Heels Preparing for ACC Play

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Head coach Butch Davis spoke to reporters following Wednesday's practice, as the Tar Heels prepare for their ACC opener against Virginia Tech on Saturday afternoon.

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Butch Davis Wednesday Post-Practice:

* Much to the chagrin of defensive coordinators across the country, the read-option offense is slowly filtering its way back into college football as an element in some variations of the spread. North Carolina will be forced to defend four or five read-option looks this season, from small amounts (Virginia Tech and N.C. State) to large doses (Georgia Tech).

Because of the spread of the read-option, the Tar Heels devoted time during spring ball and training camp to defending the unique offense. Davis faced similar issues during his early days of coaching in trying to contain the wishbone and split-back veer looks, which require a multifaceted quarterback to run the system.

The toughest part in preparing for dual-threat signal callers? Finding someone in your program with the ability to play that role on the scout team.

"It forces you to have to take somebody that's a good athlete," Davis said. "Anthony Parker-Boyd is somebody that has a background in high school of playing a little tiny bit of quarterback, although he's been a wide receiver for the better part of a year. But at least he gives you somebody that can give you a little bit [of a prototype]."

Davis indicated that the first several possessions of a game are the most important in defending the offense, as there is no real way to simulate in practice what the players will see on the field.

"The other team is clearly going to run their offense at a much faster pace, and they're going to make the reads faster and they're going to be quicker," Davis said. "So however fast you think at the end of the week that you've got it nailed down – ‘I understand how fast I've got to make this decision' – you've got to do it faster."

* After a breakout performance against Duke last November to close out the 2007 season, most observers expected Greg Little to seamlessly adapt to his new position in the offensive backfield. But through two games this fall, the sophomore running back has only totaled 108 yards on 32 carries.

Davis made it clear on Wednesday that Little is still a work in progress.

"There's no doubt about that – there's no way that you could say that he has arrived as a running back," said Davis, who added that Little was more assertive and physical in Game 2. "Last year, the last two games was clearly an experiment just to find out if he had the potential to invest or would it be better for us to leave him at wide receiver… He's got a long way to go as a running back."

* During Monday's press conference, Davis harped on the importance of his players working harder in preparation for the Virginia Tech game than they did for Rutgers. Through Wednesday's practice, the second-year head coach equated the intensity and focus level to the previous week's efforts, calling the practices "good."

While it is obviously easier to grab the players' attention when the next opponent is Virginia Tech as opposed to McNeese State, Davis is hoping his program stays on an even keel for the entire season.

"The most important thing about the growth of a football program is keeping everything in perspective," Davis said. "After two games of the season, we haven't fully arrived as a football team yet, and we really haven't accomplished anything. We haven't accomplished any of the goals that we set out before the beginning of the season, other than we've gotten off to a solid start."

* Despite being 14 games into his tenure at North Carolina, Davis remains concerned about the day-to-day preparations within the Kenan Football Center. While the players have bought into the major points of the climate change, it's the little things that tell the full story.

"It'll be an ongoing learning curve for a while in this program," Davis said. "There will be times clear into next year, but you can see little things about your program [such as] not having to remind them, ‘Bring your notebooks to meetings so that you can take down notes.' And you walk into the meeting room 10 or minutes before a meeting is supposed to start, and you see six guys in there, where maybe a week ago there was only two or three…

"Until the players take ownership of the program and it becomes so extraordinarily important to them to prepare to win, you've never really turned the corner."

* If you just happened to look at the UNC-Rutgers final score, it would be easy to assume that the Tar Heels routed the Scarlet Knights with a dominant performance. But for Davis and his staff, what occurred in New Jersey last Thursday is due south of their expectations.

"When we looked back at the game, we didn't play nearly as good as we're going to need to play even over the next month with the four opponents – including Virginia Tech – that are on the horizon," Davis said. "The performance that we had at Rutgers – we won't win any of the games if we play the same way."

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