Down the Home Stretch

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Head coach Butch Davis spoke to reporters following Wednesday's practice, as No. 19 North Carolina prepares for a visit from No. 20 Georgia Tech on Saturday.

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Butch Davis Wednesday Post-Practice:

* The word of the week at Navy Field for the Tar Heels has undoubtedly been "discipline." Nearly every Georgia Tech running play has three possible ball carriers, and when you factor in the play action pass, North Carolina's entire defense will have to stick to the assignment and hold back the desire to over pursue on certain plays.

Davis shared some of his past experiences in teaching how to defend an option-type offense on Wednesday, including the Steve Logan method of practicing without a football.

"We used to do it with a little nerf ball or a small ball so that the defensive linemen and everybody could actually see the simulation of the snap, but the quarterback would already have a real football in his hands," Davis said. "And then sometimes you would just do it without anything, and every body just goes full speed. That way you don't know who has the ball, because sometimes on Saturday you're not going to know. It keeps you from guessing."

* The top defensive line in the ACC resides in Atlanta, as sophomore end Derrick Morgan joins senior tackles Vance Walker and Darryl Richard and end Michael Johnson are the guiding force for Georgia Tech's rise to the No. 1 national ranking in tackles for loss (8.9 per game). The Yellow Jackets also lead the ACC in sacks (26) and scoring defense (14.8 ppg).

All four down linemen rank in the ACC's top-10 in tackles for loss, combining for 37.5 on the season. Morgan and Johnson also occupy the league's top five in sacks.

In an awe-inspiring performance against Gardner-Webb, the foursome combined for 32 of Tech's 50 tackles, 11.5 tackles-for-loss and 5.0 sacks. But Davis indicated that scheme and strategy doesn't have much, if anything, to do with this defensive line's success this fall.

"They're just really good athletes," Davis said. "Both of the defensive ends are probably 6-foot-6, 6-foot-7 guys and they've got really long arms. They're very athletic and they're hard to knock off their feet. And their defensive tackles are guys that for a lot of teams would probably be defensive ends. They're that kind of good athlete. They're not big, slow, chunky guys that are block gobblers. These are the guys that have the athleticism to penetrate.

"They blitz enough and they bring enough pressure that it gives these guys a chance to get into creases and get on the other side of the line of scrimmage."

* Davis told reporters during Wednesday morning's ACC teleconference that injured quarterback T.J. Yates (ankle) would be a game time decision as far as determining whether or not he could serve as a potential backup to Cam Sexton.

That statement sounded as though Yates would not play against Georgia Tech barring an injury or unexpected turn of events for Sexton, but Davis did not nix the idea of Yates playing on Saturday following Wednesday's practice.

"It's hard to say," Davis said. "I'm not beating around the bush or anything, but every single day that he doesn't have any kind of setback, then the next day we're able to say, ‘Okay, not only is he able to do what he did yesterday, but let's either give him more plays or give him bits and pieces of some of the things that he hasn't been able to do.'"

He added that Yates has progressed every day, and that there have not been any setbacks that have led the coaching staff to pull back on the reins of his increased workload.

* Tight end/H-Back Zack Pianalto was listed as Richard Quinn's backup on Monday's depth chart release, but that move may have been a bit premature.

"He's kind of in the same situation [as Yates]," Davis said. "He's probably further behind T.J. than the other way around."

* With ESPN/ABC using its final six-day option to delay the decision of Saturday's start time, most observers assumed that when Georgia Tech defeated Florida State last weekend, the UNC-GT Coastal Division clash would end up as a potential national primetime game, with a 3:30 p.m. start time being the worst-case scenario.

So conspiracy theories were bound to emerge – and they most certainly did – when Raycom announced a noon start after ESPN/ABC declined to pick up the contest between the two top-25 ACC programs. Davis downplayed the significance of the decision on Wednesday.

"I have no clue how they pick that stuff," Davis said. "I just wait for someone to call me on Sunday and say, ‘It's going to be at that time.' It's kind of out of our control. Whenever it is, it is."

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