Mid-Week Notebook

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Head coach Butch Davis spoke to reporters following Wednesday's practice, as No. 25 North Carolina prepares for instate rival N.C. State on Saturday.

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Butch Davis Wednesday Post-Practice:
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* When Davis was asked about the quarterback battle between T.J. Yates and Cam Sexton, his reply was direct and unwavering.

"We've named somebody that's going to be the starter, and [he] got the obligatory 70 percent of the work and the backup got 30 percent," Davis said. "Both of these kids are good kids, and I think the one thing that they have learned is that you have to be ready to go. Unfortunately, injuries are a part of the game and at any given moment, you never know what could happen. But I think the good news is that we've got two guys that have a chance to help this team win games."

But unfortunately for the media members in attendance, Davis was not ready to share the anointed signal caller with the public.

The quarterbacks split reps 50/50 on Tuesday, and after seeing what they needed to see, the coaching staff moved quickly to make a decision.

"I think it was more important to just not only get some work done, but certainly to eliminate any kind of distraction – ‘Hey, this is the way that we're going, and this is what's going to happen,'" Davis said.

Davis said there is no intent to hide the information from the N.C. State coaching staff, indicating that the two quarterbacks bring the same style of play to the field and will operate the exact same offense, implying that the Wolfpack's defensive approach won't have to change depending on who takes the field on Saturday. The idea behind not releasing the news is purely to protect the specific player from an avalanche of questions and criticism.

"We've tried to eliminate the distraction for the two kids, so that they can focus on getting ready to play as best as they can," Davis said.

* In games following North Carolina's first two losses of the season, the Tar Heels exceeded expectations, upsetting Miami at Dolphin Stadium on the arm of then-third-string quarterback Cam Sexton after falling the week before to Virginia Tech, and then destroying Boston College, 45-24, after the Virginia loss.

While UNC fans are hoping that trend continues following last week's loss at Maryland, Davis suggests his players' ability to focus on the grand stage allows them to work through the difficult emotion of defeat.

"I think psychologically that our coaching staff has done a good job of preparing our kids for the long haul," Davis said. "We've managed expectations throughout the entire season, and we've talked about the things that sometimes football teams encounter throughout the season – there's going to be injuries, there's going to be adversity, there's going to be successes, [and] there's going to be big challenges. And I think if you don't get too high, you probably won't get too low."

* When Jordan Hemby forced a Josh Portis fumble deep in Maryland territory to open the fourth quarter, it seemed as though the Tar Heels would be able to build on their 15-14 lead. But three incomplete passes by Sexton brought Terrence Brown on the field to punt from the 33-yard line with one goal in mind – nail a high-arching punt with several seconds of hang time that forced a difficult fair catch in miserably wet conditions.

Instead, Brown – who has been solid all season long – mishit the kick, allowing Danny Oquendo to return the ball 11 yards and move Maryland out of trouble to the 24-yard line. Davis expects his standout special teamer to return to form against N.C. State.

"We need Terrence Brown to have a Terrence Brown typical performance," Davis said. "Field position is extraordinarily important [and] hang time is very important. He struggled a little bit last week."

* It seems as though Davis is constantly talking about each passing week is a revelation in understanding the infinite idiosyncrasies of this North Carolina program, but the second-year head coach provided the perfect example of that concept on Wednesday, detailing the struggles of walk-on punt returner Trase Jones in the rain at Maryland.

"He had a little bit of an issue during the course of pregame, and it really got a little bit worse – as he would look up to field the punt, the rain hitting his contacts really affected his ability to track the football," Davis said.

As they say, the devil is in the details.

* Speaking of special teams, Wolfpack freshman T.J. Graham has rolled up the kickoff return yards this season, thanks an inordinate amount of opportunities (34). The Raleigh, N.C. native's 852 kickoff return yards is a school record for a single season and already ranks eighth for a career.

"You better be disciplined in your run lanes," Davis replied when asked how to limit Graham's big-play potential. "You've got to be under control and you've got to make sure that you don't overrun. You can't take careless errors in trying to get to the returner, and unfortunately, lose leverage and get the ball spilt out to the sideline."


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