Day 12 Notebook

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina reached the midpoint of training camp on Tuesday as Butch Davis addressed the media following the completion of the preseason's 14th practice. The third-year UNC head coach touched on the wide receiver and punt returner position groups, as well as updating the Kenan Stadium renovations.

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Butch Davis Post-Practice
(10:46)

** During Davis' first spring practice in Chapel Hill back in '07, the coaching staff spent significant time educating its players how to properly break from a huddle. Now, some 29 months later, the amount of X's and O's content that has saturated this entire UNC roster has become evident – and the staff is not finished quite yet. The Tar Heels have worked on the execution of more sets and schemes this training camp than in either of the previous two camps under this regime.

Davis indicated on Tuesday that there are two reasons for that increased workload.

"One, we've got to get a lot of young guys an awful lot of knowledge and some experience early, and the second part is that we've got enough experience with the veteran guys that they know more," he said. "They can actually go out and execute more things. They've got a greater base of knowledge of our offense, defense and special teams."

** If you were hoping to hear glowing remarks from the Tar Heel head coach on the development of the wide receiver corps, then consider this a fair warning – Davis' tone and words were not very assuring.

"I think it's baby steps," Davis said. "I think that they're getting better every day. One of the things that you want, and it will be one of the real telltale signs, is consistency. They may have one good practice, they may struggle a little bit mentally, they may struggle a little bit from the fundamentals, releases and formations and then bounce back. When they can start stringing 2-3-4-5 practices [together] where they're really starting to make plays on a regular basis, that's when you'll have a lot more confidence that they're starting to arrive."

When asked if any one receiver was separating from the group, Davis responded by saying that the staff was rotating guys so often that nobody has had the opportunity to emerge and that the current focus was on getting six or seven players ready to play.

But Davis also understands that there is a difference between a practice player and a primetime performer, and pointed out that the first three or four games of the season are going to present the young wideouts with obstacles and opportunities the staff cannot recreate in practice – such as the speed of the game and the adrenaline rush of playing in front of 60,000 screaming Tar Heel fans.

"That's when we'll start to find out if they're really, truly ready to play," Davis said.

** North Carolina finished the 2008 season ranked 29th nationally in turnover margin (plus-0.46) and even spent several weeks midseason holding down the No. 1 spot. The Tar Heels forced 29 turnovers – 20 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries – good for a T-20th ranking nationally (T-4th ACC). When quizzed about his defense's fortunes last fall, Davis offered a stat based on a 10-year NFL study that indicated a 77-percent success rate when winning the turnover battle.

"One of the reasons that they're good at it is that they're always trying to create turnovers in practice," Davis said. "They're always trying to punch the ball out, strip the ball, go for balls at high points on interceptions, and it forces the offense to really protect the ball."

** While strong safety Da'Norris Searcy turned heads last week with his punt return capabilities, Davis also praised Charles Brown, Kendric Burney and Jheranie Boyd on Tuesday for their efforts in trying to nail down the punt returner spot for the season opener against The Citadel on Sept. 5.

** In a well-run organization, every small detail is done for a reason. Wondering why the Tar Heels have endured the heat of early afternoon practices the past two weeks? It's because two of North Carolina's first three contests (at Connecticut on Sept. 12, East Carolina on Sept. 19) are scheduled for noon kickoffs.

"We're being smart about the breaks, but we've got to get used to dealing with the mental aspect of playing in the heat," Davis said.

** With construction crews working around the clock at Kenan Stadium in hopes of finishing Phase I of the renovation process before the season opener in less than three weeks, Davis indicated on Tuesday that not only was the work expected to be completed on time, but that the workers were possibly a week ahead of schedule.

"They're starting to clean up in the front [of the stadium] and getting ready to where they can repave and do all of the stuff that they've got to do to allow people onto the concourse to get into all of the concession stands," Davis said. "The lights – that was remarkable how fast they were able to get all of those lights up. On Friday, I think we're going to actually turn the lights on. I think they have to burn for 50 hours – they turn them on and leave them on non-stop and let them get used to running. Then they'll have to tweak direction and make sure the field is covered properly."

** Once the new lights are fully operational, the special teams returners will spend some quality time learning to catch balls underneath the power of a 200-foot average candle reading.

"It really is something that if you've never been back there catching punts and kickoffs, and the ball goes into the lights, sometimes you might not be able to track it and see it," Davis said. "You've got to see it fall out of the lights a little bit and see if there are any issues with that. That's something that we hope to try to do probably next week."


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