T-Minus 10 Days

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Classes started back at North Carolina on Tuesday afternoon, providing the football program with a clear signal that the 2007 season is only days from kicking off against James Madison on Sept. 1. Butch Davis spoke to the media following practice No. 23 on Wednesday evening, only 10 days before his first game as the new UNC head coach.

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Butch Davis Wednesday Post-Practice:
(10:30)

The coaching staff ran a light practice on Tuesday to allow for an easy acclimation to the start of classes, and Davis indicated the players returned this afternoon inspired and ready to play.

"I was really pleased with not only the focus, but the intensity that we came back and practiced with today," Davis said. "Today was kind of the first typical routine of going to class, doing all of their study tables, doing study hall, coming to practice, having to do their meetings and then going to practice. The intensity was outstanding, the effort was very good. I thought it was a good practice."

With game week quickly approaching, the staff huddled together over the weekend to focus on what needs to be accomplished before the Dukes roll into Chapel Hill.

"We made a list over the weekend of at least eight or 10 things that we really feel like we've got to get better at before the game 10 days from now," Davis said. "And we're going to spend a significant amount of time the rest of this week working on some of that, sprinkling in some of our first opponent tomorrow. We'll spend some time a little bit on James Madison tomorrow and more the next day and more over the weekend, and certainly the entire week next week will be dedicated to them."

Davis made it known at the ACC Kickoff that 51 of his 84 players have never played a collegiate down of football. That remains a pressing concern for this North Carolina program.

"With this football team, there are so many unanswered questions, because we've got so many young players and so many inexperienced players that this will be their first college game," he said. "And for a lot of them, it will be their first significant opportunity to start and to play. As a new coaching staff, you never really know how guys are going to play when they turn the lights on. Some guys play enormously bigger than maybe sometimes that they actually practice. Some guys, you hope, don't get stage fright."

The focus during the first couple of weeks this season will be on game management and not making those crucial mistakes that can cripple a young team striving to build confidence while developing an identity.

"The whole idea early in the year is you want to be efficient, you want to play smart and you'd like to allow the players to be able to play fast, without having a great deal on their mind," Davis said. Davis pointed to the air attack as being an aspect of the offense that had really improved during training camp this August.

"Probably the passing game has made the most significant improvement from the spring time," he said. "We really struggled, and we talked about it with the media and with the team, and it was pretty well-documented that spring practices got off to a really rocky start throwing the ball and catching the ball. And we've got too many good playmakers at the skill positions to not have some effectiveness."

Sophomores Hakeem Nicks and Kenton Thorton, as well as junior Brandon Tate, were credited with stepping up along with more consistent play from the offensive line. The key to the Tar Heels' offensive success this fall lay in the hands of those big-play wide receivers.

"We would be remiss as a coaching staff and as an offense if we don't find ways for all of the playmakers to make some plays," Davis said.

Davis also pointed to the importance of the tight end position, with sophomores Richard Quinn and Ryan Taylor and freshman Zach Pianalto learning their roles sufficiently this preseason.

"A tight end can be enormous – kind of a safety net, kind of a safety blanket for a quarterback, because they can really work the intermediate to short routes," Davis said. "It's something that we really want to try to develop."

North Carolina will use a variety of quick-hit plays to take the pressure off T.J. Yates, and let the talent at the skill positions take over games and post some victories in the coming season.

Notes from Davis' post-practice interview:

  • On the running back situation: "I think the first game, though, certainly will be a revelation as to the running back situation, because it's so difficult – unless you fully go out there and scrimmage, and you give a guy an opportunity to carry the ball anywhere from 12-20 times, you may not really truly understand all the things that he can contribute."

  • On the NCAA moving kickoffs back five yards to the 30-yard line: "I'm hoping that that will play a huge advantage for our football team because of Brandon Tate. Because we've got a guy that's a legitimate kickoff threat. Certainly their inability, hopefully, to kick the ball out of the back of end zone should potentially put him in play more frequently."

  • On changing the culture: "I think it's a change that everybody wants. The alumni want it, the administration wants it, the Board of Trustees, certainly the football players. I think it can co-exist. Ideally, what you'd love for the perfect scenario is that for the football program to reach the level of all the other sports at this University."

    And this University is committed to excellence, and you can see it in all of the women's sports, you can see it certainly in both the men and women's basketball programs, the baseball program, and there are certainly blueprints around the country – you look at Florida, they were able to accomplish winning the national championship in football and basketball, Texas, Ohio State, Michigan. There's a handful of six or eight programs that legitimately year-in and year-out can have the opportunity to win both, and hopefully, one day, that's where we'll be."

  • On Kendric Williams: "The thing that impresses me as a coach, and probably the reason that we awarded him a scholarship, was the fact that he's a great kid. He's got great work ethic, great practice habits, he's an excellent student and he earned that scholarship. He is very, very deserving of being a scholarship athlete at North Carolina."
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