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April 7, 2011Saturday will bring an end to North Carolina's 2011 spring season, as the Tar Heels will come together on the field at Kenan Stadium and conduct it's annual Spring Game, or what can be called a 'controlled scrimmage.'
It can also be called a 'Spring Showcase,' depending on which phrase you like better.
Head coach Butch Davis spoke about the breakdown of the game prior to Wednesday afternoon's practice.
"We want it to be as competitive as possible," said Davis. "You're looking to see if they are better football players than they were Day One at the start of the spring."
Unlike last year's nationally-televised Spring Game, in which two different teams were selected, this year's contest will feature the UNC offensive and defensive units going against each other as they would in practice.
The only thing is that the UNC coaches are going to rotate the lineups---putting backup players in with the starters and vice versa---so the players can get different looks from different players.
"We've scripted some scenarios where we're going to interchange some guys on the depth chart just so you get some different matchups so that's it not always the same guy going against the same guy that he's gone against for 14 previous spring practices," said Davis.
Unlike actual games in the fall, where schemes and game plans can make the difference in winning and losing, Saturday's game will involve minimal scheming.
The emphasis is more on basic play calling on both sides of the ball, and giving players a chance to execute.
"I think you're always looking for guys who can make plays," said Davis. "It's not so much how much you can scheme to try to have success as much as can you call generic, good, fundamental football plays offensively or defensively and does a guy have the innate capability to make a play."
"Can he break a tackle? Can he rush the passer? Can he knock a ball down? Can he intercept a ball? And so certainly you're looking for that."
The Tar Heel quarterbacks will be spreading the ball around to a bevy of receivers instead of relying on one or two specific options as they may do on a Saturday afternoon on the fall.
The UNC staff knows what certain guys can do, and this Saturday is all about giving some of those guys who haven't had a lot of game opportunities to step up and make something happen.
"As much as possible you try to script to try to give guys opportunities, throwing the ball to certain guys," Davis said.
"If it was a game situation and you were really, truly trying to win, you may throw the ball 15 times to Dwight Jones. Well, if we come out of this scrimmage and Dwight Jones has got 12 catches, we have no idea about Sean Tapley, T.J. Thorpe, Reggie Wilkins, Erik Highsmith. We want those guys (to get some chances)."
"We may throw it to Dwight three or four times and some of those other kids may get six or seven chances because we need to find out the complimentary aspects of our offense. So it's pretty much across the board that type of a mentality," Davis added.
Players like Tapley, Wilkins, Thorpe and some others are going to get a chance to show what they can do not only in the framework of the offense, but also on special teams as return men.
"Until we get a chance to do it somewhat live you'll never really know on your kick return guys, but I think the pool of people, I think we have a larger pool for the first time in a couple of years," said Davis.
"When Brandon (Tate) was here, he was a marquee guy. I mean, he was a guy that could change games around. But you always felt comfortable that even when you had Brandon, you had Charles Brown. You had Kendric Burney. You had Da'Norris Searcy. You had a lot of guys that if something happened in a game, those guys could step in."
"We never had that comfort level last year," Davis continued. "And I think that looking at Sean Tapley, Reggie Wilkins, Charles Brown, I think that there's a lot of guys that have got the ability to do that."
"They show all the innate traits that you like to see. They just haven't had to do it in front of 65,000 people yet."
There won't be 65,000 people in the stands on Saturday, but with good weather projected and the hope of a good turnout, these young UNC specialists and all of the Tar Heel players have a chance to go out with a bang and build a little momentum heading into the end of the school year and the start of summer conditioning.