Football prepping for season opener
Issue date: 8/28/07 Section: Sports
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Media Credit: DTH/Ricky Leung
Head coach Butch Davis will coach his first game with North Carolina against James Madison at 6 p.m. Saturday in Kenan Stadium.
North Carolina fans have become accustomed to seeing speedster Brandon Tate break returns for touchdowns with impressive regularity, but in the opener against Division I-AA James Madison on Saturday, the Tar Heels will be on the lookout for the Dukes' own special teams weapon - senior wide receiver L.C. Baker.
Baker averaged 13.6 yards per punt return last season and was also the leading receiver with 631 yards and eight touchdowns.
"This kid's electrifying," UNC head coach Butch Davis said at a press conference Monday.
"For people who like special teams, with the guy we've got (Tate) and the guy they've got, there's some real possibilities for some huge, big plays in the kicking game."
While the threat of Baker alone might be worrisome, the anxiety will be made worse because the Tar Heels have done limited full-speed work with kick coverage thus far to avoid injuries in practice.
"We've done it in practice probably a dozen or so times throughout the course of training camp," Davis said.
"But none of it full speed; not yet have we fully tackled the ball carrier into the ground. â€¦ It's always one of the dicey things when you go into the first couple games of the season."
Out of nowhere
Davis mentioned that one of the things he gets to witness each season is which players emerge as stars, something that is seemingly unpredictable.
"There's going to be some kids that are going to come totally out of left field," he said. "Because it's that way every single season."
To prove his point, Davis noted a certain All-Pro Baltimore Raven safety that played at the University of Miami.
"No one ever knew before Ed Reed ever hit the field," he said. "He was kind of unassuming in practice. He did some really pretty good things.
"But when they turned on those lights, he became Superman. And there are guys like that, that have a totally different persona on game day.
Secondary to get crash course in home opener
For the sake of their own fans, the Tar Heels might want to put together a little movie called "Meet the Secondary."
The UNC pass defense certainly is lacking in game experience, and opposing coaches figure to test the youngsters until they prove that they are able to hold their own.
Redshirt freshman Kendric Burney and former walk-on Kendric Williams will start at cornerback while redshirt freshman Deunta Williams will take the free safety position after switching from wide receiver in the spring.
Junior strong safety Trimane Goddard - who missed all of last season because of a fractured foot - will hold the group together, and he offered some praise for Burney on Monday while noting the freshman's light side off the field.
"As a cornerback, he has great instincts," Goddard said. "That's what you need in a corner. He makes great plays on the ball; he's always attacking.
"As a kid, he's funny; he's one of the guys you hang out with. He's always joking and hopping around."
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