Training Camp Draws to an End

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – With only nine days remaining before the season opener, North Carolina has now turned its attention to its first opponent – McNeese State. Head coach Butch Davis spoke to reporters following Thursday's practice for the final time of training camp.

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Butch Davis

"I guess you could officially say that with the start of classes on Tuesday, that training camp basically is over," Davis said. "I think for the most part, it's been a pretty positive two-and-a-half weeks leading up to the start of the season. We got some good quality work done, [and] we got a good chance to get an idea what the freshmen might or might not be able to contribute, if some of them have a chance to contribute somewhat early in the season."

Davis indicated that his coaching staff used the August practices to discover which players fit into certain specific situations, whether it be short yardage, goal line or even nickel and dime packages on the defensive side of the ball. The second-year head coach has been open about his plan to find a particular benefitting role – no matter how small – for every player on the roster.

Most importantly, these Tar Heels have emerged from training camp as healthy as could be expected.

"The most positive thing was that fortunately we were able to escape any serious injuries," Davis said. "We are so thin as a football program, from the standpoint that we've got some guys that have some experience and are coming back from last year, but as far as the depth that you really need to withstand a lot of major injuries, we're not there as a football program yet…

"We've got bumps and bruises, but right now, I don't foresee anybody that has been practicing during the month of August that probably won't be ready for the first ball game."

Thursday's practice was North Carolina's first look at McNeese State, a Football Championship Series program ranked in the top-10 in its division's preseason poll. Unsurprisingly, the Tar Heels were sloppy, which was one of the reasons the coaching staff began preparations three days early.

With training camp covering a vast array of topics, the quick process of dramatically narrowing the focus to more precise matters, such as McNeese State and a handful of other opponents, is not an easy transition.

"Right now, it's more about efficiency and it's about having better execution in practice," Davis said.

There has not been much drama surrounding position battles this preseason for North Carolina, and the few spots still up for grabs have still not ironed themselves out. Red-shirt senior Bryon Bishop and red-shirt sophomore Alan Pelc are competing at left guard, although Davis expects Pelc to see action at right guard as well.

Sophomore Charles Brown slow recovery from an ankle injury has muddied the waters opposite of red-shirt sophomore Kendric Burney at the cornerback position, but Davis has been pleased with the efforts of red-shirt sophomore Tavorris Jolly and red-shirt junior Jordan Hemby.

The position battle of most importance resides at placekicker, with freshmen Jay Wooten and Casey Barth and sophomore Reid Phillips dueling for playing time. All three kickers participated in 10 full speed live kicks on Thursday, bringing their training camp total to just over 75 live opportunities with pressure.

"We're looking at the times, and we're also looking at the accuracy of the snapper and the holder, how efficient they have [been]," Davis said. "If they've had a miss, was it related to the [snapper and holder]? Was it a mechanical breakdown? Was it somebody up front on protection?"

Davis indicated that he would insert any of the three kickers into a game at any given time, depending on the kicking situation.

In order to prepare for next weekend's gameday experience, North Carolina will hold what Davis called a "mock game" on Saturday morning. The scrimmage will consist of 90 scripted plays that will run the Tar Heels through a variety of settings – being ahead, being behind, clock management situations and two-minute drills.

A full officiating crew will be present for the fourth time of training camp, calling penalties that the players typically try to get away with in practice. The scrimmage will include several different contact tempos as well – tag-off, thud-and-wrap-up and full tackle.

"It will try to entail every conceivable kicking situation that could come up in the course of a ball game, where players have to be alert on the sidelines," Davis said. "We'll divide the squad up and actually have one team on one sideline and another team on the other. We'll do all of the game day operations, the coaches will be in the press box, we'll be signaling in sideline adjustments and we'll go through it as if it was a game."

North Carolina's first official game week of the season begins next Monday, as Davis will hold his weekly press conference at 11:30 am at the Kenan Football Center.

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