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October 16, 2009North Carolina takes this Saturday off for the first time this season, and given all the injuries and the fact it gives them extra days to prepare for Florida State, it couldn't have come at a better time.
Although FSU has the exact same time advantage to get ready for the game, the Tar Heels will be able to use the valuable extra time off to get healthier and to get more familiar with itself at the midway point of the season.
"Yeah, obviously anytime you have a bye week at the middle of the season sometimes it can be an effective thing," said UNC head coach Butch Davis. "It doesn't give us any advantage, because our next opponent has the exact same off days as what we have, so there's no advantage gained from that standpoint."
"But hopefully some of the guys that have been nicked up, maybe we might be able to get a few of those guys closer to being healthy," he added.
The UNC players agree with Davis that this is an opportune time for the Tar Heels to get a bye week given the vast number of players that are currently banged up. It also gives the players time to catch up on their academics and get some much-needed rest.
"I know everybody's going to definitely use this bye week to heal up, kind of take a little break, let our minds heal and our bodies heal and everything," said junior quarterback T.J. Yates. "I think this team's really looking forward to it."
"It's definitely a little bit of time off, so you want to get back and get healthy, get stretched out, get your muscles back to how they were feeling back at the beginning of the season, and get a lot of film in," said junior defensive tackle Marvin Austin.
"It's a good little, I don't want to say break because it's not really a break---we're preparing for Florida State right now---but your mind gets so caught up during the season, it's good to catch up a little bit on your grades and all that good stuff," said junior safety Deunta Williams.
"Yes it is (a good time for a bye) because we get to recover and heal up with these little nicks and bruises, and get to relax," said sophomore linebacker Zach Brown. "It's good, because we have more days, more reps, so we know exactly what they're doing and watch more film."
"It will be good for us to get some guys back healthy," said junior linebacker Quan Sturdivant. "The first thing we've got to do is correct this film (Georgia Southern) and just move on."
"Oh yeah, definitely (it's a good time for a bye). It's good to heal a lot of wounds and get guys even better along the line, get them more film study and more fundamentals," said junior running back Shaun Draughn. "I think we need to focus on that this week and as the week goes on just get better."
"We had two major injuries (Jamal Womble and A.J. Blue), so I feel like this off week we'll see where we're at," said junior running back Ryan Houston. "I'm glad we've got a bye this week. We've just got to heal up. It happens at a great time."
"Honestly, it feels like we can't get away from injuries," said redshirt freshman offensive guard Jonathan Cooper. "I don't know what we did wrong or who on our team has killed somebody---I don't know---but it seems like things go wrong for us. But I guess it's about as good a time as ever to have a bye week."
"Yeah, clearly we haven't had any luck from a health standpoint," added Coach Davis.
The injuries the Tar Heels have suffered this season underscores not only the need for quality depth to play on Saturdays, but also quality depth to take on repetitions in practice, where there's always the possibility of a significant injury.
One of the good things that also comes with a bye week is the opportunity to get lots of players snaps in the offensive and defensive rotations, which Davis says can help with the injury factor.
"Sometimes it's not surprising that depth plays a somewhat significant role obviously in the health of your football team," he said. "When you're kind of somewhat paper thin at whatever the position is, those guys are usually sometimes doing more work (in practice). They're taking more reps. They're exposed more. They're playing more plays."
"They don't' get a chance to rest as much as some of the other guys, and sometimes it puts them at a little bit more risk," Davis added. "It's why the older and more experienced and veteran your football team is in years four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, generally you're able to minimize some of that stuff."
While the team didn't have to necessarily prepare for an opponent this Saturday, it was important for the Tar Heels to come out and have a good series of practices this week, and the players knew that they needed to carry the momentum of getting back into the win column against Georgia Southern out to the practice field this week.
"Coming into a bye week, it's pretty good. Guys have a week to stay off their feet and get healthy, but you still want to come out to practice every day ready to work," said receiver Greg Little. "Just coming off a win and going into a bye week is tremendous, but you don't want to lose that momentum. You want to keep it upbeat, and guys need to stay focused and be consistent in practice and come out ready to work every day."
"I think your football team has got to continue to grow and hopefully some of the younger kids that have been playing on offense will now for the second half of the season, they'll have at least the benefit of a couple of games under their belt, or at least some opportunities to play in games, and see them play with a little more comfort, a little more confidence, a little bit more consistency," said Coach Davis.
"This gives us time for guys to get healed up and for us to not really relax, but to sit back and see the second half of our season start," said junior linebacker Bruce Carter.
The Tar Heels got a lot of benefit from a bye week last year prior to their victory over Georgia Tech, and the players hope this off week prior to the FSU contest will produce similar results.
"Last year (before) Georgia Tech, we had the extra week and we played very well. So I feel like this could be very beneficial, and at least it won't hurt us," said Cooper.
"It's going to help tremendously. Florida State is a great opponent. They're fast and physical on defense. We're going to need all the time we can get to prepare for those guys," said Yates.
"It will help tremendously, like last year when we had a bye week before we faced Georgia Tech at home, and that helped us tremendously to beat them," said Houston. "I feel like it's going to help us again (this year). We've got to work our tails off this week and next week to get ready for that Thursday Night game."
"I think it will do the same thing this year, because we've got extra time to work on our fundamentals and get back to what we do best, get back to the basics," said Sturdivant.