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March 22, 2006

Carolina Blue Spring Football Blog

Football spring practice 2006 has been one of the most exciting in Chapel Hill in many years. Carolina Blue has been there with feature stories, photos and this blog. Each day we'll keep you updated on the latest here and in the premium message board - Blue Heaven. We'll be there for the all the Spring Game action Saturday. Catch up on what has happened below.

April 8, 8:40 p.m.
By Adam Powell

Kentwan Balmer had a solid outing in North Carolina's annual spring game Saturday, as he spent quite a bit of time making things unpleasant for UNC's offensive players.

Balmer did an outstanding job of applying pressure on quarterbacks Joe Dailey and Cam Sexton; on more than one occasion, Dailey had to take off in order to elude pressure coming from Kentwan off the end.

After the game, Balmer spoke with Carolina Blue about his personal improvement this spring, and the efforts of some of his teammates, who will help provide valuable depth and experience to the UNC defense next fall.

In regards to spring practice, Balmer has been doing everything he can to give himself an opportunity to see a lot of action during the season; if Saturday was any indication, he will be on the field a lot.

"I've tried to work hard for my teammates, selling out every play, and doing what the coaches ask of me," said Balmer.

Balmer has taken advantage of the spring sessions to get acquainted with new UNC defensive ends coach Danny Pearman, and to learn techniques that will help him get into the backfield quicker, and to give opposing offensive linemen a difficult time.

"I do think I have become more effective as a pass rusher (this spring)," said Balmer.

"Hopefully last season's 14 pressures will turn into 14 sacks next season; I've been working a lot with Coach Powell and Coach Pearman, and as a tandem, you can't get much better than that."

Balmer, for one, is impressed with the way the spring sessions went for the Tar Heels, and he is particularly happy to see some of the younger players on the defensive side of the ball stepping up.

"I believe as a team, we may have made a bigger step this spring since I've been here," said Balmer.

"Younger guys have gotten a lot of plays over on defense; Cameron Thomas, Cooter Arnold, and Bryan Dixon have been making an impact. I think it's going to help us a lot down the road," he added.

April 8, 2:30 p.m.
By Todd Vinyard

The Blue squad beat the White, 14-7, at Kenan Stadium as heavy rain was falling at the end of the game. Now the Tar Heels look forward to the summer as they prepare for Sept. 2 opener with Rutgers in Chapel Hill.

"We know we have to work," said Tar Heel running back Barrington Edwards. "Coach (John) Bunting put the challenge to us that if we want to be great it will take work. If it was easy to be great everybody would do it. We're going to work to be great."

More on the game to come at CarolinaBlue.com.

April 8, 1:06 p.m.
By Todd Vinyard

The White team is leading the Blue 7-0 at halftime of the spring game. So far running the ball has been huge. Barrington Edwards looking good early.

Bobby Rome had a short plunge for the only touchdown of the day. Defense end Brian Rackley has made some strong hits.

We'll have more after the game.

April 8, 9:05 a.m.
By Todd Vinyard

The North Carolina Football Spring Game is just hours away from kickoff at noon in Kenan Stadium. This year that won't be the only thing going on around UNC for football. Here's a break down from UNC Athletic Communications spring game plans.

Here's some more quick information about today from UNC Athletic Communications: Game Format: The game will kickoff at approximately noon. Each quarter will last 12 minutes and there will be a five minute halftime.In the fourth quarter, the clock will not stop. The teams were decided Wednesday evening in a draft by the Spring Game captains.

One interesting spot to watch today is tailback. The starter Ronnie McGill won't see action today since coaches know what he can do and don't want to risk an injury. Red-shirt freshmen Richie Rich and junior Barrington Edwards will get chances to show what they can do.

Coach John Bunting was asked if Edwards has matured. The Tar Heel coach saw Edwards walking past and said, "Let's ask Barrington. Barrington, I just got asked if you have matured?"

"Yes sir, I'm happy to be a part of this program," Edwards said with a smile.

Bunting added: "He has made progress and I've got to see continued progress for me to continue to give him opportunities."

Watch for complete coverage of the spring game here at CarolinaBlue.com.

April 7, 8:45 p.m.
By Todd Vinyard

When the Spring Game comes at noon Saturday what will Carolina coach John Bunting be looking for?

"We had the draft so the team is diluted a little bit," Bunting said. "When you do that it is more competive and fun for the players, but you might not have the right matchups you want. What we'll do is have Richie Rich run behind the No. 1 offensive line. We'll get Barrington Edwards running behind the No. 1 offensive line. We'll get both quarterbacks playing behind the No. 1 offensive line. We'll see how they do in a game setting."

Bunting knows the one thing he wants to see -progress.

"We know that we've got a whole bunch of work to do, but we have made a lot of progress," Bunting said. "The bottom line tomorrow is I want to see more progress."

CarolinaBlue.com will have complete coverage of the North Carolina Spring Game here Saturday.

April 7, 8:30 a.m.
By Todd Vinyard

Football is in the air at North Carolina. The annual Spring Football Game will be Saturday at Noon at Kenan Stadium. The final practice of the spring offers Carolina fans a chance to learn some about the UNC football team for 2006. What should Tar Heel fans be watching for? Here's a list of 10 things.

1)Frank Cignetti's offense: The new offensive coordinator will show some of his system Saturday. It is a system that was very successful in Fresno State. While there are not huge changes it has looked crisper in practice. Head coach John Bunting said look for the team to run more downhill which should play to the strength of Ronnie McGill.

2)Quarterbacks: Joe Dailey and Cam Sexton have been in a battle for the starting job this spring. Both have competed well and had days when they've looked the best according to coaches. No decision on the job will be made until fall practice, but this a chance to shine.

3)Offensive line: This is certainly an area many Tar Heel observers are watching. With Brian Chacos and Ben Lemming out with injuries it provides some opportunities for younger players to step up. Andre Barbour is looking very good and it is nice to see Scott Lenahan and Bryon Bishop contributing.

4)Defensive line: From Hilee Taylor to Cam Thomas several players have had good springs. Unfortunately there aren't a lot of players here to get a true feel. Getting some guys healthy will be a major part of the offseason.

5)Linebacker: Larry Edwards will not participate. He is concentrating on academics and Bunting has said he will be fine for the fall. Who will take advantage of this opportunity? Garrett White seems to be one that has so far. Mark Paschal is another name that has turned heads at this spot.

6)Tailback: The race for No. 3 is on. Ronnie McGill has the top spot with Barrington Edwards taking over at No. 2. That leaves one spot for a back to get reps and possible playing time. Justin Warren and Richie Rich will be involved in that contest Saturday. It will start again in the fall when talented freshmen Anthony Elzy and Johnny White arrive in Chapel Hill.

7)Fullback: Joey Bozich? Yes it was surprising, but the former quarterback is doing well at the position. Nick Starcevic is back after sitting out some of the spring and provides a solid player at this position.

8) Wide receiver: There are a lot of young players trying to make a mark here. And freshmen Hakeem Nicks and Deunta Williams are on the way.

9) Secondary: James Arnold will show what he can do at safety. Defensive coordinator Marvin Sanders said he won't call him Cooter until he gets an interception. Does the Spring Game count? Seriously, Arnold is a great athlete and it will be interesting to see what he can do in this new role.

10) The activities: There is plenty planned before and after the game. From youth clinics to THE BASH there is something for everyone. All fingers will be crossed that the weather turns out well.

Watch for complete coverage of the game here at CarolinaBlue.com this weekend.

April 6, 11:52 a.m.
By Todd Vinyard

The rosters for the spring game are out. The teams were divided up by the coaches and players. Quarterbacks Joe Dailey and Cam Sexton will play on both teams. Here's a link to the complete lineup.

Spring game rosters for UNC here.

April 5, 11 p.m.
By Ryan Bartow

North Carolina emphasized individual fundamentals in groups more so on Wednesday as one of the true final times to work on those aspects as spring practice nears completion. The tight ends and tackles worked on combination blocks, while the interior offensive line and backfield focused on executing the toss sweep.

The wide receivers stressed concentration catching short bubble screens. While the offense was highlighting the perimeter attack, the defense focused on defending that same aspect.

The cornerbacks tried to limit any stutter steps, while playing fast and attacking the ball carriers. The defensive line worked on getting up field.

While the linebackers worked on ways to defend isolation plays. Cornerback Jermaine Strong, who coach Marvin Sanders refers to as 'rookie,' continues to shine working with the first team.

He has had one of UNC's strongest springs among the redshirt freshmen along with left tackle Andre Barbour and defensive tackle Cam Thomas. Quinton Person has taken a leadership role in the secondary and has impressed.

Bryan Bethea showed some aggressiveness in one-on-one pass drills. The days' top runs came from Richie Rich and Justin Warren - both have had solid springs as have the wide receivers.

"Brandon Tate has a good spring and got a lot of footballs," coach Bunting said. "Unfortunately he turned his ankle. That slowed him down in the second half (of spring). We are anticipating that when Deunta Williams and Hakeem Nicks get here they will get a lot of playing time."

April 5, 9:15 p.m.
By Todd Vinyard

North Carolina has one more football practice before the Spring Football Game Saturday at noon. UNC got in the 13th practice of the spring in Wednesday at Kenan Stadium.

North Carolina coach John Bunting said a number of things have gotten done. A special focus has been being physical up front.

"We have a great foundation to build on," Bunting said. "When spring practice is over Saturday it will be on these kids to take it to another level of leadership. I'm fully anticipating that will happen."

Bunting said he was pleased with the progress of the quarterbacks and the offensive line.

"I'm really pleased the way coaches are coaching them," he said. "I'm excited what Coach (Andre) Powell did with special teams and us going live. I think we have better grasp on who will help us there."

On defense, Bunting would like to see more numbers on the defensive line. The Tar Heels will play the spring game with four defensive ends with two on each team. They will have four defensive tackles with two on each team. So if someone goes down the others will play for both teams.

Linebacker spot saw several players have the chance to grow, including Garrett White. Bunting said he is very pleased with the play of Cooter Arnold in the secondary.

"And the latest move is (quarterback Joey) Bozich to fullback," Bunting said. "He might be able to help us."

Look for more on the practice inside Blue Heaven.

April 5, 8:20 a.m.
By Todd Vinyard

UNC returned the practice field Tuesday and has two practices left before the spring game Saturday. The Tar Heels will practice this afternoon and then again Friday before Saturday.

Watch for coverage of the practice this afternoon today here at CarolinaBlue.com.

Also, UNC Athletic Communications recently announced you can hear the game on WCHL 1360-AM in Chapel Hill.

Here's more:

North Carolina's Spring Football Game on Saturday, April 8, will be carried live by WCHL 1360, Chapel Hill-Carboro's News, Talk and Tar Heels Station. WCHL plans to cover all events throughout the day, including the Tar Heel Youth Football Experience, and will have interviews with Carolina coaches and players leading up to the 12 Noon kickoff.

Jeff Hamlin will serve as the play-by-play voice of the game. Walter Sturdivant ('80), former UNC letterwinner and currently the general manager of WCHL will provide color commentary, along with Dawn Bunting, wife of head coach John Bunting.

April 1, 4:20 p.m.
By Ryan Bartow

North Carolina spent the majority of practice scrimmaging, especially in the red zone. The Tar Heels also worked on extra point and field goal conversions and blocks. The defense tackled well today while the offense was highlighting by some quality runs, but hampered some by inconsistency at quarterback.

Highlighting the practice was the return of fullback Nick Starcevic. The sophomore had an appendectomy in February but recovered earlier than imagined.

"It's his first day of practice," Carolina coach John Bunting said. "We didn't expect him to be the best fullback to who has ever played the game. We didn't put him in a lot of positions to make a lot of plays and make a lot of blocks. Its good to get him back out there and he'll get the rest of the spring."

Bunting also noted that Ronnie McGill had some impressive early runs, while Justin Warren and Richie Rich did some nice things with the ball late.

March 29, 9:30 p.m.
By Ryan Bartow

Here are a few highlights from Wednesday's practice.


With the center exchange the spring's biggest issue, North Carolina spent Wednesday focusing more on running the offense out of the shotgun. Both quarterbacks - Joe Dailey and Cam Sexton - competing for the starting job worked on their passing, draws and sets out of the deep snap. When under center the staff emphasized 3-step drops with the backs picking up blitzes to work on the quick passing game. Backup center Lowell Dyer had a nice practice.

Defensive Line

The double-coaching of Kenny Browning and Danny Pearman was at work as the coaches swapped individual work with their normal positions. Pearman's group of defensive tackles included and Cam Thomas, Shelton Bynum, Kyndraus Guy and Kentwan Balmer, normally an end. Browning coached up the ends - Hilee Taylor, Brian Rackley, Melik Brown and Bowen Chapman.


Defending spread schemes was part of the practice's emphasis for the back 7. Quinton Person and Jermaine Strong were again the No. 1 pair at cornerback. Bryan Bethea and Cooter Arnold rotated at nickel back. Kareen Taylor and D.J. Walker were the primary safeties. Person returned an interception for a touchdown for the secondary's highlight. Walker was active around the ball during 11-on-11 scrimmaging. Bryan Dixon made a solid open-field tackle.


Needless to say, North Carolina is working on several ways to get the ball into the hands of Brandon Tate and Brooks Foster. Foster made the day's best grab. The highlight of practice came when Jesse Holley made a sick crack back on a defensive end taking the defender completely out of the play on a toss sweep.

Running Backs

Barrington Edwards again had numerous long gains, more than any other back. The junior also returned a kickoff for a score. Antwain Carey and Richie Rich also had their share of quality carries. Bobby Rome continues to impress with his ability to catch the ball of the backfield. R.J. Waters got some looks at tailback.

Special Teams

The focus was kick return and kickoff coverage. Connor Barth's kickoffs were high, deep and near the goal line on nearly every kick. Garrett White had one of the highlight tackles for the kickoff team.

Read more observations from practice from Carolina Blue's Adam Powell at the Blue Heaven premium message board.

March 29, 8:25 p.m.
By Todd Vinyard

Linebacker Larry Edwards will not be practicing the rest of the spring and will focus on academics, according to North Carolina coach John Bunting after practice today.

"Myself and coach (Tommy) Thigpen have made a decision to have Larry (Edwards) focus on school work the rest of the semester," Bunting said. "He won't be practicing. I know what Larry can do. This give Garrett White and Martel Thatch a chance. We've also moved Kennedy Tinsely over from fullback to Will linebacker. Larry will focus on school work every day Monday thru Friday at our academic center during the time we are at practice and after we are done. (Edwards) has had a great spring. Larry has been a leader on the field and it will allow other guys to become leaders."

No fear that Edwards will not be available this fall, according to coach Bunting. As coach Bunting pointed out Ronnie McGill doesn't practice a lot either and Edwards has already gotten a lot of work in. This gives UNC a chance to get some young players work and Edwards to focus on academics.

Edwards started all 11 games last year for UNC. He tied for the lead with 91 tackles.

Overall, Bunting said the team is making progress.

"We're making good progress," Bunting said. "Quarterbacks were good with the exchanges today. We ran the ball well today. Once again great competition all through practice. We had a live blitz period early on. The quarterbacks threw the ball on time. It was good. Lot of good stuff out there."

We'll have more in the blog and the premium message board Blue Heaven tonight.

March 27, 8:20 p.m.
By Todd Vinyard

North Carolina came back from Saturday's scrimmage with a very good Monday practice according to head coach John Bunting.

Here are some items the Tar Heel head coach talked about after practice Monday:

- Offensive line: "I went into (the offensive line) meeting before dinner recently and told them how I think they are really coming along. I'm very confident with what Mark Weber is doing with these guys. I think we have a chance to be really good for years to come. I think we are going to have more depth and very athletic players. We could be really good there."

- Team Leadership: "I've been very impressed with the group as a whole. Jesse Holley, Melik Brown are two guys that jump out. Shelton Bynum is another. Larry Edwards has a chance to help us if he keeps working and doing the right things. Ronnie McGill is a natural. Jon Hamlett and Kareen Taylor are other ones who can do it. I have really been encouraged after some early morning meetings with this group at 7 a.m. They are all there. They are all on time and all have things to say. They could really develop. I mentioned in the team meeting today we've got some good senior leaders and the followers need to be good followers now."

- Defensive end position: "It is a very important position. Guys like Brian Rackley, Melik Brown and Hilee Taylor can make us better. We anticipate that Kentwan Balmer can play both end and tackle. I'm really looking forward to getting Darrius Massenburg down here and working with him. This is one of the hardest positions to find and you've really got to be careful. You can't just think because a guy is big he can play. The guy has to have speed. They are the hardest guys to find in recruiting right now. We've making a special effort to dig around and find them."

- Hilee Taylor: "It is so important for us to have Hilee Taylor stay healthy and be able to rush the passer and set and edge for the defense."

- On Massenburg at Hargrave: "He is doing extremely well at Hargrave."

- What do you talk about at 7 a.m. meetings?: "I gave them a long list of things to work on over the weekend. I had a check list of things to do. I talked about off season incidents that happened around the country at other places. And I told them how that can not happen here. We've got to have one or two guys step up and say that is not right. This university is too important to me to let something like that happen. We've got to have people step up and say that is not right."

UNC will take Tuesday off before returning to the practice field Wednesday. For more on Taylor and Bynum go the Blue Heaven premium message board.

March 25, 3:55 p.m.
By Todd Vinyard

Some rain showers couldn't stop North Carolina from getting the work in they needed in spring practice Saturday afternoon. Carolina head coach John Bunting said afterwards the Tar Heels are getting one of the top goals of spring practice done - get young players reps.

"We want to continue to get young players repetitions and get the veteran players just enough work to stay sharp," Bunting said.

Here's more from Bunting on Saturday's practice:

- "I saw us run the ball well with the first unit today. Ronnie McGill and Barrington Edwards did some good thngs. We were throwing the ball well at times. We covered everything that I wanted to cover to this point."

- "We had six live punt returns today. Last night we had a live kickoff return for a touchdown. We really made some good blocks. I'm excited about that."

- "Second day in a row we didn't have a field goal block and that is good because previous four or five practices we had everyone of them blocked it seemed. We're getting better there."

- "Defensively, we are going to be a veteran team. Last year we made a significant jump and I think we'll be even better."

- "This weekend we had an unbelieveable coaches clinic with more coaches than we've ever had. I'm excited about that. We're looking forward to letterman's weekend next weekend. This is an exciting time on our campus."

North Carolina returns to the practice field Monday.

Read more about what coach Bunting had to say on freshman free safety Bryan Dixon inside the Blue Heaven premium board.

March 24th, 8:15 p.m.
By Adam Powell

North Carolina ended its seventh practice of Spring Football Friday evening on a positive note, with a large number of high school coaches and prospects milling around Kenan Stadium.

A Coaches Clinic is currently taking place in Chapel Hill, running from Thursday to Saturday, and head coach John Bunting is very pleased with the event's turnout.

More than 300 coaches are on hand for the event, which according to Bunting is the largest amount, by far, for the Clinic in his time as UNC's head coach.

"There is a lot of interest in this program right now; I'm fired up about that," said Bunting.

Bunting indicated that the high school coaches saw a lot of enthusiasm from the Tar Heels today, which the UNC coach believes they noticed and appreciated.

According to Bunting, they let tailback Ronnie McGill loose today, and the rising senior responded with a productive practice.

The same can be said for Barrington Edwards, who Bunting mentioned had a long run, and Justin Warren, who got some reps at tailback as well.

In addition, Bunting had high praise for Bobby Rome, who is showing the skills that may get him significant playing time next fall.

"Bobby is showing he can do some stuff at running back, and on special teams," said Bunting.

In discussing the wide receivers, Bunting said that rising sophomore Brandon Tate looked sharp, catching a couple of screen passes, and Brooks Foster and Kenton Thornton also performed at a high level.

Thornton caught a long touchdown pass.

Regarding the quarterbacks, Bunting mentioned that both Cameron Sexton and Joe Dailey are doing some good things, and while they have been slowed up a bit with center exchange problems, that particular area has improved in the last two practices.

"All I want is for them to keep making good decisions, and to get the ball to open receivers," said Bunting.

Bunting mentioned the fact that the Tar Heels are running live special teams plays, such as kickoffs and field goals, and that young players are manning those positions.

After struggling last week on field goal protection, having practically each of their attempts blocked, the unit responded well today, not having a single field goal blocked.

In the tunnel leading to the locker room, where our interview took place, Bunting embraced offensive line coach Mark Weber, who also leads the special teams protection, with a celebratory "fist touch," congratulating Weber for the unit's success on the day.

"We are putting young guys in live situations," said Bunting. "I'm excited for our scrimmage tomorrow; I'm interested to see how they respond."

A couple of those young players, which Bunting indicated by name, are Mark Paschal and Bryan Dixon, who are getting reps both on special teams and in backup roles for their respective positions.

Concerning injuries, both Brian Chacos and Trimane Goddard are out, and Kentwan Balmer and Hilee Taylor are each presently back on the field.

Regarding spring practice as a whole, Bunting discussed the need for his team to respond to new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti's tactics, along with figuring out which players will be able to contribute next fall.

"We want to install an offense, find out about our running backs, and find out about some of our young players on special teams," said Bunting.

In addition, there were a number of former Tar Heels on hand at the practice, including a few that are presently in the NFL.

The list included Greg Warren, Dre' Bly, and Jason Brown.

"It was great having those guys here," said Bunting.

March 24, 8:40 a.m.
By Todd Vinyard

When North Carolina returns to spring football practice this afternoon it will be another chance for sophomore linebacker Chase Rice to make an impression. The 6-foot-3, 220 pound prospect, who is listed as the starter at Will LB on the UNC depth chart, is ready for the chance after watching about two hours of film a day, and he knows what is on the line.

"This is the chance to win playing time," Rice said. "I've been in the mix, but last year I was behind Tommy Richardson last year. Now there is some real serious competition at Will LB. I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to do the best I can. I can't control what happens. I'm just going to work hard."

How has the linebacker corp looked this spring?

"We look real good," Rice said. "The most athletic group since I've been here. Our goal is to get three guys who can call the plays for the defense. We all want to be able to call the plays if needed."

Rice, who played in all 11 games last year on special teams and as a reserve, said linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen is a great resource and teacher for a young player.

"Getting to know him has been great," Rice said. "He is more than just a coach. He is our teacher and friend. You get used to someone and you know what they are thinking even if they don't say it."

Playing at North Carolina with Thigpen and head coach John Bunting having such a successful background at linebacker means you better be ready every play to perform.

"Every single play you've got someone looking at you," Rice said. "There is a lot of tradition to play linebacker here. I'm trying to do the best I can to live up to what the past has been and make the future as good as it can be."

March 22, 9:14 p.m.
By Ryan Bartow

Here's a look at how things went at some positions. The offense is listed here with the defense listed in the Blue Heaven premium board.


Cam Sexton looked sharp. He threw some bullets, especially on deep seam patterns. He hit the majority of his throws on the day. The highlight came with a long touchdown pass to Brandon Tate. Tate made an impressive catch in front of a pair of defenders and then turned on the jets to the house. A few plays later, Joe Dailey hit Jesse Holley on a long pass for a lengthy score. The quarterbacks worked on taking shotgun snaps from deep snapper Patrick Marsh.

Running backs

Fullback E.J. Wilson continues to shine in isolation situations. Numerous times in half-line, 7-on-7 run drills it was his block that sprung an opening for the tailback. Bobby Rome worked in split backfield formations out of base sets. The former quarterback looked crisped catching the ball and making moves after the catch. Barrington Edwards recorded the day's longest run via a toss sweep.

Offensive line
There were some fumbles on the center-quarterback exchange. With incumbent starting center Ben Lemming sitting out spring drills due to injury, UNC has experimented using Calvin Darity to hike the football. The sophomore struggled as did both quarterbacks handling the snap. On the bright side, Charlston Gray was at times having his way opening holes at left guard.

March 22, 8:40 p.m.
By Todd Vinyard

North Carolina returned to practice after spring break and players were ready to go, especially some young players who are having the chance to show what they can do on special teams.

"We taught the first four or five practices and now we going with six reps live every practice," Carolina coach John Bunting said. "The purpose is to find out what young guys can and want to play. It has been fun to watch."

Bunting said it has also been fun to watch quarterbacks Joe Dailey and Cam Sexton compete for that starting job. He was asked after practice if there was a need to have a starter coming out of the spring?

"Not important now," he said. "It is important half way through training camp."

More coming in the blog and on the Blue Heaven premium board soon.

March 22, 12:45 p.m.
By Todd Vinyard

North Carolina made a huge improvement last year going from rankings in the hundreds in defense to No. 42 in the country in total defense.

A big part of the rise in that defense was free safety Kareen Taylor. The 6-foot-0, 200 pound senior from Hopewell, Va., started all 11 games at safety. He finished third on the team with 61 tackles and had 4.5 tackles for losses of 24 yards and 3.5 sacks. Taylor said defensive coordinator Marvin Sanders has had a lot to do with the improvement.

"He makes it simple so you can be more technically sound," Taylor said. "I just have fun in this system."

The Heels return to the practice field this afternoon after spring break and Taylor sees good things in the future for this defense.

"We're getting there," Taylor said. "We know each other and that makes it better. Last year we were a good defense and this year we are better. I think the sky is the limit for this defense."

When Taylor isn't thinking about tracking down ball carries he is thinking about tracking down fish. He said he enjoys fishing in his down time.

"One time I went around here to Jordan Lake with coach (Andre) Powell," Taylor said. He likes to do the Carolina rigs and stuff. I like to go in the area I'm from. For my birthday I went deep sea fishing with my boys on Virginia Beach. We had a great time."

CarolinaBlue.com will have more on practice today here in the blog and at the premium message board - Blue Heaven - later today.

March 21, 5 p.m.
By Todd Vinyard

North Carolina gets back to spring practice Wednesday. What does Tar Heel coach John Bunting hope to see?

"I want to continue to improve the toughness of our football team overall," Bunting said after the Pro Timing Day was complete Tuesday. "I want to continue to specifically work on the development of the quarterbacks, tailbacks and right side of the offensive line."

Young players will have a chance to contribute on special teams.

"I want to continue to work extremely hard to find out what young players can contribute on special teams," Bunting said. "They're getting the opportunity at that and it's all live. Every bit of it is live. I've never done this before - it was a suggestion by coach (Andre) Powell and I'm doing it. Tomorrow we'll have six live kickoffs and we'll have a lick kickoff return team comprised of the best leftover young players. So the evaluation process of those special teams guys is essential to the completion of the spring."

After watching last year's seniors work out for NFL scouts Bunting talked about leadership.

"The last thing should probably be first - leadership," he said. "This group of players was the best group of leaders I've had in terms of the numbers and we've got to have that to win. Our coaches have been on task to find out who those guys are and help me develop them."

March 9, 9:35 p.m.
By Todd Vinyard

It is already spring break time for the North Carolina football team. The Tar Heels practice Thursday and will not return to the practice field until March 22. UNC has spring break next week.

John Bunting like to see when the Tar Heels come back to the field?

"I would like to see us pick up the tempo," Bunting said after Thursday's practice. "We need to get smarter. I told our young players they've got to pick it up because we are counting on them."

Bunting likes what he is seeing out of several young players. Two redshirt freshmen he mentioned were cornerback Jermaine Strong and wide receiver Dirk Engram.

The new offensive plan at UNC involves being fast and that means the defense is having to keep up the pace.

"Things are a little faster," said senior free safety Kareen Taylor. "We have an uptempo offense and we have to keep up with their pace. I'm looking forward to camp now. This has been a good test."

For more on coach Bunting's comments after practice check out the Blue Heaven premium board.

Watch for features on Brandon Tate and Taylor in the next few days.

March 8, Midnight
By Ryan Bartow

Offensive Line
There's no question about new offensive line coach Mark Weber's intensity. Even in fundamental drills his emotion was most noticeable and welcomed. He's always stressing technique. Calvin Darity, normally a left guard, got a look at center.

He did struggle some with the exchanges, but as coach John Bunting learned from the previous offensive line coach Hal Hunter you always need at least three guys on the roster that can snap the ball. When healthy Darity ranks among Carolina's most talented blockers. Aaron Stahl, Scott Lenahan and Lowell Dyer were all in the center rotation and working on their shotgun snaps.

Cam Sexton struggled with the exchange a bit. Having not played since last spring and used to being in the shotgun in high school days, the transition might take a little time. He did show a real zip on his release and a quick the burst in escaping the rush.

Running Backs
Ronnie McGill, Barrington Edwards, R.J. Waters, Justin Warren, Richie Rich and Antwain Carey divvy up even carries at tailback. Kennedy Tinsley, E.J. Wilson and Daryl Porter got the majority of time at fullback. The emphasis was catching the ball out of the backfield through flares and wheels from both positions. Tinsley was especially impressive with a few grabs. Later in 9-on-9 drills, he sprung several lengthy runs with some isolation blocks. Justin Warren broke a big run. Carey also ran well. McGill did some nice things catching passes.

Wide Receivers
The first unit was Jesse Holley and Brooks Foster with Kenton Thornton and Brandon Tate working the twos. Dirk Engram mixed in well in the various 3-and-4 wide looks. Foster displayed a quick burst, mainly on outs. Thorton is a red zone weapon waiting to happen. One of practice's main highlights was a 30-yard fade pattern turned into a jump ball that Thorton easily won over Quinton Person. Tate was especially dynamic on wide receiver screens and crossing patterns.

For more on the defense and special teams check out the premium message board - Blue Heaven.

March 8, 9:30 p.m.
By Todd Vinyard

Defensive end Melik Brown is already turning some heads with the way he came into practice working hard and looking ready for a strong senior season.

The 6-foot-2, 260 pounder has enjoyed working with new defensive ends coach Danny Pearman.

"I've only known him four days, but I love him to death," Brown said. "He and coach (Kenny) Browning work together like one mind. We're having a whole lot of fun as a team."

We'll have a Q&A with UNC quarterback Joe Dailey on the site and more here on the blog soon. Plus there is a current update from practice in the Blue Heaven premium message board. We'll have more with Brown Thursday.

March 8, 11:06 a.m.
By Todd Vinyard

North Carolina returns to spring practice this afternoon. Here's a look at the the latest spring depth chart from UNC Athletic Communications. We'll have more coverage later tonight from the Heels practice.


Wide Receiver
9 - Jesse Holley (6-3, 208, Sr., Roselle, N.J.)
87 - Brandon Tate (6-1, 193, So., Burlington, N.C.)

Left Tackle
65 - #Brian Chacos (6-4, 301, Sr., Darien, Conn.)
67 - Andre Barbour (6-6, 290, Fr., Atlanta, Ga.)

Left Guard
77 - Charlston Gray (6-2, 301, Jr., Fort Worth, Texas)
79 - Calvin Darity (6-3, 297, So., Tallahassee, Fla.)
62 - Wyatt Hicks (6-5, 275, So., Highland Springs, Va.)

63 - #Ben Lemming (6-5, 301, So., Houston, Texas)
61 - Aaron Stahl (6-3, 300, Fr., Venice Fla.) OR
64 - Scott Lenahan (6-1, 285, Jr., Marietta, Ga.) OR
66 - Lowell Dyer (6-3, 280, Fr., Durham, N.C.)

Right Guard
72 - Kyle Jolly (6-6, 300, Fr., Powhatan, Va.)
57 - Bryon Bishop (6-3, 330, So., Union, S.C.)
97 - Kenny Price (6-4, 320, Virginia Beach, Va.)

Right Tackle
73 - Garrett Reynolds (6-7, 300, So., Knoxville, Tenn.)
71 - Kendall High (6-3, 290, Sr., Salisbury, N.C.)

Tight End
86 - Jon Hamlett (6-4, 260, Sr., Lynchburg, Va.)
81 - Rock Wells (6-4, 250, Jr., Ivanhoe, N.C.) OR
89 - Richard Quinn (6-4, 235, So., Maple Heights, Ohio)

12 - Joe Dailey (6-1, 205, Jr., Jersey City, N.J.) OR
11 - Cam Sexton (6-1, 180, Fr., Laurinburg, N.C.)
18 - Joey Bozich (6-2, 228, So., Hinsdale, Ill.)
23 - Ben Johnson (6-1, 190, Jr., Fairview, N.C.)

43 - #Nick Starcevic (6-2, 235, So., Charlotte, N.C.)
36 - Kennedy Tinsley (6-0, 210, Fr., Greensboro, N.C.)
85 - E.J. Wilson (6-2, 260, Fr., Lawrenceville, Va.)
48 - Michael Briggs (6-0, 255, So., Gastonia, N.C.)

25 - Ronnie McGill (5-11, 220, Sr., Clover, S.C)
21 - Justin Warren (6-1, 192, Jr., Germantown, Md.)
32 - Barrington Edwards (6-0, 230, Jr., Bowie, Md.)

Wide Receiver
88 - Brooks Foster (6-3, 200, So., Boiling Springs, S.C.)
3 - Kenton Thornton (6-5, 225, Fr., Dallas, Texas)
82 - Dirk Engram (5-10, 170, Fr., College Park, Ga.)


Left End
42 - Brian Rackley (6-5, 263, Sr., Tallahassee, Fla.)
33 - Hilee Taylor (6-3, 230, Jr., Laurinburg, N.C.)

Defensive Tackle
74 - Kyndraus Guy (6-2, 282, Jr., Hope Mills, N.C.)
93 - Cam Thomas (6-4, 330, Fr., Eagle Springs, N.C.)

Defensive Tackle
75 - Shelton Bynum (6-5, 295, Sr., Ellenwood, Ga.)
94 - Khalif Mitchell (6-6, 315, Jr., Virginia Beach, Va.)

Right End
90 - #Kentwan Balmer (6-5, 285, Jr., Weldon, N.C.)
58 - Melik Brown (6-2, 260, Sr., Camden, N.J.)

Sam Linebacker
32 - Larry Edwards (6-3, 230, Sr., Tampa, Fla.)
56 - Garrett White (6-2, 235, So., Miami, Fla.)

Mike Linebacker
48 - #Durell Mapp (6-2, 220, Jr., Burlington, N.C.)
54 - Victor Worsley (6-1, 235, Sr., Battleboro, N.C.)
41 - Mark Paschal (6-0, 228, So., Charlotte, N.C.)

Will Linebacker
44 - Chase Rice (6-3, 220, So., Asheville, N.C.)
21 - Martel Thatch (6-2, 223, Jr., Greensboro, N.C.)

3 - Quinton Person (5-11, 185, So., Greenville, N.C.) OR
35 - Bryan Bethea (5-10, 185, Jr., Fayetteville, N.C.)

Strong Safety
31 - #Trimane Goddard (5-11, 185, Jr., Robersonville, N.C.)
28 - D.J. Walker (6-0, 185, Sr., Pisgah Forest, N.C.)

Free Safety
27 - Kareen Taylor (6-0, 200, Sr., Hopewell, Va.)
20 - Cooter Arnold (5-10, 190, So., Mocksville, N.C.)

16 - #Jacoby Watkins (6-0, 190, Sr., Laurinburg, N.C.)
23 - #Jordan Hemby (5-10, 175, Fr., Morganton, N.C.) OR
38 - Jermaine Strong (5-10, 185, Fr., Shelby, N.C.)


10 - Connor Barth (6-1, 192, Jr., Wilmington, N.C.)
38 - Lane Clemmons (5-10, 220, Jr., Fayetteville, N.C.)

10 - Connor Barth (6-1, 192, Jr., Wilmington, N.C.)
38 - Lane Clemmons (5-10, 220, Jr., Fayetteville, N.C.)

45 - David Wooldridge (6-2, 200, Sr., Advance, N.C.)
17 - John Choate (6-2, 180, Jr., Charlotte, N.C.)

Deep Snapper
91 - Michael Murphy (6-2, 231, Jr., Goldsboro, N.C.)
63 - Patrick Marsh (6-1, 225, Sr., Mooresville, N.C.)

Kickoff Return
87 - Brandon Tate (6-1, 193, So., Burlington N.C.)
31 - #Trimane Goddard (5-11, 185, Jr., Robersonville, N.C.) OR
20 - Cooter Arnold (5-10, 190, So., Mocksville, N.C.)

Punt Return
87 - Brandon Tate (6-1, 193, So., Burlington, N.C.)

# - injured, will not participate in spring drills

March 6, 8:30 p.m.
By Todd Vinyard

North Carolina spring practice moved to a new phase Monday afternoon - it was time to break out the pads.

"Some guys really enjoyed themselves," Carolina coach John Bunting said afterwards. "It was a hotly contested 7-on-7 drill. Defense probably got the best end of it, but I was proud of how the offense came back and competed in the next period."

Bunting talked about how the installation of the new offense is going.

"I think there is a lot of terminology to go over, but a lot of concepts will be the same," Bunting said. "The quarterbacks have a lot of learning. We've installed a lot of stuff. There is a little thinking going on at this time, but that is OK. They will get better with reputations."

How are things going at quarterback?

"Joe Dailey has some very good speed that he is showing right now," Bunting said. "Both him and Cameron Sexton are having a good competition right now."

Sophomore Cooter Arnold has been moved from running back to free safety for the spring.

"We're not very deep at safety, and we have a number of running backs that I want to look at this spring," Bunting said. "I have an idea of what Cooter can do. I have an idea of what Barrington Edwards can do. I know what Ronnie McGill can do. Those guys aren't going to take a lot of reps."

The Tar Heels take a day off practice tomorrow. We'll have our Q&A with new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti. He is excited to be in Chapel Hill and said his family is coming out for good this Saturday.

There is more including an update on defensive end Hilee Taylor's injury status on the Blue Heaven message board.

March 4, 2:30 p.m.
By Adam Powell

It was a bustling scene in and around Kenan Stadium Saturday afternoon, as North Carolina held its second practice of spring football amidst the program's annual Junior Day.

With a throng of high school players, parents, and coaches on hand, the Tar Heels conducted their second consecutive workout in shorts, helmets, and no pads.

The Tar Heels will participate in their first full-contact practice of the spring season on Monday.

Although head coach John Bunting was partially focused on the individual and team drills taking place during the session, his mind was also on the large number of recruits that chose to spend their weekend in Chapel Hill learning more about the UNC football program.

"Probably the last half of it (today's practice), I was recruiting," Bunting joked as he walked off the field.

Here are more quotes from Bunting, and running back Ronnie McGill:

John Bunting:

On what he liked about the first two practices:

"Enthusiasm. Energy. The 9-on-7 period was physical, without pads on. We were physical; we were energetic. We are relating well to schemes on offense. I'm excited to come out here again on Monday."

On the positions where he feels the team has some depth:

"We have lots of guys at running back. There are four guys, (Antwain Carey, R.J. Waters, Richie Rich, and Bobby Rome) who are all going to get a chance to play."

"We want to see which guy, or guys, can help us at running back and special teams next season. They will all be put in a position to help us."

"We have a lot of lineman. At linebacker we have a little depth."

Ronnie McGill:

On the things he is working on this spring:

"I want to get all the new protections down, and get all the new terminology as quickly as I can, to help the younger guys."

On his approach this spring compared to springs past:

"I don't get as many reps, but I take more mental reps. I'm trying to take in as much as I can while I'm not out there."


- Coach Bunting indicated that Hilee Taylor and Kentwan Balmer are both battling through injuries right now.

- Bunting also spoke about the "Stack-Backer" position, another name they use for one of the linebacker posts. He indicated three players (Durell Mapp, Victor Worsley, Chase Rice) that could potentially play that position.

North Carolina is off Sunday and returns to practice Monday. Look for a feature on Jesse Holley Sunday and we'll talk with some juniors about their experience at UNC for Sunday night and Monday morning.

March 3, 9 a.m.
By Todd Vinyard

The countdown is on until practice begins this afternoon. Thursday during the teleconference to announce the hiring of Danny Pearman and promotion of Dave Brock, Bunting talked about some of the things he will be looking for this spring.

One of them includes the progress of sophomore Richard Quinn at tight end.

"We're anxious to have Richard Quinn continue to develop as a tight end," Bunting said.

Senior Jon Hamlett leads the way at this position after 21 catches the season before, but Quinn has plenty of skills. The Tar Heels continue to build depth with quality recruits who get experience before being totally thrown into the fire to compete.

Watch for more updates on this blog as spring practice gets underway this afternoon. Got something to say about spring practice? Go to the premium board Blue Heaven or The Blitz to share your opinion on Carolina football.

Before practice today check out the stories under the related links for more on what to expect in spring practice.

March 3, 2:30 p.m.
By Todd Vinyard

One of the interesting things to watch for this spring will be how do some red-shirt freshmen standout during the spring. Names to watch include: Bryan Dixon, Jordan Hemby, Jermaine Strong, Kenton Thornton and Dirk Engram.

March 3, 5:45 p.m.
By Todd Vinyard

Practice underway at Kenan Stadium really impressed with new coaches. They've jumped right in and gotten started. Lots of energy already on the field. More to come.

March 3, 8:30 p.m.
By Todd Vinyard

North Carolina head coach John Bunting had a smile on his face after the first spring practice Friday at Kenan Stadium and why not. There was plenty of excitement and things seemed to go well. What can you really tell after one practice?

"It is hard, but the tempo of the offense and defense getting lined up was fun to watch," Bunting said. "We are going to try to play as fast as we can. It was fun to watch."

A fun area to watch will be the tailback spot. North Carolina coaches know what Ronnie McGill and Barrington Edwards have to offer, but will be looking at some other backs to see what they can do.

"We are going to give some running backs every opportunity to prove they deserve time at the position," Bunting said.

Those players include: Justin Warren, Antwain Carey, Richie Rich, R.J. Waters, and Bobby Rome. Rome has moved over from quarterback to tailback.

For more on the practice including some important visitors go to the Blue Heaven message board at the link below.



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