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April 7, 2010

Davis breaks down Spring Game

UNC head coach Butch Davis went into expansive detail Wednesday afternoon about the format and structure of Saturday's Spring Game---which is already getting the players going in terms of trash-talking and getting people's emotions high.

"There's a lot of trash talking in the locker room," said Davis. "When we posted the rosters yesterday (Tuesday) there was an awful lot of trash-talking last night and today during the day."

"Guys already have divided loyalties. Guys that were best friends yesterday, they're kind of like, 'I'm not hanging out with him. He's on the other team,' so it's a lot of good-natured teasing and everything, and we'll see how it goes," Davis added.

The fourth-year UNC head coach said that the Tar Heel coaching staff came together and created the 'White' and Blue' team rosters.

A conscientious effort was made not only to try and make the teams fair, but also to create certain individual matchups.

"We sat down as a coaching staff and tried to divide the football team as equally as possible with two starters in the secondary on one team and two backups on that team and the same thing with the interior defensive line---like one starting defensive end and one starting tackle, and then two of the backups," Davis said. "That's kind of the way to try to make it as competitive as possible."

"The coaches (made the rosters), and again a lot of that was to try to create matchups," Davis continued. "For example, we tried to put Travis Bond on one team (Blue) so that he would be opposite Marvin Austin (White)---so that the matchup would be challenging for both of them. Travis would get an opportunity to go against Marvin and Marvin would get a chance to go against somebody."

"We looked strategically as to how would each guy, if he was on that team, who is the guy that he's going to be playing across from, and to make it competitive," he added.

The coaches are hopeful that the opportunity for several second-team players to start in this particular game will motivate them to step up.

"We hope what it will do is it'll give a lot of guys that are second-team guys chances to play as starters with starters, and you'd be surprised---there will be a lot of guys that will step up and probably play well on Saturday," Davis said.

While Davis is satisfied with the team's depth at the various skill positions heading into this game, he is still worried about depth and injury concerns along the offensive and defensive lines.

With one team divided into two, a lot of guys will have to play heavily on Saturday---and the UNC coaches are holding their collective breath that nobody goes down.

"Obviously one of the major concerns that we've got is that we clearly have enough guys at the skill positions---the running back, secondary, wide receivers, tight ends---those areas we feel we could probably play a legitimate game," Davis said.

"There's a little bit of a concern from the defensive line and offensive line standpoint that once you divide this team in half, that eight-man rotation on defense becomes you've got one set of starters and you've got no backups. So the lines are going to have to play pretty much the entire game."

"We're going to cross our fingers (for no injuries). We're going to pray. We're going to look for four-leaf clovers. We're going to do everything that you can in hopes that the offensive line can stay intact, because with the number of guys that we've got out."

"With Alan Pelc and Carl Gaskins---some of those guys that we're counting significantly for next fall---obviously they're not going to play," Davis continued. "So that's going to make it pretty much a group of guys, those five guys (on each side) are going to have to be warriors. They're probably going to have to play the entire game in all four quarters."

While most players will naturally only play one position, there will be a few players, such as defensive linemen Brandon Willis and Quinton Coples, who will likely get time at defensive end and defensive tackle.

"There are a few backup players that are probably going to play multiple positions," Davis said. "For an example, freshman Brandon Willis is probably going to have to play both not only right and left defensive tackle to give those guys a rest, he may actually have to go out and play a little defensive end, and some of the defensive ends may have to go inside and play defensive tackle, just to kind of have a little bit of a rotation."

The Spring Game, which will be televised at 3:00 pm Eastern on ESPN, will have to be played in a two-hour window---which will modify some of the elements of the game.

"We're under some time constraints because ESPN's window of opportunity for the game is it's a two-hour window," Davis said. "There will be some timeouts of which we're not going to have no control over---they'll go to station breaks and timeouts---(and) hopefully maybe at the conclusion of change of possessions and touchdowns and field goals."

"There will be a halftime that's probably going to be about fifteen minutes. We'll do a pre-game warm-up like we normally would as a whole team---we won't divide the team into 'Blue' and 'White' for pre-game warm-up."

"But then in the second half, we're going to have to take our lead a little bit from ESPN, from their production---the guy that's going to be the director of the game---and the referee," Davis continued.

"As far as will the clock run traditionally, we're going to have four 12-minute quarters, and the first half will probably go exactly like a game---stopping on incomplete passes."

"In the second half it may run if it looks like there's 13 minutes left to go in the game and they've got to be off the air in 14 minutes---the clock may go fast."

One thing that the coaches are going to make a priority at the end of the game is making sure that both teams have a chance to conduct a late two-minute drill.

"There are some scripted scenarios that we would like to try to have happen in the course of the game that if they don't happen naturally," Davis said. "We're going to try to end the game with a couple of two-minute drives where both the 'White' team and the 'Blue' team get an opportunity to have a two-minute drive."

"When there's four minutes left to go in the game, whoever has the ball, we're just going to make that a two-minute drive for that group. Regardless of the outcome of it, the clock will probably go to two minutes and the other team will get it just to give each quarterback the opportunity to have a two-minute drive at the end of a game."

If one offense struggles to move the ball, they'll likely create a scenario where that team can have a late opportunity to get some red zone exposure.

"If it doesn't occur naturally we may try to somehow script a scenario to have some red zone work just to make sure if one team moves down and scores a couple of times and the other team struggles and they don't get down there, we may have a punt return that gets returned to the 28-yard line and so they (that offense) getf an opportunity---because there's some things that we need to get done for ourselves just to make our football team better," Davis said.

Davis admits that the offensive and defensive schemes will be simplified in order to let players make players and not try to spend the day confusing each other.

"We've kind of minimized some of the artificial things. We want to see what guys can do. Who can get off of blocks and make plays defensively? Who on offense can block guys?' he said. "We're not real interested into trying to 'trick' the other side of the ball. We're not trying to trick them into blitzes and show a bunch of unusual formations and trick plays on offense."

"Especially with some of these freshmen and redshirt freshmen, they need to get out there and play at least two quarters," he added. "If everybody kind of takes the 'choke' chain off, what is this guy going to look like when he just goes out and plays football?"

Davis hopes that the team will be able to conduct a game of anywhere from 110 to 130 plays, and ESPN, based on its past experiences hosting similar games at other schools, they says it's a realistic possibility for two hours.

"Just looking at games that have already happened the last couple of years---two weeks ago LSU did it. Alabama has done it previously and some other schools. They've each been able to orchestrate somewhere between 55 and 65 plays for both teams. And we would be thrilled to death if we could be able to get 60 (offensive) plays (for each team) in this scrimmage, and I think we will," Davis said.

"I was worried would we have enough football, and they (the ESPN producers) said it's never been a problem---that there's always plenty of enough football with pre-packaged things that they're going to showcase and talk about on TV, but there will be plenty of football," he added.

Davis says he's interested in seeing how the team as a whole responds to such an atmosphere---which will be completely new for spring football in Chapel Hill.

"I'm kind of interested to watch all of it, to be honest with you. We haven't been able to do a Spring Game the last couple of years---they were all choreographed, scripted scrimmages," he said. "Hopefully this will come off. We've got enough depth. We've kind of built enough in some respects that it should allow kids to go out and just play."

"When your graduating class leaves, you have to take each spring looking at 'Could we legitimately go out there?' (and play a Spring Game) because we're going to have special teams. It's not like we're just going to go out and do offense and defense. We're going to do punts and kickoffs kickoff returns, and do you have enough guys to be able to do all of it?"

The team practiced 30 minutes on Wednesday where the 'Blue' and 'White' teams came together with their units to try to get as close to some kind of continuity and consistency as possible.

Davis says the players were eager to find out which teams they'd be playing for.

"They've bugged me to death about who was on whose teams. We didn't post the teams until yesterday (Tuesday) because we wanted to wait as late as possible to find out who would be healthy enough to play," he said. "It would have been stupid to put three guys on one team (at a position) and then all of a sudden find out someone had a sprained ankle and he couldn't go and now you've got to massage the entire roster."

The coaches have added some spice to the situation by adding stakes to the mix.

"The wager is that the losers, on Monday we'll have a team meeting and then a team meal and the losers have got to serve the winners," said Davis. "They've got to go through the line and they've got to serve them and they can't eat until after everybody has eaten and they're going to do a little clean-up duty in the cafeteria and stuff."

"There will be added incentive---any play that amounts to a score on Saturday will be real instrumental (in the wager's outcome)," Davis continued.





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