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"I thought that the practice today was outstanding," head coach Butch Davis told reporters following Monday's practice. "I thought that the effort was really good. I thought that the leaders and the seniors on the football team really pushed everybody. The speed at which we were able to practice and the number of plays that we made during practice were very good."
Despite having a roster full of multi-year starters, UNC's coaching staff has focused on fundamentals through the first four days of fall camp. While Art Kaufman worked his linebackers' tackling form in the early part of Monday's practice, defensive backs coach Troy Douglas instructed his cornerbacks on shedding blocks and playing the ball for interceptions.
Whether it was tailback Shaun Draughn working on receiving handoffs or offensive guard Alan Pelc working on his drop step, the basics were evident all over Navy Fields.
"If you're not fundamentally sound, then it doesn't really matter how many schemes and X's and O's you can draw up," Davis said. "You've got to be good at tackling, blocking and making sure you're fundamentally sound. But clearly, we're so much further advanced just simply because of the carryover – guys that have played in games, guys that understand the schemes and guys that know how to do the drills."
If players are going to make a splash in training camp, it's normally going to happen early and that's been the case thus far in Chapel Hill.
"There are some guys that are pushing some people," Davis said. "Some of that push is coming from guys that have been here a while and we've needed them to step up and some is from some of the new guys."
The fourth-year UNC head coach pointed to wide receivers Josh Adams and Dwight Jones, tight end/H-back Ryan Taylor and running back Johnny White as returning players that stood out in practice on Monday. Freshmen cornerbacks Tre Boston and Jabari Price were also singled at for making plays in a third-down simulated nickel segment.
Special teams have also been a focus for the Tar Heels since camp opened on Friday. North Carolina ranked 19th nationally last fall in punt return yardage (12.97 yards per return) and 18th in punt return yardage defense(5.57 ypr), but that apparently was not good enough for this coaching staff.
"We worked exclusively today on punt protection and cover," Davis said. "It's an area that we didn't feel like we did as well last year as we needed to do, so we added a little extra there."
In the much-publicized quarterback competition, both incumbent T.J. Yates and red-shirt Bryn Renner have looked "very good" over the first four practices, according to Davis. Yates, a red-shirt senior, is participating in his fourth training camp against UNC's pro-style defensive scheme and that experience is showing itself.
"There's not a lot that our defense can do from a disguise standpoint in trying to trick him [and] trap him into making some bad decisions," Davis said. "He's pretty bright and aware."
North Carolina will practice in full pads for the first time on Tuesday afternoon.