Saturday, September 4, 2010

LSU game is now a fascinating test of UNC coaches

North Carolina athletics director Dick Baddour is continuing to insist he has confidence in Butch Davis, despite the fact that 13 players are now ineligible for the opening game. Davis has shown he can recruit elite players, but has yet to show he can guide UNC to victories in elite games and a high-level season. And that’s why tonight’s game with LSU is perhaps even more interesting given the off-the-field mess.

Last year was almost two seasons for UNC. Carolina’s opposing coaches were clearly superior in the UNC losses to Georgia Tech, Virginia and Florida State. But Davis and his staff deserve credit for turning around the season with a win at Virginia Tech and a closing stretch that included four wins in the final six games.

Carolina faces a fascinating challenge now on two fronts. The first, and most obvious, is, will Carolina be ready to play? The personnel losses don’t matter once 8 p.m. arrives and the hitting starts, and fans will watch to see if UNC plays with poise and precision.

The other is strategy. Offensive coordinator John Shoop and defensive coordinator Everett Withers face distinct challenges with their game plans.

Shoop has lost the bulk of his running game and his best receiver. But he has to attack against LSU, given that Carolina won’t win this game with defense. How much does he rely on Johnny White at tailback? How much does he throw downfield? How much confidence does he show in those young receivers who are now sophomores? And if the offense wobbles under T.J. Yates, does he bring in Bryn Renner?

Withers is in this third season at UNC and has benefited from tremendous talent. He is also the secondary coach, so he’s quite familiar with the backups who will start tonight. He has an inexperienced, and thin, defensive line.

Does he blitz often and leave his secondary exposed? Does he keep his linebackers back, and hope his pass rush is still sufficient?

In some ways, this game is like the NFL strike season. It was fascinating to see how the NFL’s great coaches responded to totally different personnel.

The LSU games offers a fascinating chess match - and an interesting glimpse into how well Carolina’s coaches can use their personnel.

Friday, September 3, 2010

UNC's Carter and Sturdivant cleared to play

UNC players Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant have been cleared to play in Saturday’s game vs. LSU, Kevin Best of the University of North Carolina Sports Information Office has announced. The Tar Heel linebackers are scheduled to arrive in Atlanta any time now.

The NCAA has requested more information in the case of senior safety Deunta Williams and he will not play against LSU.

Breaking down UNC's depth for the LSU game

Now that we know the impact of the NCAA and academic investigations into North Carolina, at least as far as the LSU game, let’s take a look at how this impacts the Tar Heels.

Players who are out for the game are in italics - players who were left in Chapel Hill Friday but still might play are in bold.

On defense:
Likely starter (Backup)
LDE: Quinton Coples (Dante Paige-Moss)
LDT: Marvin Austin (Jordan Nix)
RDT: Tydreke Powell (Jared McAdoo)
RDE: Robert Quinn (Michael McAdoo)

A great defensive line gets wiped out. There is still talent, but very little depth – fortunately for UNC, this game will be played indoors, and out of the humidity of Atlanta. Here’s what will likely happen – Carolina will use rotate Tydreke Powell, Jared McAdoo and Jordan Nix. They are OK there.

The defensive ends are hit hard, with Robert Quinn and backup Michael McAdoo both out.

Dante Paige-Moss showed talent as a top-rated freshman and appears to have matured since an incident at N.C. State. Quinton Coples was switching from DE to DT replace Austin but may be needed at defense end more in this game.

The issue here – no depth. Any short-term or long-term injuries will be devastating at this point.

Will LB: Quan Sturdivant (Zach Brown)
Mike LB: Kevin Reddick (Shane Mularkey)
Sam LB: Bruce Carter (Dion Guy)

Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant were cleared to play, so Carolina is still super strong here. Zach Brown can really play, so UNC enters the game with four potent linebackers.

CB: Kendric Burney (LeCount Fantroy)
CB: Charles Brown (Mywan Jackson)
FS: Deunta Williams (Matt Merletti)
SS Da’Norris Searcy (Jonathan Smith)

Butch Davis raved about backup corners Mywan Jackson and LeCount Fantroy this week. Still, having two untested corners AND two untested safeties is a recipe for trouble. LSU can throw the ball, and coordination in the secondary is so critical. You could really see Carolina giving up big plays in this game, especially since it won’t have its usual pass rush to harass the quarterback.

On offense, the Tar Heel s have enough depth to replace Greg Little at receiver. The most important person in this game may be Johnny White. He’ll likely start at tailback, and he had a great camp. With Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston out, Carolina’s offense has to keep moving, and the Tar Heels’ ground game will rely on White.

Remember, freshman running back Giovani Bernard was hurt in camp, so the Heels enter the game without three of their top four backs.

Status of three other players in question for UNC

In addition to the 12 players definitely out against LSU, three other players did not take the trip with teammates to Atlanta for Saturday's opener as the school tries to determine their eligibility for the game.

The three players are all big names and stalwarts on the defense - linebacker Bruce Carter, linebacker Quan Sturdivant and safety Deunta Williams.

If they are not cleared to play, that would mean that eight defensive starters are out, including the entire defensive secondary.

Finally - 12 Carolina players out for LSU game

The University of North Carolina has declared six student-athletes on the football team ineligible for Saturday’s season-opening game for violating school and/or NCAA rules, the school announced Friday. The University is also withholding at least six other student-athletes from Saturday’s game while the investigation continues.

The six ineligible student-athletes include: defensive tackle Marvin Austin, cornerback Charles Brown, cornerback Kendric Burney, wide receiver Greg Little, defensive end Michael McAdoo and defensive end Robert Quinn.

Six other student-athletes who will be withheld from Saturday’s game include: tailback Shaun Draughn, defensive end Linwan Euwell, safety Brian Gupton, tailback Ryan Houston, safety Da’Norris Searcy and safety Jonathan Smith.

The number of games that those 12 student-athletes may miss has not been determined at this time. The investigation continues to include both agent-related and academic issues.

The university also continued to work Friday with the NCAA to determine the eligibility status of three other players. Those three will not accompany the team to Atlanta on Friday morning. Further information will be announced when a decision on their status for the game is reached.

“We’re obviously very disappointed to learn that the actions of a number of our student-athletes have resulted in their being unable to compete in Saturday’s game,” said Director of Athletics Dick Baddour. “It is important to note again that people should not make assumptions as to the nature of each student-athlete’s involvement with these issues.

“We are still working with the NCAA staff to resolve these eligibility issues. The NCAA is focusing on each of their situations on a case-by-case basis. Together we are working to determine their status in as thorough and fair a process as is possible.

“I know our fans share my disappointment, but I hope they will show their strong support for the student-athletes on the football team who will represent our University on Saturday. I am proud of the way they have worked so hard to prepare for this season despite numerous distractions. They have my full support.”

“Moving forward, Dick Baddour, Butch Davis and I are determined to use this as an opportunity to look hard at our programs, resources and people to ensure that everyone associated with the football program upholds the values that are central to Carolina’s culture, most especially our academic values,” said Chancellor Holden Thorp.

“As I’ve have said, there is no single game more important than the character and integrity of this university,” said head football coach Butch Davis. “We are disappointed the players’ choices have denied them the opportunity to compete alongside their teammates and represent the University of North Carolina. Our coaches and players have a tremendous challenge this weekend, and despite these circumstances, our team will be excited to face LSU.”

Wake wins but game will be remembered for Presbyterian trick play

It was one of those plays you'll see on various shows for years to come. Presbyterian was outmanned in a 53-13 rout by Wake Forest in the season opener last night. But at least they'll be remembered more for a well-executed trick play that resulted in a 68-yard touchdown.

QB Brandon Miley bounce passed one to receiver Derrick Overhold out to his side. Overhold and Presbyterian acted as if it were a dead ball - an incomplete pass, and the Wake defense accordingly stopped. But the "pass" was a lateral and Overhold jolted back into action as Michael Ruff had kept running behind the defenes. Overhold threw a strike to an open Ruff who went the rest of the way for a score.

“The trick play was as well executed as anything I’ve ever seen,” Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said smiling. “He (Overholt) hit the ball and seemed so disgusted that it was incomplete. I thought that was beautiful.”

Potentially good news for UNC - Alabama player out only two games

Marcell Dareus, the Alabama player involved in the NCAA investigation revolving around players' relationships with sports agents, has been ruled ineligible for only two games and will have to repay $1,800 in expenses for partying with agents.

UNC's Marvin Austin and Greg Little are being investigated for similar offences. Could this be good news for Carolina? Perhaps but if the penalties are similar, why not announce them at the same time? Still, it does give UNC some hope that a ruling is near, and that the penalties might not be as severe as most suspect. It might not matter for Austin who was suspended indefinitely for breaking unrelated team rules.

Game storylines all revolve around UNC scandals - who's motivated more?

Marvin Austin has been suspended indefinitely and now AP reports that leading receiver Greg Little will be left in Chapel Hill when North Carolina travels to Atlanta to take on LSU Saturday - this as a result of an NCAA investigation into inappropriate perks from sports agents.

With all the talk about that investigation and a UNC internal investigation into players turning in papers written for them by a tutor, a lot has flown under the radar. For instance, all the talk may actually benefit UNC quarterback T.J. Yates who would have been the biggest story heading into the season. Sure there will be pressure for him to answer critics, many of which booed him at a Carolina basketball game earlier this year, but imagine the spotlight that would have shined on him without the scandal.

Also, LSU must be feeling overlooked with most of the national attention on the Carolina troubles. This could motivate them to show that there should have been more talk about them.

Many are saying that Carolina doesn't have a chance if seven defensive starters believed to be involved in the academic scandal don't play. That has to irritate the backup players who probably believe they are ready to start and play well. As Yates said, no one comes to play backup at Carolina - everyone wants to start.

This is probably the most intriguing game of the opening week. Who will play for Carolina? How good are those substituting for the projected starters? Do the intangibles go to LSU, which feels overlooked, or Carolina, which is tired of hearing about the scandals and wants to prove that they can beat LSU regardless of who's on the field.

Like Las Vegas, I haven't a clue as to how this game is going to go and how Carolina will react to the adversity. If the Heels overcome it all and manage to win, this could still be a special season. If they lose, especially if they lose badly, it could be a long season.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

ACC releases men's basketball schedules

ACC football hasn't started, but it's already time to start talking basketball now that the ACC schedules are out. The league just posted the schedules. Here's the link at theacc.com.

But if you want to mark your calendar, North Carolina opens at home Nov. 12 against Lipscomb and N.C. State opens the same day at home against Tennessee Tech. Duke, the 2010 national champions, opens at home Nov. 14 against Princeton.

Carolina has two fascinating non-conference games. Kentucky is at UNC Dec. 4 and the Heels play Texas in Greensboro Dec. 18. You can see Carolina's entire schedule on tarheelblue.com

Strong crop of freshmen encourages O'Brien

N.C. State lists 18 signees in its media guide, which is not a big recruiting class. But already, Tom O’Brien is predicting a major impact from his fourth group of recruits.

The impact was evident on the depth chart released this week. Five true freshmen are listed as second-teamers, a high number for a college football program. What has impressed O’Brien is the overall quality of the class.

“If you hit 50 percent you are doing pretty good,” he said on his radio show Monday. “We may have hit 100 percent in this class.”

That's an important development for O'Brien, whose Wolfpack clubs have lacked great depth and thus haven't overcome a series of injuries. Also, if O'Brien has a poor year, he needs solid evidence that better days are ahead, and a strong recruiting class honed within his system gives him an argument that he and his staff can turn the Pack around.

Mustafa Greene of Irmo, S.C., is listed as the No. 2 tailback, and O’Brien said Greene has showed as much breakaway potential as any back in camp. Robert Crisp, who played his senior year at Athens Drive, is the No. 2 left tackle. Crisp, 6 feet 7 and 312 pounds, is the one about whom O’Brien said,” We think he’s got a chance to be an All-Pro left tackle some day and he looks like he has those skills.”

The secondary includes three true freshmen as backups – corner David Amerson of Greensboro Dudley,  safety D.J. Green of Macon, Ga., and safety Dontae Johnson of Pennington, N.J. O’Brien’s confidence in his secondary was a key reason he moved Dean Haynes from defensive back to tailback, since camp showed him he had starters – and backups – who could do the job.

By comparison, State signed five players in 2009 who are now on the two-deep. Of the 2008 recruits, 10 are on the two-deep, eight of whom were signed and two who walked on. But you’d expect those numbers to be high, since 2008 recruits are now redshirt sophomores or true juniors, and players tend to begin to contribute by their third season.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ten high school football games to consider attending Thursday or Friday, with predictions

Here are 10 football games that are within driving distance in the Triangle area Thursday and Friday nights. In bold is the predicted winner. Most games are at 7:30 p.m. Check with local officials as some games start at 7.
My record last week was 7-3 for a season total of 14-6.

Apex at Leesville Road (Thursday)

Athens Drive at Broughton (Thursday)

Wilson Hunt at Holly Springs (Thursday)

Cary at Sanderson

Cedar Ridge at East Chapel Hill

Louisburg at Cardinal Gibbons

Riverside at Chapel Hill

Wake Forest-Rolesville at Southern Durham

Garner at Middle Creek

Jordan at Green Hope

Check the scores in our Sports Roundup on the left navigation bar.

UNC suspends Marvin Austin; he won't play vs. LSU

North Carolina announced yet another thunderbolt Wednesday afternoon as coach Butch Davis suspended senior defensive tackle Marvin Austin indefinitely.

“This decision is not a result of the ongoing NCAA review,” Davis said in a statement.  “Marvin has violated team rules and has neglected his responsibilities to the team.”

Austin will not play Saturday when the Heels play LSU in Atlanta.

Carolina has been preparing with Austin on the second team anyway. Quinton Coples had shifted from left defensive end to left tackle, Austin's position, and Michael McAdoo had moved to right end.

But Carolina's defense is in a flux with NCAA and academic probes continuing. Multiple starters could miss Saturday's game - Davis has refused to say how many are uncertain - and the defense remains unproven behind the experienced starters.

O'Brien describes starting RB Haynes as 'a slasher'

N.C. State’s stunning decision to move redshirt freshman Dean Haynes from the secondary to tailback was a big topic as Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien addressed the media Wednesday. O’Brien again said the staff wasn’t happy with its running game as camp progressed, which is why they looked back to how well Haynes had done on the scout team last fall.

Asked to describe Haynes’ running style, O’Brien said,“He’s a slasher. It’s pretty decisive when he makes his cut. He puts his foot in the ground and he heads toward the goal line.

“That’s what we like. He’s been very good holding onto the football. he’s a tough individual. He can bounce off tackles and break tackles. And if he gets a chance we’re going to find out if he can run away from anybody.”

O’Brien said true freshman Mustafa Greene, a top recruit from Irmo, S.C., will also play Saturday against Western Carolina. He said Curtis Underwood was the No. 3 back.

Duke hopes depth will aid 0-for-November drought

Duke is 0-13 in the month of November in David Cutcliffe’s three seasons, which gives you a good indication of the lack of depth in the Blue Devils’ program. Duke has some talent on its front line but lacks the back-ups that strong programs have, which is why the Devils get worn down as the season progresses.

This year, Cutcliffe believes Duke is better equipped for the rigors of the year.

“We’re much better,” Cutcliffe said Wednesday. “There’s no question, the last two Novembers we’ve come a part a little bit at the seams. There were a lot of reasons. Our people performed at a high level but there was a lot of pressure on a few players. It takes its toll. It’s like a baseball pitcher who throws a lot of pitches.”

Duke returns nine starters on offense, six on defense, and 40 lettermen overall. The Blue Devils aren’t saying they are Alabama or anything, but Cutcliffe did say he plans to play a total of about 40 players on offense and defense in Saturday’s home opener against Elon.

Last year, he said, Duke played only 14 on offense and 16 or 17 on defense in the opener against Richmond. Last year’s preseason was a bizarre one, with the team struggling with swine flu, but still, he said Duke would have played only around 30 or so players in the opener even if fully healthy.

“We’re getting competition at certain positions and we haven’t had that,” Cutcliffe said. “And that’s going to do nothing but continue to improve.”

Davis still plays it close to the vest during weekly teleconference

UNC Coach Butch Davis made it clear before answering questions that he wasn't going to answer questions - at least unless it related directly to the LSU game itself.

"I just don't have the ability to be able to answer questions other than things that directly relate to the LSU game," he said.

A couple of journalists attempted to get some answers about player availability for the LSU games in light of the NCAA and school investigations. But precious little was revealed and no specific names were mentioned.

"We're in a holding mode," Davis said. "Right now we're just preparing for the game... We're trying to prepare for all scenarios."

Davis did mention individual LSU players including second-team All-America cornerback Patrick Peterson and new starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson.

He said he can tell from the practices this week that it's game week. "Guys are tired of practicing against themselves," Davis said. "It's time to go and play and be able to put some of these distractions behind us and focus legitimately on an opponent."

Davis said that the game plan against LSU will be the same regardless of which UNC players are on the field.

I'm not sure what else Coach Davis can do but you'd think that some 72 hours before the first game, he could throw some crumb regarding who definitely will be available to play.

Quinn, Burney give some limited answers in Herald-Sun report

Defensive end Robert Quinn worked with the tutor at the heart of the UNC probe but denied she wrote a paper for him, according to a report in the Durham Herald-Sun.

The Herald-Sun also reported Wednesday that cornerback Kendrick Burney said any questions about whether he is involved in the academic probe would have to be answered by Coach Butch Davis or athletics director Dick Baddour.

Both confirmed to the paper that they had been working some with the scout team but said Davis has been rotating players around to get ready for the LSU game on Saturday.

Neither said definitively if they would or would not play.

No UNC players talking to the media until after LSU

UNC continued to trim access to its football team on Wednesday, announcing in the morning that no players would talk to the media the rest of the week until Saturday's game in Atlanta against LSU.

Carolina players are generally available on Wednesdays, by request. Coach Butch Davis is scheduled to be on the ACC coaches teleconference Wednesday and is scheduled to meet with the media on Thursday afternoon in Chapel Hill.

Durham Bulls take big haul of post-season awards

DURHAM BULLS NEWS RELEASE - The International League announced Tuesday its postseason All-Star Team and Award Winners as selected by the circuit's managers, coaches, media, and club representatives. Durham slugger Dan Johnson has been named the IL's Most Valuable Player on the strength of his League-leading 30 home runs and 95 RBI.

Johnson is the fourth Durham Bull since the club joined the League in 1998 to be named Most Valuable Player, following Steve Cox (1999), Toby Hall (2001), and Kevin Witt (2006).

Heralded pitching prospect Jeremy Hellickson, also of Durham, has been named the IL's Most Valuable Pitcher. Hellickson's 2.45 ERA leads the circuit. Hellickson is the first ever member of the Durham Bulls to be named IL Most Valuable Pitcher.

Manager of the Year is Charlie Montoyo of Durham. Montoyo's Bulls have the League's best record (84-52) and have already clinched their fourth straight IL South Division championship. He is now the first skipper since Durham joined the International League in 1998 to receive Manager of the Year honors.

Durham is the first franchise to win at least three of the League's four Special Awards since Norfolk swept the honors in 1995.

Also, Durham's Elliot Johnson has been selected as the International League's top utility player for 2010. The 26-year-old Johnson was primarily a shortstop this season, but he has also seen significant time at second base and in the outfield for the Bulls. His .314 average is 4th in the IL, while he is also 5th in the League with 30 stolen bases.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Duke needs an opening win (and a ground game)

Duke finished 5-7 last year, and if you look back, the loss that really crippled the season was the opener. The Blue Devils lost at home, 24-16, to a Richmond team en route to a big year in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Duke needed some early wins to help survive a tough ending stretch, and in fact the Devils lost five straight to conclude the season.

This year, the Devils open at home Saturday night with  a 7 p.m. game with Elon. While that might sound like a gift, Elon was 9-3 last season and is ranked No. 7 in the FCS.

Duke, by the way, released a depth chart Tuesday at its news conference. There's real talent on offense, with nine starters back and sophomore Sean Renfree expected to fill in capably at quarterback now that Thad Lewis is gone. He's got experienced receivers in senior tight end Brett Huffman and receivers Donovan Varner, Conner Vernon and Austin Kelly.

The running game has to improve. Part of the reason Lewis threw so much last season was he had to. Desmond Scott led the team in rushing with a paltry 29.1 yards per game. Duke's 63.5 yards rushing per game was, well, pretty lame. Even worse - the team averaged 2.2 yards per rush.

T-shirts already making fun of UNC

Get ready, Carolina fans ... the mocking has begun. Zazzle.com has a T-shirt out with a front that reads, "Butch Davis' Nanny did my homework."

On the back? "The University of No Compliance." Yikes.

Playground tournaments: Don’t push me ‘cause I’m close to the edge

Ok, I admit, I don’t get it. There was a fifth annual Elite 24 outdoor basketball tournament held in Venice Beach, Ca. over the weekend and I watched like a Martian spying on an alien activity.

There was somebody named Bobbito Garcia, who I understand is famous and who was billed by ESPNU as “Legendary Playground Announcer.” I don’t know about you but when I was playin’ make-it, take it b-ball in South Rocky Mount, we didn’t need a playground announcer constantly yackin’ like some hip-hop DJ. (Although, come to think of it, we might have had some Average White Band, Parliament and Ohio Players playing in the background.)

Garcia, also known as DJ Cucumberslice, got into the announcer booth with ESPNU’s Eamon McAnaney (yes, I looked up the spelling) and former Dukie Jay Williams, also known as Jayson Williams, and he said something I found disturbing.

“Look at the guys on the court, they are going to be millionaires very soon.” Is that really a message we want to be sending out – before they’ve even gone to college, before they’ve even graduated from high school? Williams pointed out that a lot of 16, 17 and 18-year-old basketball players now have 5,000 or so followers on Facebook and Twitter. Is that kind of celebrity at this point a good thing?

After being treated to rapper - or maybe rap group - Laws singing the supposed big hit “So nice” – during which I could make out only the words, “Yeah, Yeah” - we got to watch some mostly defenseless basketball from some guys we’ll see in the ACC.

Austin Rivers, who’s being recruited by Duke and Carolina, was a co-MVP of the game with 15 points for the losing white team. Unfortunately, he sprained his right wrist and even took, and missed, a free throw with his left hand. He’s probably going to miss the next all-star game, which is probably a good thing. Rivers is scheduled to take an official visits to Duke the weekend of Oct. 1 and to UNC the weekend of Oct. 16.

Monday, August 30, 2010

O'Brien explains State's surprise move at running back

N.C. State held its third scrimmage Aug. 17, and we now know the Wolfpack coaches were not happy with what they saw. That led directly to Monday’s shocking announcement that redshirt freshman Dean Haynes will start at running back, and true freshman Mustafa Greene will be behind him.

State did not release any individual statistics, but did say the offense rushed 36 times for 122 yards in that third scrimmage. After that, Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien said on his radio show Monday, the State coaches made a change.

Haynes, a 5-foot-11 and 178-pound safety from Georgia, had impressed coaches on the scout team last year. He played running back and quarterback in high school, running for 878 yards and scoring 18 touchdowns, but was playing safety for the Pack.

O’Brien said Monday night that he considered moving Haynes to tailback in the spring but was concerned about his secondary. Once he was confident the secondary was solid, and the coaching staff continued to have questions about Curtis Underwood and James Washington at tailback, Haynes was moved.

“After the third scrimmage, I don’t think any of us were satisfied with the production we were getting out of our tailback spot,” O’Brien said Monday.

O’Brien said Haynes is a smart player who is quickly learning the pass protections so important for a running back.

“He took the challenge and certainly earned his position,” O’Brien said. “He will be there Saturday night, along with Mustafa Greene.” Greene, 6 feet and 190 pounds, is from Irmo, S.C. He was a four-star recruit after averaging 9.0 yards per carry and scoring 18 touchdowns as a senior.

UNC raving about its depth - and may need it


North Carolina coach Butch Davis raved about his depth on Monday, but the question that remains is how much he will need it as Saturday’s game with LSU approaches.

The Tar Heels refused to release a depth chart, which teams customarily do at their early week news conferences. However, ACC spokesman Mike Finn said there are no league or NCAA rules requiring a depth chart.

Carolina plays LSU Saturday night in Atlanta, and many UNC players might not be eligible pending NCAA investigations into agents and academics.

Monday’s news conference had a strange feel. UNC spokesman Kevin Best opened by saying Davis wouldn’t address issues involving the NCAA investigation but only about the LSU game. Davis started off by saying the academic integrity of the school and program superseded any game, but otherwise avoided any specific questions on the subject. And Carolina brought two offensive players – quarterback T.J. Yates and tight end Zack Pianalto – and no defensive players to the news conference.

Yates and Pianalto, of course, are senior players who are well-versed in how to deal with the media. Both insisted they know no more than the media about the NCAA probe.

The Tar Heels do not practice Monday and resume workouts Tuesday.

The scripted approach only underscored the serious nature of what is happening in Chapel Hill. The Carolina team that takes the field Saturday may lack much of the talent that earned it a No. 18 ranking in the AP and USA Today polls.

Davis said the team has a “tentative” depth chart for Tuesday’s practice, but added, “I’d say it’s been fluid.”

New UNC system president a big sports fan

While former UNC system president William Friday has been critical of the increase in the importance of winning in sports and the lessened emphasis on academics, the UNC system will have a new president, succeeding Erskine Bowles, who is a big sports fan.

It remains to be seen what tact Tom Ross will take as president of 17-school university system but I know he loves Tar Heel basketball and his dream job is to be Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

They'd be lucky to get Ross, as the UNC system is. I interviewed him when he was director of the state administrative office of the courts and again when he headed up the sentencing commission. He was impressive.

His sentencing commission recommendations have become a model for other states. The commission reformed the sentencing system. As a result, among other things, parole was abolished and criminals now serve more of their originally imposed sentences.

A judge for 17 years, Ross most recently was president of Davidson College, where he went to undergraduate school. He is also a big Davidson sports fan. But he went to UNC law school and seemingly enjoyed Carolina basketball as much as anything. In fact, it is reported that during the time he led the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem, he kept a condo in Chapel Hill in order to have a regular place to stay during his visits to watch the Tar Heels play.

He is a democrat but he doesn't seem overly partisan, putting politics above all. He's fair, accomplished, personable, connected and a big supporter of sports. But, I wouldn't be surprised if he, like Friday, concludes that the balance between academics and sports is a bit out of whack.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Updates coming Monday from UNC

North Carolina holds its first news conference of the season Monday, and this one will be a bit different than your normal season-is-here type of affair.

The news conference will start around 11:30 a.m., and you can expect UNC to release its first depth chart of the season. That will give fans an indication of what's happening with the program.

Capital Sports will be in Chapel Hill and will file live from Kenan Stadium.

WRAL reported last week, citing an unnamed source, that six UNC defensive starters were on the scout team in Thursday's practice. WRAL reported that defensive tackle Marvin Austin continued to run with the second team.

Carolina lacks experience on defense, which is understandable given that so many of its players are seasoned veterans who were healthy in 2009.

Here's a breakdown of the defense by unit from the preseason depth chart - the players whose availability has been questioned are in bold:

Defensive line

LDE: Jr. Quinton Coples; Soph. Donte Paige-Moss
LDT: Sr. Marvin Austin; Jr. Jordan Nix
RDT: Jr. Tydreke Powell; Fr. Jared McAdoo
RDE: Jr. Robert Quinn; Jr. Michael McAdoo

The Tar Heels have been using  Quinton Coples at defensive tackle in case Austin wasn't available. A defensive front of Paige-Moss, Coples, Powell and Michael McAdoo is still strong, but not one packed with stars like the Heels have now. And there's no Robert Quinn, who demands double-teams.


Will LB: Sr. Quan Sturdivant; Jr. Zach Brown
MLB: Soph. Kevin Reddick; Soph. Shane Mularkey
Sam LB: Sr. Bruce Carter; Soph. Dion Guy

Zach Brown started six games, and he's one of UNC's fastest players. But Dion Guy has five tackles as a freshman - the drop from Carter to Guy would be enormous.
CB: Sr. Charles Brown; Soph. Mywan Jackson
SS: Sr. Da'Norris Searcy; Sr. Jonathan Smith
FS: Sr. Deunta Williams; Jr. Matt Merletti
CB: Sr. Kendric Burney; Jr. LeCount Fantroy

Burney and Brown have combined for 15 career interceptions - together, they are one of the best pair of corners around. Burney is the more experienced and more touted, but he has been raving about Brown's progress in the spring.