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** Despite the intense desire from players, coaches and even fans to throw on the pads and start running through walls on the first day of camp, the NCAA’s mandated five-day acclimatization period takes priority.
The only protective equipment the Tar Heels are permitted to wear the first two days of practice is a helmet. Shoulder pads will enter the mix on Saturday and Sunday before the players will strap on their full pads starting on Monday – the fifth day of camp.
Two-a-days are not allowed during the acclimatization period and practices cannot run longer than three hours.
** Given the inability to even work at thud level, the first day of practice is more about fundamentals for the players and learning about the offeseason for the coaches.
“We’re really looking for recall from where we left off in spring ball,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora told reporters following practice. “You start looking to see how much work a kid really put in over the summer. How much did he really study it? How much does he know at this point? So you’re really looking for recall in these first days.”
Fedora said he doesn’t put much stock into how well his players move around or his team’s energy level initially due to the Christmas morning effect that comes with the first day of camp.
He indicated the practice tempo was “good,” noting his team got the reps needed in the various periods and still had extra time to spare.
** In the first post-practice huddle of training camp, Fedora praised his team on their conditioning and effort.
“I don’t think anybody out here is exhausted because you’re in great shape,” Fedora told his players.
The second-year UNC head coach told reporters that having over a year under the direction of strength and conditioning coach Lou Hernandez has paid dividends for his players.
“There are no surprises for them.” Fedora said. “They know what’s happening; they know what’s expected. The strength levels from the summer and where those guys are now compared to last year – we compared everything - is not even close. There levels of commitment aren’t even close.
“All of the different things that we compare to see where we are – we’re a lot further ahead. Are we going to be a better football team? I don’t know. We’ll see.”
** With Gio Bernard’s early entry into the NFL, the search for his replacement at punt returner only led to more concern during spring practice. It only took one day of training camp for Fedora to express optimism about filling that role.
Red-shirt sophomore T.J. Thorpe and true freshmen T.J. Logan and Ryan Switzer – none of whom practiced during the spring – all took reps fielding punts on Thursday.
“I would say just in the little bit I saw today, we’ll be able to find somebody out of that group,” Fedora said.
** There were several position changes of note. Sophomore Jessie Rogers (6-4, 260) has moved to defensive tackle after playing at end last season. Red-shirt freshman Junior Gnonkonde (6-4, 240) has moved from Bandit to defensive end and junior Darius Lipford, as Fedora alluded to last week at the ACC Kickoff, has shifted from linebacker to Bandit.
Terry Shankle, a fifth-year senior defensive back, excelled in the spring at cornerback. Associate head coach for defense Vic Koenning, however, has expressed interest in getting better coverage skills out of his hybrid Ram position, which likely played a role in Shankle working at Ram to open training camp.
“We’re playing him at [Ram] and corner so he can do either,” Fedora said. “Now he already knows the corner stuff, so we’ve thrown him over at the [Ram] so he can learn that as quickly as possible during camp and then we can make sure and get him on the field. It’s great to have that experience.”
** While all 105 scheduled players reported for camp on Wednesday, meaning no academic casualties at this point, one player noticeably lacking from the practice field and corresponding roster was former walk-on and track star Roy Smith.
Fedora confirmed that Smith was not included in the initial 105-man training camp roster.
“You get 105 guys to bring in and sometimes we’ve got to make some tough decisions,” Fedora said. “We have so many numbers at a single position that we can bring in.”
Smith will join the team when the roster limit increases once classes begin on Aug. 20. In 2012, UNC’s roster increases to 119 from 105 after the start of the fall semester.
“A lot of it is to make sure you get through camp, you’ve got enough legs,” Fedora said in explaining the decision. “We had some guys that may be nicked up or whatever and if they can’t go through practice, we’ll push them out and we’ll bring somebody else in so we’ll have some fresh legs to help guys get through camp.”