|Inside Carolina audio is available to IC premium subscribers. To listen, you'll need an updated version of Windows Media Player - click here to download the software.|
* North Carolina's offensive line depth took a pair of uppercuts to the jaw this week with the news that guard Kevin Bryant was leaving the program and tackle Carl Gaskins was out for the season with an ACL injury. Davis referred to the current group of backups as "young," but believes their potential is just waiting to be tapped.
"We think we've got some talented kids and they've just got to get some experience," Davis said. "We said this at the very beginning of training camp, that part of the importance of this training camp at all positions – not necessarily just the offensive line – was to continue to try to build our depth."
It helps that fifth-year senior left tackle Kyle Jolly and senior center Lowell Dyer have worked under offensive line coach Sam Pittman for nearly three years and have 38 starts combined over the past two seasons.
"They're quasi-coaches on the field," Davis said. "They've got to take care of their own responsibilities and they've got to continue to play well and they've got to improve, but it's good to have good senior leaders."
* While T.J. Yates is the clear starter at quarterback, Davis indicated that the other three signal callers on the roster have worked with both the 1's and the 2's to gain experience during the first week of training camp.
"We're trying to give significant reps to all three guys – Mike Paulus, Braden Hanson and Bryn Renner – and put them all in situations where they get a chance, because sometimes it's awfully hard for your growth and development if you're not playing with a supporting cast that gives you the best chance to show what you can do," Davis said.
* If there was a silver lining to starting weakside linebacker Zach Brown's excused absence last weekend to attend his sister's wedding, it's that freshman linebacker Kevin Reddick gained some extended opportunities to add to his overall rep count.
"Kevin's very instinctive," Davis said. "He's very physical [and] he's fast. I think if you were going to say besides speed at linebacker, the one great intangible that you would love all of your linebackers to have is football awareness and instincts. A lot of times he just diagnoses where the ball is going to go just because he sees it. He's got great vision and he's having a very, very good camp."
* Prior to the unraveling of the offensive line, wide receiver was the position group drawing the most attention this preseason. Davis has highlighted the play of both Greg Little and Todd Harrelson this week, but on Friday, he touched on the freshman class at wideout.
"Josh Adams, I think, is making some plays for us, and Erik Highsmith – there hasn't been a practice yet that he hasn't made some kind of really athletic catch," Davis said.
Another freshman receiver, Jheranie Boyd, sat out Friday's practice after having his wisdom teeth removed. The Gastonia, N.C. native is expected to return to practice on Monday.
* If there is a position on defense with questionable depth, it would be at cornerback, but it appears as though two freshmen are poised to make a move up the depth chart.
"Terry Shankle and Mywan Jackson are two kids that have got good football skills," Davis said. "I think if you put them at wide receiver, you'd be saying, ‘Oh man, that's pretty good,' and if you put them at corner, they're going to do some good things, because they've speed, they've got quickness [and] they've got good flexible hips. For both of them, the speed of the game and all of the fundamentals is a little bit of learning, but they've got some awareness to make some plays."
* With the electrifying Brandon Tate now playing for the New England Patriots, the Tar Heels have paid particular attention to finding a suitable replacement for the NCAA record holder at the return spots on special teams. What the staff has learned this August is that four true freshmen excelled in those roles at their respective high schools – the aforementioned Jackson and Shankle, as well as running backs Hunter Furr and A.J. Blue.
Another defensive back, junior Da'Norris Searcy, had apparently slipped through the cracks until Friday morning.
"Here's a kid that runs 4.4 and has a lot of speed, so we put him back there today just catching in pre-practice, and he did a very good job," Davis said. "He looked smooth and he looked natural…We've got some guys that we think will do a good job back there.
* If you were expecting scrimmage results sometime soon, then I apologize for being the bearer of bad news. The Tar Heels are in no hurry to schedule a scrimmage. While Davis insisted that the 1's are ready for action, his staff wants to make sure the 2's and 3's can execute well enough for those specialized practice sessions to be truly effective.
"We're going to wait until we feel like the team is ready to scrimmage," Davis said. "I think we're getting an awful lot of very, very physical practices. If you're watching our practices, our inside-run drills and our team drills, with the exception of the ball carrier going to the ground, if we said it was Saturday and it was game day, it couldn't be anymore physical at the point of attack."