An Answer to the WR Questions

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The storyline surrounding this North Carolina program since April's NFL Draft has revolved around the youth and inexperience at wide receiver. Freshman Josh Adams has heard those questions and he firmly believes an answer is forthcoming.

The stats have been flung about enough to warrant chronic migraines and the occasional aneurysm. Junior Greg Little is the only current receiver to catch a pass in 2008 – 11 of them, to be exact, for 146 yards without a touchdown. So how will starting quarterback T.J. Yates survive with Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate and Brooks Foster playing professionally this fall?

"It's hard to answer a question about something that we really don't know," Adams said on Thursday afternoon. "The only thing that we know about is Sept. 5. When kickoff comes, and then the first pass and the first running play and we've got to block, that's when we'll begin to know. I feel like we've just got to go out there and do our job and our assignments and we'll do fine."

In other words, stop asking those questions because no answer will be good enough for anyone living outside of the Kenan Football Center walls. But that's not to say that Adams doesn't have faith that his wide receiver counterparts will rise to the occasion.

"Everyone has their own role in the offense and everyone has their own packages, so everything should fit in fine," the freshman said, highlighting Little, Dwight Jones, Todd Harrelson and Erik Highsmith as receivers that have impressed him in August.

The Cheshire, Conn. native has done his part this offseason, adding 5-6 pounds of muscle to the 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame that arrived in Chapel Hill last January. His goal is to reach 208 pounds by midseason, and the long-term target is 218 pounds as early as next season.

And while Adams is a true freshman by NCAA Clearinghouse standards, his ability to enroll early and get a head start has been in the plans for four years. Following a breakout freshman season at Cheshire Academy, Notre Dame and Boston College quickly became involved in his recruitment through a flood of letters. It was then that he decided to set up his high school curriculum to allow him the opportunity to start his college career a semester early, if he desired when the time came.

And while Adams describes his spring semester as an "eye-opening experience socially, academically and physically," he's got the nuances of adapting to college life behind him.

"I feel like I've been here for a while," Adams said. "All of the other freshmen are like, ‘Oh, I've got to practice and I've got to do this and do that.' But I feel like I'm in the flow with everything… After going through the spring, it's just natural for me now."

Adams is currently listed behind Jones at the "X" receiver position, but he figures heavily into this season's offense. Developing a rhythm with his quarterbacks during the offseason was critical in his growth and comfort level.

"I spent a lot of time out here," Adams said, motioning to the Kenan Stadium field. Sometimes it would just be me and Mike [Paulus] out here throwing, or me and Braden [Hanson] or T.J. [Yates]. I'd be on the jugs [machine] just working the routes, working formations, just getting everything nice and tight before preseason came."

But the practice field has only been one part of the equation. Adams has drawn rave reviews for his dedication to film study during his first several months on campus.

"In high school, we didn't watch as much film," Adams said. "But [wide receivers coach Charlie Williams] says to get better you've got to watch yourself and watch other players and watch the great ones and what they did wrong and right. What I've learned from that is when I go into the film room, I look at myself and what I do wrong and review the notes that Coach gave to me in practice. I also look at Hakeem [Nicks] and what goes on in the NFL and then compare everything, and then just try to get better from that."

His goals are ambitious, yet reasonable – 40 receptions and 6-10 touchdowns. And Adams readily admits that he needs to become more physical when blocking, instead of just trying to get in the way of a defender. But the past eight months of work have focused primarily on one occasion – UNC's season opener on Sept. 5.

"I was just walking out here and I was thinking, ‘This crowd is going to be thumping,'" Adams said. "I can just imagine coming out of the tunnel with just the fog and under the lights, too – I'm just so excited."

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