Mid-Week Notebook

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Head coach Butch Davis spoke to reporters following Thursday's practice, as the Tar Heels welcome the South Carolina Gamecocks to Kenan Stadium at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

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Butch Davis Thursday Post-Practice:
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* Davis returned to practice for the first time this week following his brother-in-law's funeral on Wednesday. While some fans may have worried about the team's preparation heading into Saturday's game against South Carolina, Davis had no doubts that he was leaving his players in capable hands.

"I have the ultimate trust and confidence in our coaching staff," Davis said. "We had talked about probably 85 percent of the game plan, because I didn't leave until Tuesday afternoon, so I was here Sunday, Monday and Tuesday for all of the game planning and stuff. And I know they did a good job. I talked to them after the practices and they said the energy was very good."

Davis said the team had a solid practice session on Wednesday, and followed that up with another strong day on Thursday.

"I would not have expected anything less," Davis said. "I think the world of this coaching staff. They're outstanding coaches, they're good men and that's one of the real unique privileges of having a lot of these guys [that I've worked] with before, so I know that they're going to go out and get the job done."

* USA Today's Jeff Sagarin rates the Tar Heels' schedule as the fourth toughest nationally – a number that is only going to move up after Saturday's battle with No. 7 South Carolina.

"Anybody that's got a harder schedule than us – I don't want their schedule," Davis said. "All I know is that it seems like everybody we play is rated in the top-10 in defense… and I would suspect that it's going to continue to get at least as tough, if not tougher, as the season goes along."

But Davis is not one to harp on North Carolina's current slate of opponents.

"The schedule is who you have," Davis said. "Very rarely do you have much control over it… But it's a great way to kind of measure yourself. You get a chance to find out about yourself and your program."

* Beating the Miami Hurricanes this past Saturday provided dividends far beyond just notching another mark in the win column for North Carolina. Fans and media alike have witnessed the Tar Heels steadily improving play ever since the season opening victory over James Madison, but finally securing a victory infused a significant amount of confidence into this young program.

"I think there's certainly a lot more enthusiasm," Davis said. "I think as much as you're looking for nuggets when you're struggling and you're playing somewhat decent and you're getting better, but it's a little bit hollow when you're not getting the wins. And certainly the win brings a little spark of enthusiasm and guys are anxious to get back to practice and those kinds of things."

* Wide receiver Brooks Foster and center Scott Lenahan missed the Miami victory due to injury, and while they have practiced this week, Davis is not sure whether the veterans will take the field against South Carolina this weekend.

"We'll see – they did some practicing today and I think in the NFL, you would call this a game day decision," Davis said. "It's not out of mystique or disguise. It's just how much truly better can they get between now and 3:30 on Saturday afternoon."

* Let's shoot down an Internet rumor on this cool Thursday evening – North Carolina is not changing the color of its jerseys to navy blue any time soon.

"That's totally erroneous," Davis said. "Next year, we are going to change the uniforms some. Nike – every three to five years – they give you an opportunity when you're under contract to kind of tweak, and this year, they let us fudge a little bit by doing the pants…

"But we're going to always have Carolina blue jerseys and helmets and stuff like that. I wouldn't touch that helmet for anything. I think it's the best-looking helmet in college football."

* North Carolina has slowly built on the 79.4 rushing yards per game average following the South Florida blowout. That average is now up to 104.2 ypg after solid performances against Virginia Tech (124) and Miami (183) – still far below where Davis wants it to be, but it's improvement nonetheless.

"I think it has gotten better and it has been a deciding factor in helping us be much more competitive," Davis said. "It's allowed us to be much more balanced offensively, [but] there's still plenty of areas to improve. We're not as good as we need to be, but I think we've definitely made some strides in the right direction."

Anthony Elzy has obviously been a significant part of that increased production, churning out 169 yards and two touchdowns over the last five quarters.

"He's played very good," Davis said. "We hated the fact that he had the really bad ankle sprain early in the year, because it really limited him, but he is a tough, physical runner. If you were going to use one adjective to describe him, it's just how he really runs strong and tough, and that's what this offense needed last week."

But while Elzy has moved out front of teammates Johnny White and Ryan Houston, Davis is not quite ready to anoint the red-shirt freshman with a full rushing load.

"I still think it's probably going to be running back by committee for a while, but I think there's plenty of opportunities for all of them," Davis said.

* One area of concern over the last several weeks has been the dwindling collection of defensive linemen ready to play during this brutal stretch of games. That issue came to a head against Miami on Saturday, as defensive tackles Aleric Mullins (funeral) and Cam Thomas (ankle) missed valuable practice time that limited their ability to compete against the Hurricanes.

"We didn't play enough guys defensively," Davis said. "Early in the year, when some of those defensive linemen had been healthy, we played anywhere from seven to nine guys and I think we only played like six last week. I think they kind of got gassed and got tired."


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