“All of the tests and things that I have gone through for the last five months have all come back negative, and just as recently as two days ago, I had my somewhat last checkup and passed with flying colors,” Davis told the record crowd of 450 at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel and Convention Center.
The Triangle Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame hosted the fifth annual fundraising event, which featured Davis, NCSU head coach Tom O’Brien, Duke head coach Ted Roof and NCCU head coach Mose Rison. While former head coaches John Bunting and Chuck Amato used this forum as a sparring match, Davis and O’Brien bantered back and forth only on trivial matters, focusing on their individual programs when talk turned to the game of football.
Davis said that the quarterback battle between redshirt sophomore Cam Sexton and redshirt freshman TJ Yates was a toss-up, and that the staff hoped to make a decision at that position early in fall practice. He highlighted junior Brandon Tate’s abilities as a return man, and noted that Conner Barth was the best college kicker he has worked with during his collegiate coaching days. Davis also stated that there is a distinct possibility that as many as 14 true freshmen see the field this fall.
PIGSKIN PREVIEW - BUTCH DAVIS QUOTES
On the initial challenges facing the new staff at UNC:
“The biggest issue that we’ve faced at North Carolina is inheriting a brand new football team and just getting to know our players. Obviously, we had 15 days of practice this spring, and we started to try to identify unique capabilities and potential things that each of those kids could do, and trying to integrate and find out how many of our incoming freshmen might be able to significantly make some type of contribution for our football team.”
On his relationship with Tom O’Brien and Ted Roof:
“We’re all highly competitive, and we have an enormous amount of respect for each other. Certainly, I’ve got a history with Tom O’Brien, his days at Boston College and mine at Miami. A lot of Big East meetings and golf tournaments and those kinds of things, and I have just an enormous amount of respect for him. And they’re good guys.”
About Mike Paulus not being mentioned in his comments about the QB situation:
“Right now, he’s essentially had [no experience]. He’s an incoming freshman and hasn’t had the opportunity to go through any of our spring practice. He’s been here going to summer school and he’s been here working out, but we will absolutely give him an opportunity during the course of this training camp to find out if he will conceivably be the guy. We’re not going to fore-judge any of these guys. We want it to be open competition. I think that competition drives your football team.”
I think that Mike is certainly going to be in the mix. He’s going to start a little bit behind the other two, because they had 14 or 15 days of practice and got a little bit of knowledge about the offense prior to training camp. The commitment that I’ve got to our football team is that we’re going to find a quarterback, regardless of who it is, that gives us the best chance to win our opening game.”
On whether the doctors feel that his cancer has been cured:
“Right now, they are very optimistic. I’m doing well. I don’t know that any oncologist ever feels like you can 100 percent say anything, particularly this early. They’re very optimistic. They’re pleased with the progress, and things are going very well.”
If Davis thinks there are any playmakers on the current team:
“I really do. I think that there are some. Certainly, Brandon Tate is one. Hakeem Nicks is one. We’ve got to find a running back, and that’s going to be one of the biggest challenges we face during training camp. It may be running back by committee – I would prefer it not to be. You’d love to have a marquee guy that’s a returning 1,000-yard plus rusher and had scored 10 or 12 touchdowns. But on our football team right now, as we went into spring practice, of the players that went through, we had two running backs that had a combined total of seven carries in their entire career. So you can see that that’s an enormously pressing issue to find the guy.”
On team morale this offseason:
“It's awesome. We’ve had a great summer. Jeff Connors, our strength and conditioning coach, said that this is the best summer conditioning program that he has had personally during his entire tenure here. The attitude has been good, and it doesn’t surprise me, because we had great work ethic and great attitude during the conditioning program in January and February and into spring practice. I think that momentum and enthusiasm carried over into the summer.”
On Greg Little:
“In some respects, Greg is kind of the prototype football player that Butch Davis likes to recruit. I hope that every single year that we can recruit three, four, five guys like Greg that have the athletic ability to play four or five different positions. He is so physically gifted – conceivably, he might be our marquee running back at some point in his career. He could certainly be a strong safety, or an outside linebacker. He’s just a good, good athlete.”
“The litmus test is this – can a football player help us win football games? I think Hilee Taylor and Kentwan Balmer are two great examples. Those guys should be juniors on this football team, because as freshmen, they virtually played none and they burned up that entire year of eligibility. We’re going to play somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 to 1,200 plays offensively, and the same amount on defense. And if a kid can play maybe 200 to 350 plays, maybe its mop-up duty in the fourth quarter, maybe it’s as a backup, maybe it’s as a nickel player, and then make some significant contributions on special teams, then I think you need to play them. I think it enhances your depth if somebody should get hurt, and I think it certainly enhances their career for next year.”
The shocker of the day took place during a fundraising auction, when signed helmets for each program were sold to the highest bidder. The UNC and NCSU helmets went for $700 apiece, while Duke’s sold for $2,000.
While UNC boasts two of the more high-profile coaches in the nation in Davis and Roy Williams, they would also be a tough match-up on the golf course. Williams noted yesterday that his handicap had jumped to the double digits for the first time in years, and Davis indicated today that he possessed a 10 handicap.
Davis said his musical tastes include classic rock, jazz, and rhythm and blues.