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April 11, 2011

Davis gives spring synopsis

North Carolina head coach Butch Davis spoke for nearly fifteen minutes Saturday afternoon following the conclusion of the team's annual Spring Showcase.

Although Saturday was the unofficial end of the spring season for the Tar Heels, it was actually the 14th of 15 total practices for the team.

The final practice is taking place Monday afternoon on the UNC practice fields.

"(The Spring Showcase) is practice 14. We actually have one more day that we saved," said Coach Davis.

"The NCAA doesn't allow you to go back and review and correct mistakes from today or watch the film unless you've got an extra practice, so we saved it for Monday to come back and kind of clean up anything that was not as good as we would have liked it to have been."

Davis seemed to be pleased in general with UNC's spring season this year, although he acknowledged that the team is nowhere close to where it will have to be to make noise in the ACC Coastal standings this coming fall.

"I think this spring on the whole, we've accomplished a lot of things," said Davis. "Clearly we're not the finished product. We're a long ways away from being the type of football team that we're going to need to be."

"We've got a lot of growth that's got to take place in these next four months getting ready for this season. I don't know if any other program in the ACC has any many voids to fill."

"When you look at the number of guys that went to the (NFL) Combine, the number of guys that might potentially get drafted or signed as free agents, that's a huge void in this football program."

"But by the same token, I think we've recruited well. We've got a lot of kids that played last year, but we've got to gain some experience," Davis added.

Although the team still has considerable question marks at linebacker and in the secondary, Davis expressed pride in the way the Tar Heel offensive and defensive lines have been performing in March and April.

"If there were some highlights from the spring, clearly one of them has got to be the improvement and the development in the offensive line. It probably has a chance to be one of the strongest units on our football team," said Davis.

"It has taken several recruiting classes to build that kind of talented players and depth all at the same time, but obviously I think it's going to be a really good unit."

"I think on the flip side, the defensive line is also going to be the strong area of our defense. We'll have we think somewhere between six and eight and maybe nine guys that literally could go in the game and play well," Davis added.

"Areas obviously of concern obviously certainly is depth at the linebacker position and in the secondary."

In the secondary, the Tar Heels were particularly thin at cornerback in Saturday's Spring Showcase.

Without the services of projected starter Charles Brown, who was out as further punishment for last year's transgressions, along with the injured Brendon Felder and Terry Shankle who didn't play---not to mention the absence of Mywan Jackson---and the Tar Heels had multiple walk-ons playing corner on Saturday.

All of those guys, along with a deep freshman cornerback class, will all be at Carolina's disposal come training camp time in August.

"We have a pretty good idea of how they're going to play," said Davis about the cornerbacks.

For players like Jabari Price and Tre Boston, who played last season and are now expected to start for the Tar Heels in 2011, this spring was vital from the standpoint of staying focused on improving each day and not being hung up on the fact that they played so much as true freshmen.

"I thought Everett Withers and Troy Douglas had a great approach to this," said Davis. "It would be really easy to say, 'Okay, they started when those other guys couldn't play. And they got some game experience' and just to take off from where they were (last season), and they didn't do that."

"We actually kind of rolled the clock back and said, 'You know what? You guys played, you gained some experience, but you're really not very good football players right now."

"You need to go back and you've got to get really good at fundamentals and techniques, at jams and re-routes, peddling, transitions, route recognition. And that will be the challenge."

"Sometimes it's hard. I've got to be honest with you. It's hard for a kid when you're given an opportunity to play (as a true freshman) to accept the fact that there's a lot of things you've got to improve on, and that's kind of where all those young kids (Price and Boston) are," Davis continued.

In a position where they have to help replace several multi-year starters, Price, Boston, and the other young members of Carolina's secondary need to step up as leaders the same way players like Kendric Burney and Deunta Williams did for years for the Tar Heels.

"I talked to our team and I've talked to some other people a little bit. Some things are always the same with every football team when there's a changing of the guard," said Davis.

"Leadership is something that we're still waiting for it to emerge on this football team both offensively and defensively. That's part of it."

"There's a little bit of a vacuum on your football team when last year's group of seniors leave at any time, whether it's the group that we just lost or any year---this year maybe more so than any year that I've been coaching because of the number of seniors that not only left, but how much experience that they actually took," Davis added.

"We are replacing 20 guys that departed the program. When you take a look at Bruce Carter, Quan Sturdivant, Deunta Williams, Kendric Burney, you're talking about four guys that started basically for four straight years and took 90 percent of the (game) reps in all those years. Da'Norris Searcy, who was a two-year starter---you lose those kinds of guys."

"That's probably one of the biggest areas that we took a big hit in was just the number of games those guys played in that we don't have now," Davis continued.

While the NCAA and University investigations---along with injuries to several key players like Zack Pianalto, Johnny White, and others---were a disaster for the 2010 Tar Heels, at least it did give a lot of players chances to play where they otherwise wouldn't have.

"If nothing else came out of that (last season), I think a lot of them got their eyes opened of what they need to do to become accomplished players in the ACC," said Davis.

"I think some of them played and some of them played well, and some of them didn't play as well as they needed to play, but now they know areas that they've got to get better at."

"There's a lot of guys that had a little, bitty, limited roles and because somebody got hurt and they had to come in and they had to play---Hunter Furr (at running back), Kareem Martin, Tim Jackson in the defensive line.

"There's a lot of guys (that had to play a year ago), and hopefully it will make an impression to continue to work through the spring and over the summertime. We've got a lot of work to do to get to where we need to be," Davis continued.

While Leadership is going to be an important part of this team's growth, so is that invaluable experience they gain through the early part of the season next fall.

Saturday's Spring Showcase helped with that experience part a little bit---providing several players crucial momentum and confidence heading into the summer months.

"Then it's building the depth and experience," Davis said. "We can't empower these kids with experience. They're going to have to gain it on their own through every single game, through the early part of the season gaining experience and gaining confidence."

"But if they'll work hard, we'll have a chance to have a good football team."







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