August has arrived and with it the opening day of training camp for the Tar Heels.
Players reported for the first time on Sunday and will get their initial taste of practice starting Monday morning with a two hour and 15 minute practice.
Here are a few things to look for as camp opens.
1. Rebuilding the defense
Rebuilding might not be the right word here. Full blow construction from scratch is actually a more apt description. According to LB Jeff Schoettmer, new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik has taken a blank slate approach to the unit. Basic concepts of the scheme and tackling have been taught over and over.
Linebackers coach John Papuchis, for example, familiarized his position group with new drills on film before practicing the drills on the field. After practice, Papuchis would then show his linebackers film of how that particular drill would relate to actual game situations.
"We just went back to basics and did a lot of tackling drills," Schoettmer said. "We were way more physical in the spring than we ever have been. We were doing tackling drills every day."
Proper tackling technique has become even more important as spread offenses attempt to stretch the field and force defenders to make plays in space. That’s why UNC’s switch from a 4-2-5 to a 4-3 may be a bit overblown.
With so much time being spent on ensuring everyone on the same page the progress could be slow in improving on one of the worst defenses in UNC history.
2. No quarterback competition.
Last season Larry Fedora kept the starting quarterback up in the air until just before kickoff in the opener. The idea was to give Mitch Trubisky a fair shake at the job that Marquise Williams held at the end of the 2013 season. Trubisky was also to see meaningful minutes with Fedora using a QB rotation in games that oftentimes ignored the flow and momentum of the contest. That experiment did not end well though Trubisky's touchdown pass against UVa after Williams had to lead the game did offer a measure of vindication.
This season there are no experiments to be run. Williams will be the starter out of the gate and the entirety of training camp spent getting a highly experienced offensive unit plenty of reps together. While the defense has plenty of work to do, the offense simply needs consistency and better play on the offensive line. The skill positions have more than enough playmakers and Williams the ability to assault the UNC offensive record book with earnest.
3. Everyone is healthy...for now.
As it stands there are no major injuries to report. Marquise Williams declared during ACC Kickoff he hadn't felt this good in years. Quinshad Davis has fully recovered from breaking his leg in the Quick Lane Bowl last December. In terms of personnel UNC should start camp with as close to 100% as a team can be. The one exception will be cornerback Malik Simmons who has been suspended following an arrest on Franklin St. last month.
With UNC still recovering from scholarship sanctions, depth will still be a concern. Injuries are unwelcome under any circumstance but with UNC having many of the right pieces in place, especially on offense, staying healthy will be crucial to this team reaching its potential.