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* Welcome to the 2009 football season. When the Tar Heels took the practice field on Wednesday afternoon, the prep work began for The Citadel.
"We felt like it was time to start having segmented practice sessions against things that we expect," Davis said.
The third-year UNC head coach pointed to a 10-day window before the season opener as the "magic" timeframe needed for properly getting to know your opponent. The staff essentially used this week as a trial run for game week, with regard to meetings and practice schedules.
"Tuesdays are the run [and] play-action days, Wednesdays are the nickel days [and] the red zone days and Thursday are short-yardage, goal line days and then there are different phases of special teams each of those days," Davis said. "So that basically gives us two weeks of actual work toward the first opponent."
* Newcomers to Kenan Stadium may not recognize the two new banks of lights that run along the top length of the Pope box and the press box – consisting of 233 fixtures each – but Davis made sure his players were cognizant of the power of the 200-foot candle readings of the recent additions. The team practiced under the lights for the first time on Thursday evening.
"Something that we've always done is try to schedule a night practice just so the kick returners, the punt returners and the receivers can see the ball and if there's any kind of conflict once the ball goes into the lights and as it comes out of the lights," Davis said. "Clearly, one of the things that was noticeable is that you don't want to stare at those lights. They are extraordinarily bright."
One problem the older, dimmer lights had – besides knocking off during games last season – was that the corners of the end zones did not get as much light as needed. That concern has been adequately addressed.
* Offensive lineman Johnnie Farms and defensive back D.J. Bunn decided to join future UNC teammate Jerrell Rhodes at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy after learning that they had failed to qualify academically for North Carolina this fall. That group lends another trio of building blocks to the relationship between the UNC coaching staff and Hargrave football coach Robert Prunty, who has provided a prep school option in close proximity to Chapel Hill.
Davis pointed to freshman A.J. Blue as an example of how Hargrave helps young men mature and accept responsibility.
"Up there you have to learn a lot of study skills, because football is clearly a minor part of their daily routine," Davis said. "They've got organized study sessions, tutor sessions and classroom [work], along with the military obligation of all the marching and those kinds of things. So you learn to become a pretty good manager of time."
* The coaching staff continues to look for solidification at the wide receiver position and with only eight days remaining before the season opener, the race for playing time is rounding the final turn.
"By game time, we would like to be able to play five wide receivers in that particular game," Davis said. "Hopefully we'll be able to do that… Clearly two or three of the younger kids hopefully will have a role that they will be able to go into the game and do a few things."
* No one deflects the topic of red-shirting better than Davis, so a seasoned reporter asked the question from a different angle – Which freshmen are likely not to red-shirt?
"I don't really see any way that Donte Moss won't get an opportunity to play this year," Davis responded. "I think that Gene Robinson [and] Terry Shankle are going to have an opportunity, along with Mywan Jackson, in the secondary. A lot of it is going to depend, offensively and defensively, on how big of a role they carve out for themselves on special teams."
He also indicated that "two or three" of the freshmen wide receivers might play, and alluded to a new category of red-shirts for offensive linemen Brennan Williams and Travis Bond.
"They may be traveling red-shirts," Davis said. "We may travel them and they're there and if something happens and they had to go into the game, then they would lose the red-shirt year. You may travel them for a long time and if they didn't have to play in a game, maybe they won't. A lot of it will be dictated by injuries and things that are out of our control."
* Speaking of the wide receivers, junior Greg Little was asked on Friday if any of the true freshmen had impressed him during training camp.
He responded without hesitation, saying, "Definitely – Erik Highsmith. He's rarely dropped any balls. Anything that comes to him, he's going to catch. Even with those bang-bang plays, he's going to catch it. And he's not afraid to go across the middle or anything. He plays fast and he catches everything."