Bowl Notebook

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Head coach Butch Davis spoke to reporters prior to Thursday's practice, as North Carolina prepares for the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Dec. 27 against West Virginia.

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Butch Davis Thursday Pre-Practice:

* If you happen to be touring the Kenan Football Center over the holidays, you may be surprised by who you see on the treadmill running in the weight room – Brandon Tate. The senior standout is making strides in his recovery process after tearing his ACL and MCL during the win over Notre Dame on Oct. 11.

"As pro coaches and scouts and GMs have started calling about our draft-eligible seniors, it's one of those things that you'd like to be able to tell them how aggressively that he's working on this recovery and rehab," Davis said. "It was really encouraging, maybe three or four weeks ago, when I walked in early one morning about 7:15 and he was on the treadmill and he was jogging."

The training staff has set specific timetables for Tate to strive to meet, such as marks set prior to the NFL combine and to the start of the NFL Draft. Davis said that while Tate may not be ready for mini-camps or even training camp, it's important for NFL personnel to be able to gauge his value based on his recovery track.

"It will be very critical to him as to how teams perceive his draft eligibility as to whether or not if 2009 is a viable expectation that he could legitimately contribute to the team," Davis said.

* Davis has never wavered on his stance against a potential playoff system, primarily because he believes that change would eliminate most, if not all, of the bowl games that serve as just rewards for the hard work that student-athletes put in during the football season.

"There's very few opportunities for collegiate athletes [where] you can legitimately give them something that's fun as a reward for what they've done over the last eight or nine months," Davis said. "You want to win the game – make no mistake about it. We want to practice and we want to play well, but by the same token, you want it to be a really good, positive experience. They've paid a huge price."

* Don Nehlen was still the head coach at West Virginia when Davis was at Miami, but even with two coaching changes since that time, the Mountaineers' strength on defense has remained the same.

"The one thing that didn't change in the years since I played them when I was at Miami is that their defensive line is very, very big and physical," Davis said. "They are so fundamentally sound. They really do a great job of tying up your offensive linemen and they're hard to knock off the ball."

That defensive line is led by second-team All Big East defensive tackle Scooter Berry, who posted 32 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss, and is one of the reasons that West Virginia has the top-rated red-zone defense in the country (27-of-42).

* Defensive end Robert Quinn earned distinction on Wednesday as a first-team Freshman All-American by In 11 starts, the Ladson, S.C. product tallied 32 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.

"That means a lot because when I was coming in here, I didn't expect a starting role," Quinn said on Thursday. "But I did have my goals set out to be a freshman All-American, so I guess one of my goals was accomplished and if we can get this bowl win, another [goal] will be met, too."

What makes this accomplishment even more impressive is that Quinn was also given the 2008 Brian Piccolo Award, which spotlights the "most courageous" football player in the ACC. The freshman was diagnosed with a brain tumor during his senior year in high school, and doctors were unsure if he would ever be able to play football again.

Davis indicated on Thursday that Quinn's maturity level is as high as any freshman that he's ever coached.

"Now, is that a byproduct of going through a real serious, challenging health issue a year ago?" Davis said. "I can only speak for myself, but when you get those kinds of scares, priorities in your life get really important and your life gets a lot simpler. Things that used to bother you don't bother you and the things that really important, you really take care of. And I've got to think that there's got to be a little bit of that [in him]."

* West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart is no stranger to the North Carolina football program. The first-year head coach served as a graduate assistant for former Tar Heel coach Dick Crum in 1979, and returned to coach the offensive line in 1985 and stayed until Crum's dismissal following the 1987 season.

Stewart has nothing but fond memories of his time at North Carolina.

"I have a tremendous love for the Chapel Hill family," Stewart told reporters during his Wednesday teleconference. "John Swofford, who is now the ACC Commissioner, was always so good to me and [his wife] Karen. Dickie and Linda Baddour were also so good to us… We really got along as a family – it was truly a family. I really enjoyed my time there, I really did."

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