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August 7, 2012CHAPEL HILL--- Following UNC's Tuesday morning practice---the first in pads for the Tar Heels this summer in training camp---head coach Larry Fedora spoke with reporters.
Naturally, the prevailing thought on the minds of the journalists on hand was the status of sophomore wide receiver T.J. Thorpe, who suffered a significant foot injury Sunday.
Although it's been reported that Thorpe has broken his foot and will be out of commission for several weeks, Fedora was quick to say that he won't be talking about injuries unless they're season-ending ones.
So while we've confirmed that Thorpe isn't out for the year, Fedora didn't tell us much else.
"He (Thorpe) is a great kid. I don't know what to tell you because I don't talk about injuries," Fedora said. "Here's what I'll tell you about injuries. I will tell you about anybody we lose for the season, and that's it."
"We haven't lost him for the season, so I don't really have anything to say for him."
The Tar Heels were missing other wide receivers on Tuesday, as sophomores Reggie Wilkins and Sean Tapley weren't at practice, and true freshman Quinshad Davis again wasn't at practice.
Fedora expressed optimism that Wilkins and Tapley will be practicing again soon, and they're hoping to get Davis back on campus as soon as Tuesday night.
"I wouldn't be surprised if they (Wilkins or Tapley) are back out there tomorrow morning," Fedora said.
"(Davis) will get back into town tonight (Tuesday night) from my understanding, so we'll see what happens from there."
While the depth at wide receiver is a noticeable concern for the Tar Heels, Fedora says he's concerned about the team's depth everywhere right now.
"I'm concerned about depth at every position. We're not deep enough at a single position, really. It's a concern, but right now it hasn't affected how we practice, so hopefully we won't get into a situation where we have to alter the way we practice."
On Tuesday, youngsters such as true freshman Quinshad Davis and walk-on Nick Platt were getting reps with the first and second team offense, while some of the healthier guys like Erik Highsmith were getting lots of work.
"I don't even know what we started with (numbers-wise at receiver)," Fedora said. "The way we do it is we get 105 (players), and basically what each position coach says, 'We need this many,' and that's how we break up our 105. So that's where we are."
Another guy getting work in the UNC receiver rotation this summer is Roy Smith, a walk-on who is a track standout for the Tar Heels. A native of Miami, Smith is working with the second team offense, and has been impressive in camp so far.
"He (Smith) just came in one day with his dad and they said he wanted to take a shot at football. We checked him out to find out what kind of kid he was, and what he had done (previously)," Fedora said. "We talked with our track coach and he was all for it. And so we said, 'Hey, if you want to do what we do, then come out. We'll give you a shot.'"
"He's done some really nice things for a kid that didn't have 15 days of spring practice," Fedora added about Smith. "He's made some nice catches. He's fine in the contact phase, catching the ball in a crowd. It will be interesting to see how he progresses."
While Fedora wasn't willing to get into much specifics about his injured players, he did seem pleased with the way the Tar Heels have progressed on the field so far during camp.
"It (Tuesday's practice) was good. It was a typical first day (in pads). The guys moved around good. I think one good thing about what we've done is try to keep our energy level the same each and every day," he said. "It doesn't matter what it is, we're going to try to play the game the same way. They moved around the same way as they did the first and second day, and I think that's a good thing."
The Tar Heels may have been in pads on Tuesday, but they didn't necessarily start busting each other up with full-contact hitting. Fedora indicated that while some portions of practice were in full contact, others were 'thud,' meaning cracking pads but not full tackling and taking people to the ground.
"It just depends on the situation. Sometimes we're tackling. Sometimes we're 'thud.' So it just depends on what the situation is in practice," he said.
Fedora likes the pace at which the UNC players are working out at this summer, and he says he can see an improvement in the team's workout capacity even since the end of the spring.
"I think it (the pace of practice) is better than it was when we ended in the spring, so that's a good thing. I think that was the challenge. How much work you do over the summer is going to dictate how fast we can go when we start fall camp."
"We're still a long way from where we want to be, but our guys are better when we started on Day One (of training camp) on the 15th day of spring ball. So that's a good thing. Hopefully we can just get a little bit better each and every single day," Fedora added.
UNC is working in several different players at the specialist spots, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle from any one of a number of players, including Wilkins, Tapley, Davis, Smith, Giovani Bernard, and Romar Morris, among others.
"Reggie is catching (punts). Kedrick Davis has been catching back there. We've got (Gio) Bernard, (Romar) Morris. We're working seven or eight guys back there, mainly to get a feel for how good they would handle the ball in that situation, whether it's punt return or kick return."
Fedora was also asked about several specific players, including Tre Boston, Tim Jackson, Marquise Williams, and Eric Ebron, and he went into more detail about each of them.
"He (Boston) is a very vocal, demonstrative player. He's a guy that really enjoys playing the game. Those guys are fun to coach, because they have a good time playing. They have fun out there playing," Fedora said. "Tre has picked it up pretty well. I think he's a pretty talented kid and should do some great things for us."
Jackson is working into the rotation at both the three-technique (defensive tackle) and at defensive end, although at most of practice he's been working at three-technique.
"We're looking at some different people at different places right now. Tim is one guy that we'd like to see what he can do inside. It would be nice if he could learn both spots, so we could balance him in and out based on our depth throughout the year," Fedora said.
The UNC coaches are moving around several guys both offensively and defensively up front, looking to build depth while also finding multiple players capable of playing at any given time.
"If you watch the offensive line its the same thing. We've got guys playing almost every position except center, and a couple of our guards are getting work at center. And it's the same thing. We're just trying to build depth at those positions, because you've got to be prepared."
Williams is growing with each passing day as Bryn Renner's primary backup at quarterback, and while Fedora wasn't thrilled with the way he started practice on Tuesday, he says he came on strong as the workout went on.
"I think he (Williams) is coming along all right. I wouldn't say today (Tuesday) was his best day. He started out pretty slow and came on strong as the practice went on, and that's what all these guys have got to learn," Fedora said. "When we move out onto that field, you've got to turn the switch on. You can turn it off now when we come off the field, but when we go on it, you've got to turn it on. And he didn't turn it on until about midway through."
In regards to Ebron, Fedora sees a gifted young player who can do all kinds of things to help the Tar Heels move the chains.
"(Ebron can do) whatever he wants. He really has those kind of skills. He's a very talented young man. We're working him at a few positions, getting to see how much he can learn because he's a guy that can make plays, so we want to make sure to get him on the field."
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