Health and Simplification

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina's wounded football program is back on the practice field this week with intentions to simplify the offense while working to get healthy in preparation for Georgia Southern's arrival on Saturday. Butch Davis spoke to the media about those topics prior to Wednesday's practice.

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Butch Davis Pre-Practice
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* Following Davis' Monday press conference, there were plenty of people that took his comments about scaling back the offense to mean that the coaching staff would burn its playbook and borrow a local Pop Warner chapter's edition for the remainder of the season. If that's your thinking, then you might want to hold your horses.

"We may not throw out 50 percent of the stuff that we're doing, but we may try to emphasize things that the kids can do better," Davis said. "The things that they are more comfortable with [and] the things that they are lot more familiar with… Every week with a new team, you're always tempted to say, ‘Well golly, here's eight new plays and this really looks good against these guys.'

"And sometimes you just need to work on the stuff that you're kids are familiar with and try to execute it better."

One prevalent concern is the notion that a simplified offense makes it more predictable, but if new plays are not being run properly, then it doesn't really matter if the defense is caught off guard or not.

"It's more about execution," Davis said. "People watch you and they have ideas about who you are and what they think you can do. You probably have more success doing the stuff that you can execute and do well with confidence, and I think that's something that's more important to emphasize that than it is imagination and X's and O's.

"I know that there's places around the country where if you've got a totally veteran team and a lot of experienced guys with fourth and fifth-year seniors – it's always tempting to watch Monday night NFL highlights and say, ‘Golly, wouldn't that be good. Let's add that play.' But we're not there yet."

* North Carolina releases its injury report every Thursday evening, but Davis expanded on the process during Wednesday's pre-practice media gathering. Injured individuals get reevaluated every Monday as that is the players' day off and allows for the most amount of treatment.

Decisions are then made by the training staff as to what capacity the players can return to practice on Tuesday – on a limited basis, held out or ready to go.

Cooper was able to return on a "partially limited basis" on Tuesday. Ryan Taylor (with pads) and Zack Pianalto (without pads) spent the media portion of practice running sprints on the sidelines for the training staff. UNC's starting center has not been that fortunate.

"Lowell Dyer is still in a situation where he's in the observation [phase]," Davis said. "He just comes out and watches. He's not ready to participate. And he'll be re-evaluated every Monday for the remainder of the season."

Davis indicated that he didn't know if left tackle Kyle Jolly would be able to play on Saturday against Georgia Southern, saying, "It will be a day-by-day [process] and just see how he progresses throughout the course of the week."

Jolly sat out Tuesday's practice but was back in action on Wednesday.

* North Carolina's offensive line woes have been discussed ad nauseam recently, but a quick look at this week's depth chart will leave a Tar Heel fan either laughing or crying.

There are actually only eight names listed on the two-deep as Greg Elleby (starting left guard, backup left tackle) and Alan Pelc (starting right guard, backup center) are listed twice. The other three backups consist of a red-shirt freshman in Jonathan Cooper (LG) and two true freshmen in Travis Bond (RG) and Brennan Williams (right tackle).

Davis indicated on Wednesday that his offensive line numbers are well below where they need to be, while pointing out that it took four or five years during his tenure as Miami's head coach in the late-90s to solidify the front line in South Florida.

"When you start in August, you'd like to have somewhere in the neighborhood of probably around 16, maybe 17… on scholarship," Davis said. "And you'd like to have that broken down by classes to where you've got three or four guys that are probably seniors, and maybe another three or four guys that are either red-shirt juniors or red-shirt sophomores and then another three or four guys that are sophomores or red-shirt freshmen. And then in each incoming freshman class, you're probably bringing in another three or four guys.

"So that you put them all together and you've got 16-17 guys where you are at least three deep and hoping that your younger kids are growing and developing and watching and learning, and not being thrust into the fire."

Losing seven reserve linemen in the offseason, as well as the recent rash of injuries, has played a significant role in UNC's current mess, but Davis didn't practice what he preached in the 2008 recruiting class by signing only one offensive lineman – Jonathan Cooper.

* When asked if Ryan Houston could step in and help offensively, Davis' response was short and to the point, saying, "Sure he can – absolutely. He's done it every time we've asked him to."


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