is admirable."

* For Hakeem Nicks, this season has been feast or famine. The sophomore wide receiver has six or more receptions in three games, and three or less in the other two. Teammate Brooks Foster isn't far behind, with 11 catches in two games and only five total in the other three contests. So what's the explanation?

"If I could script the perfect scenario, you'd like for all of those guys to get anywhere from four to a half-dozen catches each, but coverages sometimes dictate who they're trying to take away on a particular down and distance," Davis said.

That's where talented depth comes into play. The more athletes that opposing defenses have to account for, the more difficult that task becomes to successfully accomplish.

During Davis' final season at Miami, his skill position players were Clinton Portis at running back, Jeremy Shockey at tight end and Reggie Wayne, Santana Moss and Andre Johnson at wide receiver.

"When you're really good, and you've got really good talented skill players at all five positions, the other team should have nightmares," Davis said.

* Davis indicated that he can tell the team is excited about playing this weekend in front of the home fans, following two tough road contests. The familiar faces and places are only part of the reason that practices have been upbeat this week, though.

"You like teams that like football," Davis said. "That football isn't drudgery [and] it isn't misery. In the midst of sometimes [when] things maybe aren't going as successfully as you would like, they are still eager to go and practice and to get better."

* With different running backs running well over the past couple of games, the coaching staff is nowhere near ready to hand one player the ball 80 or 85 percent of the time. While the committee approach may not be the favored option, it's slowly beginning to boast some success on Saturday afternoons.

"There are expectations that regardless of which guy goes into the game, we expect them to play well," Davis said. "And I love the fact that they're pulling for each other.

"It's a little bit like a pitching staff – there's a starter and he goes in and he goes 4-5-6 innings, then a middle relief guy and then the closer. Whatever has to happen for us to try to win. I like their attitude about it. They're not looking at it from a selfish standpoint."

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