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April 3, 2013
Wide Receivers Battling It Out
North Carolina busted on to the scene with their high profile offensive power last year, putting up points higher than the Tar Heels have done in some years.
Now in the second year of the Larry Fedora era and with key components gone, the Tar Heels will have to find a way to provide the same offensive punch with several different players on the field.
Wide receivers will be a huge component in Fedora and Blake Anderson's offense, as they've shown they'll put three, four, and even five receivers out on the field in this high octane offense.
"We lost Mookie (Erik Highsmith). We lost 'J' (Jheranie) Boyd, but we've got some guys who have gotten some reps in the offense. So they understand it," said Fedora in an interview with Tar Heel Illustrated earlier this spring.
We also spoke with Damien Washington, a sophomore receiver from Kannapolis, NC who saw limited action last year, asking on how the receiver position as a group is coming along.
When asking Washington about how it feels to be back on the field, here is what he said about returning to the field.
"It feels great, I mean were just out here putting in work and just trying to get to the point where we want to be when the season comes around," Washington replied. "Just do whatever we have to do for the season to win championships."
With so many positions and formations in Fedora's offense, there are quite a few offensive plays that the receivers have to know. And with so many options, the receivers have to refresh their memory and get back into condition quickly.
"Tempo is the one thing he (Fedora) stresses," Washington said. "We are going to hurry up fast and make sure everyone knows the concept and what we are trying to accomplish at the time. Whether we are running a screen or we're running all goes, just know what you're supposed to do and play fast."
Boyd and Highsmith have been around at UNC for quite a while and provided 58 receptions, 631 yards, and six touchdowns.
However, Fedora has been able to load up at the receiver position and will look to put the pressure on them to step up and replace the two seniors from last year, along with the offensive explosion that Giovani Bernard provided out in the backfield.
Quinshad Davis, who was a four-star freshman coming in last year, led the team with 776 yards and five touchdowns, one of four players with five touchdowns on the year.
However, in an offense that averaged 40-plus points a game last year, there will be a lot of offense to go around on the field.
Others who have been working into the mix this spring along with Davis and Washington include sophomore Kendrick Singleton, juniors Sean Tapley and Mark McNeill, redshirt freshman Kedrick Davis, January enrollee true freshman Jordan Fieulleteau, and walk-ons including Dalton Stogner and Nic Platt.
Singleton in particular is taking advantage of the reps he got this spring, in addition to those he got last season as a key backup, to try and forge his way into the starting lineup.
"Last year he (Singleton) was running with the 'twos' at the wide receiver position, but he started on three special teams units and helped us win a lot of games last year," Fedora said after last week's scrimmage.
"So now he has stepped up. There's a spot open and he's competing. He's done a really good job so far this spring."
More reps have been opened up for guys like McNeill, Fieulleteau, and Stogner this spring with the absence in practice and scrimmages of the injured T.J. Thorpe and Reggie Wilkins.
"We do have some guys that are out, and they are the ones who are missing out right now," Fedora said.
With so many receivers and such great competition coming into spring practice, it isn't too hard to find reasons to get out on the field and to show their talents.
When asked about the competition on the field, Washington answered quickly about how there are so many players at the wide receiver position, each one knows that when they have the opportunity, each one will have to step up and get it done.
"All (sorts of) competition," Washington said.
"One day you're going to be the outside receiver and then one day you will be the inside receiver, it's all about who will get the job done and that's what the coaches stresses."
"Whoever gets the job done are the ones who will play."
"Motivation is to play hard. Smart, fast, and physical like the coach says and play to the best of our ability."
Washington also shed some light on the young receivers such as Fieulleteau, and what they have to gone through so far as young Tar Heels.
Given he was in a similar position when he arrived at UNC a year ago, Washington has unique perspective.
"I totally understand," replied Washington when asked about what the freshmen have to go through early on.
"It's not too difficult. You just have to adjust to the tempo and going real, real fast. You just have to be in the playbook and be on it like white on rice and just know what you are supposed to do."
"Get in touch in with the older guys to get your playing time."
Washington commented on Fieulleteau and what he has noticed early on from him in spring practice.
"Fieulletau is going to be a good player; (he) just has to get on the same page as everyone else and just has to know what to do. But he listens pretty decent and will be a good player for us this year."
Overall, North Carolina will have a plethora of offensive players on the field that could provide quality playing time for the Tar Heels at the wide receiver position.
If guys like Thorpe and Wilkins can return healthy in the summer, along with the additions of true freshmen like Johnathan Howard and Ryan Switzer who are projected as early-impact contributors, the team will have plenty of weapons, it would seem at least.
The ability for these players to pick up the offensive concept and perform on the field, the better North Carolina will be able to continue their high octane offense on the field.
That's the advantage the guys are getting who are in the huddle and on the practice field this spring.
Fedora is always up for competition and will be looking from now till the beginning of the season to find who will take what they have learned in practice to on the field during the fall and into the 2013 season.
Fortunately, the wide receivers and everyone else on the North Carolina offense have grown by leaps and bounds since Fedora first took the UNC practice fields a year ago.
"When you think back to the first practice last year at this time, it was chaos. Total chaos. Organized chaos. These guys understand what's going on. There's nobody wondering where they're going from one drill to the next. So there's a comfort level there, so they can concentrate on getting better at their task," Fedora said.
"If you think about where we were last year at this time to now, it's a big difference. Everybody understands what we're doing. So now it's mastering your craft. It's perfecting what you do, and not just trying to learn what to do."