** Quinshad Davis grew up in upstate South Carolina, less than 10 miles from the North Carolina border in Gaffney. Despite the short distance, that border has a way of keeping recruits in state, whether it be Clemson or South Carolina.
Davis, however, pulled for the Florida Gators as a kid. He nearly committed to the Gamecocks prior to his senior season, but a handful of wide receiver commitments following a summer visit prompted him to delay his decision.
South Carolina eventually pulled his offer before giving it back as Signing Day approached. Davis declined and less than a year later set new freshman records with 61 catches and 776 receiving yards at North Carolina. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound sophomore has been waiting for this opportunity to return home.
“I just want to show all of the people down there what I can do,” Davis said. “The fans that are down there that were like, ‘Oh, he’s not good enough to play with us, that’s why he didn’t come down here.’ I just want to show them what I can do.”
When asked if people really made those comments regarding the 2011 South Carolina Gatorade of the Player, Davis responded: “You know how that is – you don’t go in-state, they get mad.”
** Red-shirt freshman Jon Heck will make his first career start on Thursday against one of the top defensive lines in the country. Head coach Larry Fedora had some words of wisdom for his 6-foot-6, 300-pound right tackle on Monday night:
Heck won the position battle over fellow red-shirt freshman John Ferranto, sophomore Kiaro Holts and junior Nick Appel.
“Jon has had the most improvement through this camp of all the tackles and so he’s earned that spot,” offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic said. “We’re going to go in there and we’re going to give him a shot and see how he does. The other guys that have been competing have also shown some positive flashes, so I have no problem rotating some guys in.”
UNC’s coaching staff prepares its players in training camp by attempting to replicate game situations through various reps and scrimmage-like scenarios.
“We talk about you put yourself mentally into the game,” Fedora said. “This is a play in the game and not just another rep in practice. Hopefully he’s been doing that. And you know what? He’s a red-shirt freshman. He’s going to make some mistakes and we’re going to live with it and we’re going to overcome it.”
Heck credits learning the playbook during the offseason for his ascension up the depth chart.
“I think it was being mentally sound and not making mental errors throughout camp,” Heck said. “Continuing to improve every day, show that I can take coaching, that I can get better and that I can get to where they want me to be.”
** Regarding South Carolina’s defensive line, headlined by Jadeveon Clowney, Kapilovic offered some high praise for the Gamecocks’ talent up-front.
“It’s a huge challenge,” Kapilovic said. “Obviously the best defensive line that we’ve faced since I’ve been here; probably the best defensive line I’ve seen as a college coach… No. 7 has gotten all of the accolades, but those other three guys are special, too.”
While Kapilovic expects left tackle James Hurst to be lined up against Clowney for most of the game, he’s also anticipating South Carolina moving its star player across the line.
** One critical detail that hasn’t received much play this offseason is South Carolina’s acquisition of defensive line coach Deke Adams, who served the same role under Fedora for four years.
“He obviously has prepared for this offense many times in spring ball and those kinds of things, so he’s been around,” Fedora said. “He’s a dang good football coach, so he’ll have his guys prepared. They’ve probably picked his brain every which way they can as far as what they can do to attack us. So we’ll see how it happens.”
** Fedora confirmed that former walk-on Jeff Schoettmer will start at middle linebacker over red-shirt freshman Nathan Staub, who is recovering from a knee injury suffered early in training camp.
** As of the close of business on Monday, Vic Koenning had yet to name a starter at strong safety between Dominique Green, Jeff Battle and Darien Rankin. The associate head coach for defense may have tipped his hand, however, during a chat with reporters on Friday.
“Until you can give talent experience, experience overtakes talent,” Koenning said. “I didn’t come up with that… I think all three guys have some merit. Jeff Battle has really earned it just by the way he’s done the last couple of weeks of camp, but I also have to think about what’s best for the team and who gives us the best chance to be successful.”
** North Carolina will hold its final walk-through in Chapel Hill on Wednesday before departing for Columbia.