Fans Expecting Breakout Season

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The 2008 edition of the North Carolina Tar Heels football team took the field on Saturday night to greet a large turnout of their biggest fans, signing autographs and shaking hands during UNC's "Meet the Heels" event at Kenan Stadium.

"Two weeks from tonight, at this time, we will be in the midst of the opening game against McNeese State in the 118th season of Carolina football," Longtime radio announcer Woody Durham said during his opening remarks to the crowd.

The Carolina Kids' Club set up a variety of inflatable games and other activities in the east end zone, with concession stands open for business. The crowd showed up early for the event, with children running through tunnels, tossing footballs and enjoying rare access to the Kenan Stadium field a full hour-and-a-half before the show began at 6:45pm.

T.J. Yates
Instead of announcing the players numerically from No. 1 through No. 98 as he did last August, Durham introduced the players by position group, beginning with the wide receivers and ending with the defensive line. The football team members emerged from the west end zone tunnel wearing Carolina blue jerseys, navy shorts and white shoes.

Following the players' entrance, head coach Butch Davis took the field and briefly spoke to the fans about the coming season.

"The football team has worked extraordinarily hard for the last five months," Davis said. "The last two weeks of training camp is starting to set the stage for something that could be very special. Having the fans to be here for every game is a big part of this experience. We look forward to seeing you on Aug. 30th, starting at the Old Well Walk and being here in this stadium to see this football team have a great season."

The Tar Heel faithful are well aware of the preseason prognostications surrounding this program, as multiple national media outlets and the ACC sportswriters have labeled North Carolina as a legitimate challenger to Virginia Tech in the Coastal Division.

But after posting a 4-8 record in 2007 as well as having a roster still dominated by underclassmen, is that lofty praise possible in Davis' second year in Chapel Hill?

"I think the expectations are realistic," said John Delo of Clayton, N.C. "With Greg Little fixing the problems at running back, the offense should be clicking on all cylinders and the defense had to play a lot of young guys last year, so this has the potential to be a breakout season."

Delo's not alone in his thinking.

"They really only lost [Kentwan] Balmer, [Durell] Mapp and [Hilee] Taylor, so the experience they gained last year should really pay dividends this year," added Marcus Howell of Durham, N.C.

The evidence of the fan base's beliefs came to fruition on July 8th, when the University announced it had sold out of its allotment of 36,250 season tickets – surpassing the previous record of 34,800 set in 1998.

With just two weeks remaining before the season opener, it's apparent that these 14 days will pass much too slowly for some diehard Tar Heel fans.

"It can't get here soon enough," Howell said.

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