Barring any unforeseen circumstances between now and the opener on Aug. 30, UNC wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer said he expects all three of the true freshmen wide receivers will see substantial action this year. He stopped short of confirming their redshirt had been officially burned, but he made it clear that Adarius Bowman, Mike Mason and Jesse Holley are going to be in the mix in 2003.
“I expect to see all three of them,” Brewer said. “Holley has had a really good camp. We’re not going to rule out anything until camp is over with. Bowman has had a little groin sprain, so he’s not full speed. But we’re going to shuffle some guys around and expose them to everything.”
With the depth now possessed at wide receiver, it should open up many more options in which to exploit opponents’ defenses with the Tar Heels’ added talent at the position.
“This year I think we have a lot more talent, including the freshmen,” sophomore Derrele Mitchell said. “ They are a good bunch. That’s going to make a big change in our offensive scheme.”
Brewer breaks down the receivers into three groups, X, Z and slot.
The X position is one that is usually single-covered on the weak side of the formation. That receiver is by himself unless it is a multiple receiver set. This receiver is a playmaker who has the ability to go one-on-one and can get deep.
Mitchell would likely top the X depth chart currently, followed by Bowman, Michael Gilmore and Daunte Fields.
The Z position is to the tight end side of the formation. He is off the ball so he is able to go motion. The Z receiver needs to know where to be in coverage’s and find the holes. He has to work in tandem with another receiver in patterns, either a tight end or another receiver, and know what the other receiver is doing. “X” only has to worry about himself.
If the season started today, the first in at Z would likely be Brandon Russell, followed by Chris Curry, Linwood Williams and Holley.
The “Slot” receiver is the toughest position to learn. He faces coverage against linebackers, safeties, and nickel backs. He has to learn the inside routes and everything that coincides with underneath coverages and secondary coverages. He has to be able to catch the ball in the middle, take a shot, block a linebacker, work off a linebacker and be able to do it all when the ball snaps. He also motions quite a bit.
Carolina’s slot receivers are led by Jarwarski Pollock, Mason, Danny Rumley and Wallace Wright.
“I don’t want to say that we’re more complicated, but we are trying to do a lot more things,” Brewer said. “We’ve got a lot of depth, but we don’t have a lot of knowledge. We’ve got a lot of youth.
“We do have a lot more stuff in that we are experimenting with, but we’re going to find out what sticks. What I mean by that is, if Mike Mason is good enough to run a particular type of play, we’re going to get him in there to run that play. If Derrele is more suited to a type of play then we’re going to have him in on that play. We’re going to gear it more to a pro attitude; we’re going to find a way to get a certain guy the ball a certain way. We’re going to tailor it to them. We’re going to make it special that way, because they can’t handle the whole offense right now. Derrele couldn’t handle it last year. As the season progresses, we expect them to grasp more and handle more.”
As he has done frequently lately, John Bunting listed those players that have impressed him in practice. Tuesday’s list consisted of WR Rumley, DT Jermicus Banks, DT Jonas Seawright, OL Brian Chacos and OL Steven Bell.
Bunting has been referring to a concept of installing the offense and defense quickly. He explains what this means:
“The purpose behind installing everything as quickly as possible is to see what we can throw at the freshmen and see what they can retain, and then we’ll go back over it again and again. During the five-day acclimation period that we went through, we had a lot of meeting time. Therefore, we did a ton of teaching inside.
“The new rules required us to adjust quite a bit, and we’ve done a pretty good job. Only time will tell obviously. We’ve got 80- to 90-percent of our defense installed, and at this point we’re way ahead of the game.”
Finally, a practice doesn’t seem to go off without a barrage of media questions surrounding the freshman. While many coaches choose to downplay the impact of newcomers to the team in deference to its veterans, Bunting has made no bones about the fact that many of this year’s true freshmen are some of the best athletes on the field.
And he has only reinforced that belief as practice rolls on.
“I thought this freshman class was going to be good, but they’re going to be very good,” Bunting said. “I had enough patience last year for a lifetime, so I’m not sure how much more patience that I have. We do have a lot of young players that can play, and the expectations by my staff and I are high. But I’m not assuming anything. We’ve got to see if they can do it.
“It’s a physical thing, it’s a mental thing, and it’s an emotional thing for our kids coming out of high school.”
Buck Sanders contributed to this report.