Heels Prep for Scrimmage on Saturday

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Practice No. 9 is in the books, and Practice No. 10 Friday evening will be spent in shorts as the Tar Heels prepare for their first scrimmage of training camp on Saturday afternoon. Head coach Butch Davis has seen gradual improvement from his squad during the first week of practice.

"We're starting to learn as a football team the types of things that it takes to be good," Davis said during a post-practice interview Friday morning. "And some of those are is a real due diligence to the little bitty tiny things that helps you grow as a football team."

Davis shared a story with his team before practice about the difficulties of growing bamboo in China. There's plenty of intensive labor involved with cultivating the land and growing the plant, but after the hard work is put in, the bamboo shoots will sometimes grow as high as 80-feet tall.

"It's like practice," Davis said. "We won't become a good team, okay, until you do all of the due diligence…then one day, all of a sudden, guys look around and [say] it's amazing how much – how far we've come from where we were back in the spring."

The first part of Saturday's practice session will be spent working on situational plays – red zone, goal line, short yardage – while there will also be an emphasis on special teams before the scrimmage begins.

"We'll probably have somewhere in the neighborhood of between 55 to maybe as many as 80 scrimmage plays," Davis said. "I'd like to think that in the first, second and third group we'll probably have somewhere in the neighborhood of anywhere from 15 to maybe as many as 20 scrimmage plays…

"We may in fact give some of the freshmen maybe a little bit more than the 15 or 18, to kind of catch them up and give them more opportunities to kind of grow and try to learn a little more about what we're doing."

After a spring session in which Davis was not impressed with his passing attack, things have begun to improve through the first eight days of practice.

"I don't think we've had a practice thus far where we haven't had some people make some big-time plays," Davis said. "The passing game has been good, we've made some good completions, and our receivers have had an excellent start to camp so far. Brooks Foster, Brandon Tate, Hakeem Nicks, Greg Little, Kenton Thornton – I mean, we've got a bunch of guys that are contributing. They're catching the football ball, [and] they're doing a nice job."

The heat interrupted the players' schedule on Thursday, as the practice time was moved from 2:00pm to 3:45pm in an attempt to get out of the hot part of the day. The practice was eventually moved inside. Davis said those changes disrupted the team's rhythm, and it was obvious during their training period.

"One of the other interesting steps that I think football teams have to take also is what happens when you have a bad practice?" Davis said. "Because training camp is such that there's not 60,000 people in stands screaming, the blimp's not in the air, it's not on T.V., mom and dad's not in the stands, pro scouts aren't in the stands – no one's screaming for you.

"It is just hard toiling work. And if you have a bad practice, which we did – we didn't have a very good practice yesterday – and I was very encouraged by the way that they bounced back today.

"It gives the team a chance to understand that when you get off rhythm, you can't wait until the next game or the next day – you've got to be able to correct it between possessions, at halftime, [or] at the end of the first quarter."

Following the scrimmage, the Meet the Heels event will begin at 6:00pm at Kenan Stadium.

Notes from Davis' post-practice interview:

  • Davis said his staff will be looking at the quarterbacks' total body of work in making a decision: "Regardless of who ends up being the guy, it's based on everything that we've transpired since the day that I got here. Spring practices, during the summer time, during the offseason, during training camp. And then once someone earns a starting position, you've still got to perform – you've still got to grow."

  • On whether he will name a starter at QB on Saturday: "Announcing a decision? I can almost tell you absolutely not…we'll grade the film all day Sunday. The players are going to have the time off to go to church, and we'll come in late Sunday afternoon and there will be a little bit of a lift and a little bit of running. We'll spend a lot of time teaching from that scrimmage film, and if we feel comfortable that we think that we're ready, we'll announce it, and if we don't, we may wait until Monday or Tuesday."

  • On how the running backs situation is playing out: "I think tomorrow's going to be a big test, because so much of the things that we've been doing have been controlled. The blitzes have been controlled – no one's really trying to tear anybody's face mask off, trying to get to the quarterback for blitz protection like you will in a scrimmage situation... I'm pleased with the way that the first three guys are doing – I think they're doing a nice job… Those guys have really shown some flashes this week."

  • On how the freshmen are adjusting: "They thought they were working really hard and fast in high school, but now, all of a sudden, the intensity's been dialed up, so I think that's where they're learning and they're getting better at it."

  • Davis indicated that Trimane Goddard is running with the first-team at strong safety, while Deunta Williams is at free safety.
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