Tuesday, August 17, 2010

UNC's Boyd running with first team, well aware of opportunity

Jheranie Boyd is well aware of the uncertain status of North Carolina receiver Greg Little as the football season approaches. The preseason depth chart lists Little as the starting receiver and Boyd as No. 2, but in practice again Tuesday, Boyd ran with the first team

That’s a major switch from preseason camp in 2009, when Boyd was a true freshman piling up missed assignments and fumbling his way through the playbook.

UNC receivers coach Charlie Williams charts missed assignments – “MA’s” in the team lexicon – and Boyd had his share last year each week in practice.

“Last year I had at least five to seven missed assignments a week,” Boyd said Tuesday. He also struggled to grasp a UNC playbook that he said runs around 500 pages. Other parts of college football were new and different as well. For example, Boyd didn’t realize the team flew home after road games.

“I thought we’d spend the night,” he said.

Nope – college teams head for the bus and then the airport soon after the game ends.

But that just part of the learning as Boyd and two other true freshmen, Erik Highsmith and Joshua Adams, were thrust onto the field last season. UNC team that had three receivers - Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate and Brooks Foster – selected in the 2009 NFL Draft and entered last year with a stunning need at that position.

There were some spectacular moments for the freshmen, such as when Highsmith had six catches for 113 yards and Boyd had one for 59 in the 31-17 win over East Carolina. And Boyd had two long catches, both for scores, in the loss to N.C. State.

But overall, Carolina’s offense was marred by inconsistent efforts in 2010. Injuries to the offensive line and inexperience at receiver contributed to an uneven effort by quarterback T.J. Yates. Yates threw 14 touchdown passes but also 15 interceptions. In the ACC, only Jacory Harris of Miami had more, with 17. Carolina ranked 11th in the ACC in total offense (307.8 yards per game) and 10th in passing offense (174.9).

Boyd called his own season “frustrating and fun” and was glad he made big plays. He became an effective weapon on reverses and ran the ball 20 times for 130 yards and a score. He also made 12 catches for 214 yards and four scores, with a team-high 17.8 yards per catch.

But overall, he said, the year “was confusing.”

Boyd, 6 feet 2 and 190 pounds, has renewed confidence now. He understands the offense better and says he has a missed assignment “maybe once a week.”
The receivers are much more in sync overall, he said. Highsmith is listed as the other starter, and Boyd said sophomore Adams and junior Dwight Jones are having great camps.

“They’re making plays,” he said. “We help each other out. We’re closer this year than last year.”

Boyd expects a larger role for himself, too, regardless of what happens with Little as the NCAA investigation of the school continues. Boyd will be on the kickoff return team, which he did not do last year. And while Carolina is talking about throwing short routes, Boyd is also eager to steam downfield and make catches.

“I’m more of a deep-threat guy,” he said. “I like to throw the double move, the go routes, the reverses.”

At least all the plays are clear to him now. Carolina had to depend on true freshmen at receiver last season, with uneven results. This year, Boyd and the young receivers are confident they are ready to have an impact.

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