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April 9, 2013Sophomore Quinshad Davis will likely get most of the publicity among UNC's wide receivers heading into the 2013 season, but the Tar Heels have some other potentially lethal options at their disposal.
Injuries have hurt the overall depth at wide receiver this spring but the Tar Heels have a couple of guys, including Kendrick Singleton and Sean Tapley, who could greatly benefit from Bryn Renner's passing this fall.
They may be 'The Other Guys' to some, but Singleton and Tapley, as well as Damien Washington, are weapons that could take a great deal of pressure off Renner, Davis, and everyone else within the North Carolina offense this coming season.
"It's nice to have some guys that have some experience out there. And I'll tell you. No. 81 (Kendrick Singleton) is really having a good spring right now and really coming on," said UNC head coach Larry Fedora in a recent interview with Tar Heel Illustrated.
Singleton didn't record any catches as a true freshman last fall, but he did record 12 tackles on defensive special teams.
He'll be playing plenty on special teams again in 2013 more than likely, but now with Erik Highsmith gone from the Tar Heel huddle, Singleton has a golden opportunity to step into the starting lineup.
"(Singleton), he's my roommate. He's emerging. He's making a lot of plays here in the spring, and I see big things for him in the fall," said Davis.
Tapley is the most experienced receiver returning to the UNC lineup.
And coming off a sophomore season in which he recorded 26 catches for 361 yards and five touchdowns, he's shown he can get it done on gameday.
Tapley is fully aware of the need the Tar Heels have for him to step up with the departures of several key components of the 2012 North Carolina offense, and he's ready for the challenge.
"Most definitely J Boyd (Jheranie Boyd) and Mookie (Highsmith) were good players, and Gio (Bernard) was a good player too. But it's a lot of offense that we've lost, and I feel like I've got to step up and make more plays, like I did last year," Tapley said.
While the overall numbers might be thin for Carolina at wide receiver, Renner and the rest of the UNC quarterbacks should feel good having a proven weapon like Tapley to rely on.
In addition, Tapley has been stepping up as a leader this spring, helping the entire group improve.
"Tap, he's the leader (of our group)," said Davis. " But me coming in as some say the 'go-to guy,' I've got to talk up, speak up for the team, and make plays for the team (too)."
"Yeah, he (Davis is) right. I'm the oldest guy, so I'm taking that leadership role," Tapley said. "I just told the boys just to follow my lead, watch my work ethic, the way I make plays. Come out there and play, and don't be scared. Just go out there and make plays."
Tapley, Washington, and Singleton have been moving around this spring so they can know all the positions in case they have to go in and play somewhere different than where they might be currently projected.
"We're moving guys around, which is really good," said Fedora. "No. 6 (Tapley) has gone from inside to outside and No. 81 (Singleton) has gone from outside to inside. So they're learning multiple positions which enables them to be more valuable to our team and also for us to build some depth."
"You know, it has taken every one of those guys, and their versatility---we've played Tap at every spot. We've played Quinshad at every spot. And we've had freshmen who have had to step up and jump in and be in the first huddle. And I think they've all done a great job," added offensive coordinator Blake Anderson.
"We've got a lot of work to do technique-wise and really learning all the little details of it, but just for them to step up and know what to do and play in our tempo has been tremendous. I think they're doing a great job," Anderson added.
One of the big keys for Tapley and all the other Tar Heel receivers this spring has been learning general concepts that apply to all the UNC wide receiver positions instead of the routes at just one specific position.
This is again intended to help the Tar Heels offset depth concerns by having multiple players capable of working into the rotation at different spots if needed.
"I'm just learning the concepts. We're learning our plays in a different way than last year. Last year you were just learning your positions, but now it's about concepts, and Coach (Gunter Brewer) is letting everybody play different positions and stuff. So that's been a big challenge."
Tapley admits its been difficult at times learning what is effectively all the wide receiver positions and all the roles he might have to potentially play, but it's been good for his overall growth and knowledge of the game.
The same goes for everyone else in those UNC wide receiver position meetings.
"It's been difficult learning the concepts and knowing your position. We've just got to stick together. We've got to communicate out there. We've got to let each other know what to do, so everybody will know what to do," Tapley said. "I like the wide receivers as a whole. I feel like in this offense, anybody can contribute and help us in certain ways."
"Anybody can get hurt any day, so we need everybody," Tapley continued.
Along with developing his knowledge of the UNC offense, Tapley has taken upon himself this offseason to improve his blocking.
"My blocking, I'm always trying to get better on my blocking, because I feel like I can run good routes, and I can catch the ball. I can make explosive plays. But my blocking, I just want to take that to a different level," he said.
There are others in addition to Singleton, Washington, and Tapley who have stepped up this spring, including a core group of hard-working walk-ons including Jordan Darty and Dalton Stogner, among others.
With T.J. Thorpe, Reggie Wilkins, and other scholarship wide receivers injured and out of commission this spring, players like Darty and Stogner have taken advantage of their chances to run in practice with the second team offense, and they've shown some flashes.
"Jordan Darty, a walk-on. He came in and he's doing a great job in the spring," said Davis.
True freshman Jordan Fieulleteau has also proven his worth through his first couple months on the team, providing another potential weapon come fall.
Fieulleteau recorded a 70-yard touchdown reception from fellow newcomer Mitch Trubisky during Friday evening's scrimmage in Kenan Stadium, and he's been getting work with the second and third team offenses through much of the seasonal workouts.
If Fieulleteau can continue progressing in the coming months, its highly likely he'll follow in Davis and Singelton's footsteps and play as a true freshman.