Focus Narrows to OL

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – With North Carolina's announcement that starting center Lowell Dyer will miss Saturday's contest against East Carolina, the Tar Heels are now down eight offensive linemen since January. Butch Davis discussed the position group with reporters prior to Wednesday's practice.

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Butch Davis Pre-Practice

** Injuries during practice are never a good thing, but they are exponentially worse when they occur late in the week since it prevents the backup from getting much-needed repetitions. While UNC's starters typically take 70-75 percent of the snaps during game-week practices, reserve center Cam Holland and his fellow second-stringers fight for remaining scraps.

Despite the minimal reps following Dyer's injury at the close of practice last Wednesday, Holland started his first game in tough conditions against Connecticut on Saturday.

"He got an opportunity, which was fortunate for us, to play in The Citadel game pretty significantly in the second half," Davis said. "So it wasn't just total stage fright to go in there. Then, obviously, starting last week against a good defense and the challenge gets even bigger this week because of the talent and the size of the two defensive tackles that East Carolina has."

** Here's a trivia question for you – which other UNC offensive lineman took a snap at center against the Huskies?

The answer is starting right guard Alan Pelc, who slid over for one snap when Holland lost his shoe. Left guard Jonathan Cooper, who returned to practice on Wednesday after sitting out Saturday with an ankle sprain, is also working at center in practice for emergency purposes.

** If you notice a familiar body wearing a new number on the sidelines this weekend, it's probably none other than senior Tavares Brown. The third-string defensive tackle made the move to the offensive line on Tuesday, taking snaps at both center and guard while wearing No. 75.

"We talked to him a little bit about it at the end of last week, just to judge his willingness [to make the move]," Davis said. "He played on the offensive line in high school. It's been a long time since he's played there, but he's an older, more experienced veteran guy. He's smart and he's been playing football for a long time…

"There will be a learning curve. It's theoretically almost impossible for him to be ready to make any kind of a contribution by this Saturday. But hopefully every week it will put him a little closer to us evaluating him and finding out could he help us from a depth standpoint."

The long-held belief is that defensive linemen add a level of nastiness when moved to the offensive line, but Davis scoffed at that notion on Wednesday.

"Sometimes people make the mistake of thinking that defensive guys are these tough, nasty, aggressive guys and that offensive guys are these marshmallow soft [players], and it's not true," Davis said. "You can be just as aggressive on the offensive line as you can as a defensive player. It takes a different mindset, because now you're thinking a little bit more on the offensive side. There's a lot more things to try to process."

** Casey Barth's 45-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter came up woefully short against Connecticut, eliciting questions from fans about his ability to connect on long kicks. But the sophomore from Wilmington, N.C. brought up a good point to the coaching staff following UNC's 12-10 victory on Saturday.

"We haven't really tried a lot of 45- to 53-54-yard field goals in practice, just [due] to the time limitations of it," said Davis, who admitted that Barth hit under the ball on the missed attempt. "So yesterday, we worked an awful lot on field goals between 35 and 50 yards, just to give him a little more of the extra opportunities to practice and deal with the pressure of having to kick it and kick it solidly. It was a valid point on his part."

** North Carolina was able to turn to Richard Quinn when Zack Pianalto was injured last fall, but the former Tar Heel tight end is currently with the Denver Broncos in the NFL. Tight ends coach Allen Mogridge now must turn to a small collection of choices that include Ed Barham, Christian Wilson, Randy White and Vince Jacobs.

Davis indicated that Barham has played both the tight end and H-back positions, but classified the red-shirt sophomore as "a legitimate true tight end."

"Two years ago, you didn't know whether or not he would be as significant of a contributor as he has become," Davis said. "Last year he made some really good strides to get in on short yardage and goal line, and some of the backup tight end stuff behind Richard Quinn. And then he worked even harder in the offseason to try to improve his speed. He's very strong, so we feel confident and comfortable that he'll do a good job."

Wilson enrolled at UNC in '08 looking more like a receiver than a tight end, but has since put on 25 pounds and has settled in at H-back.

"He's like all of the other guys – he's trying to grow through that transition of being an H-back into being a tight end," Davis said.

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