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July 13, 2009

Why not now?

When the Carolina football team looks at this season ahead, which is drawing close as we near the midway point of July, the players ask the relevant question: Why not now?

Why does the big breakout year have to be yet another season down the road? In spite of the gloom and doom about quarterback T.J. Yates' health, there is just as much of a chance he could stay healthy and have an all-ACC kind of year. He has proven he can make all the throws and his decision-making has improved steadily since he first started two years ago.

"We are encouraged to win games," said Greg Elleby, who moved from the defensive line to the offensive line. "We want to win the ACC championship. That is our goal every day, when we run, when we lift. We have that mentality of 'Act Like a Champion.'

"We want to do things that a champion would do. We want to do things better than what we did last year, do things better than an 8-5 team did, do things like a 10-2 or 12-0 team would do. That is our mentality throughout the wintertime and the summer as well."

Coach Butch Davis has certainly never preached a long-term waiting period, although his optimism has been tempered with reality at times. But Davis knows this is nowhere near the team he inherited after the 2006 season.

He has the finest collection of defensive talent and depth at Carolina since Mack Brown built a true national power before leaving to coach Texas.

UNC is two deep at defensive tackle, at defensive ends, and now those ends have experience, led by a potential all-conference players in senior E.J. Wilson and sophomore Robert Quinn, a freshman All-American last year.

Fans can only hope for a beautiful day when the team opens against The Citadel on Sept. 5 at 6 p.m. at home. With both teams wearing sky blue as their primary colors, Kenan Stadium will be filled with the favorite pastel of Tar Heel fans everywhere.

School officials are hopeful the refurbished field house, the first of many improvements to the stadium in the coming years, will be ready, or close enough, to utilize on opening day.

There is an additional floor [level five] being added and renovations have been made throughout the building. The fifth floor contains office and recruiting space. There are also four new game-day suites, a larger video and studio facility and a first-class press-conference area.

The recruiting area and suites also will be used as academic study areas during the week. The second floor has been renovated for increased football meeting spaces, including bigger individual position meeting rooms and a larger team meeting room. The fourth floor renovations include additional office space for football support staff.

New lockers are being installed on the first floor and the restrooms have been renovated throughout the facility.

On the field, the Bulldogs will hit the Carolina defense with the popular spread offense, which West Virginia used to edge the Tar Heels in last season's bowl game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

Seven starters return on offense, led by Sporting News All-American wide receiver Andre Roberts. He caught 95 passes for 1,342 yards last fall.

The Bulldogs' defensive line returns three starters, so it is the foundation for that side of the ball. The three starting linebackers will return from last season as well, led by the team's leading tackler, senior Jordon Gilmore.

Bart Blanchard, a redshirt junior, is scheduled to start at quarterback.

As for the Tar Heels, the fans will get their first look at a new group of receivers, who should be led by Greg Little, Dwight Jones, Joshua Adams and possibly freshman Jheranie Boyd.

Having to defend the spread should be good practice for the defense and those kids should get a chance to show their speed on that side of the ball against an offense designed to spread them.

On offense, look for Carolina to pound the ball with Shaun Draughn, Jamal Womble and Ryan Houston. The running game needs to get on track, and there is no reason to show too much of the playbook before traveling to Connecticut for the second game.


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