Brewer and Brock’s coaching styles are strikingly different. Brock is quickly working to gain the trust and admiration of his players, which could be difficult when replacing such an energetic and affable coach such as Brewer.
“Coach Brock is a totally different personality from Coach Brewer and has a totally different coaching style,” said rising senior Derrele Mitchell following Friday evening’s practice.
While Brewer had a relentless heart and tireless outgoing personality that would rival the ticker inside the Energizer Bunny, Brock’s demeanor in practice is as, or even more, up tempo, according to Mitchell.
“We’re running much more than last year,” he said. “Practice is much faster.”
“He knows a lot about this game that we can use to make us better,” Mike Mason said. “I think he’s a good fit for the system right now. Our techniques and style of play is a little different from what we’ve been doing.”
Mason said with the tutelage under Brewer, now coupled with new ideas from Brock, will only help the team get better. Yet there is no question Brewer and the mark he left on the program will be missed.
“It was tough,” Mason said. “I had to go through a serious thought process. But I was happy for him. He was happy, so you’ve got to be happy for your coach. He had a couple of talks with us before he left and we still have relationship with the guy.”
UNC’s receivers will be on display on Saturday when the Tar Heels hold their first spring scrimmage from noon ‘til 2 p.m. at Kenan Stadium. John Bunting said he doesn’t expect the passing game to miss a beat in 2005 with Brock at the helm.
“Coach Brock is consistently intense with the players,” Bunting said. “He coaches them every step of the way, and that’s exactly what I want. I think the players are listening a great deal, working hard and getting better.”
Mason and Mitchell fill out the two-deep at one wide receiver position on the current depth chart as compiled by the UNC coaches just prior to spring practice. Jesse Holley and Jawarski Pollock are 1-2 on the other side of the field.
“We’ve got a ton of talent,” Bunting said. “There is talent, experience, and I think what will happen are the young players will become even more competitive. And, anytime you have competition at a position, it makes the players better.”
One challenge for Brock this year will be getting the ball in Mason’s hands more to exploit his blazing speed and athleticism. Mason caught just 19 passes last season, with most of them coming late in the year when Carolina was turning a near disastrous start into a bowl campaign. He had just one scoring reception, albeit Mason’s touchdown reception against No. 3 Miami was probably the biggest of his football career.
Still Mason, who also contributes mightily on special teams, wants to figure more prominently in the offensive game plan next season.
“The season really didn’t go like I expected,” Mason said. I don’t just think about that catch – it was an important catch because it helped our team beat Miami. But I know I should have had a lot more catches.”
Although he again led UNC in receptions last year, Pollock will also look to improve his production after leading the ACC in receptions in 2003. Pollock, who's over the middle style lead to frequent collisions, was dinged up a little in practice Friday, but didn’t appear to be seriously injured.
And Mitchell said he expects this year to be his finest.
“The offense was tough to learn, but I’ve been here four years now and things just flow right for me,” he said. “I don’t even think about it now.”
Holley is not expected to return until after basketball season, which could go well into March.
The Spring Game is April 2 at noon.
After several previous comments lauding the abilities of LSU transfer running back Barrington Edwards, who will be eligible this upcoming season, Bunting took a step back just a bit to remind everyone that, “Barrington has a long ways to go. He’s got a lot of work to do. He’s got to learn our system and operate in our scheme.”
When fielding the almost daily question regarding Terry Hunter’s status, he said the troubled defensive tackle from Wendell is still, “indefinitely suspended.” Do you think he can return for spring practice? “I don’t know,” Bunting replied.