Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Having starting safeties back helps special teams, UNC's Davis says

Special teams might see the biggest boost from the return of safeties Da'Norris Searcy, who was cleared to play last week, and senior Deunta Williams, who is coming off a four-game NCAA-imposed suspension this Saturday.

UNC coach Butch Davis says that the return of Searcy and Williams, an All-ACC player, frees up guys to contribute on special teams. "That's an area we have been absolutely paper thin throughout the first four games of the season," Davis said during the weekly ACC teleconference. "We were having to burn redshirt years and play young, inexperienced players."

DB Matt Merletti, who played a very high 70-75 snaps in one game at safety, will be able to return to special teams and play in the secondary in certain packages. Davis says he doesn't want any member of the secondary to play as many snaps as Merletti has had to play.

Searcy got a lot of work in his first game back and he made a key interception for a touchdown late in the first half against East Carolina to tie the score. "It was emotional for him," Davis says. "He was ecstatic just that he was going to be able to return to play and then to go out and help win the game - to make a play that not only changed the momentum but changed the score."

Searcy was also able to provide a lift to special teams as he did a good job returning punts and kickoffs against East Carolina. Williams' return could provide a similar lift to the defense and special teams this weekend at Kenan Stadium against Clemson.

"Clemson is probably the most talented and complete football team we've played against this football season," Davis says. "They are extraordinarily fast on defense. They rotate guys in and there is no drop off."

He also pointed to Clemson's offense led by QB Kyle Parker whom he says gives them a lot of leadership and playmaking ability. He will be testing the Carolina secondary.

While the starting safeties are back, the starting cornerbacks are still out. "Our corners are a work in progress," Davis said. "We have kids out there that didnt even think they were going to play this year." He says they have huge new roles and their challenge is to get better each week.

One of the starting cornerbacks, Kendrick Burney, will be back from an NCAA suspension in two weeks.

Injury report: Senior Greg Elleby, who moved from offensive guard to defensive tackle after all the suspensions, tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee against East Carolina and has been lost for the season.

Meanwhile, senior linebacker Quan Sturdivant, who is a leader on defense, is expected back this week after sitting out last weekend with a thigh injury.

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