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April 12, 2012
Sammy: Things to Watch Saturday
Larry Fedora will occur this weekend at Kenan Memorial Stadium.The first public display of North Carolina football under Coach
UNC holds its annual spring scrimmage Saturday at 3 p.m., and I'm personally anxious to see how far Fedora and his staff have brought the Tar Heels in just 13 practices.
But I have to admit my expectations aren't that high, considering the limited amount of time the new staff has had to make a major overhaul of both the offensive and defensive systems.
Under normal circumstances, UNC would have 14 workouts under its belt. But one of those - a planned scrimmage in Charlotte earlier this month - was rained out. So the Tar Heels will actually conduct their 15th practice after the spring game.
Still, there will be plenty of interesting things and people to watch during Saturday's scrimmage.
One player I'm looking forward to evaluating is tailback A.J. Blue.
UNC folks have been telling me for a a couple of weeks now that Blue is really coming into his own in the new offense. While he's not ready to take the starting job from Giovani Bernard, Blue is developing into a big-play runner.
One observer told me that in a recent scrimmage situation, Blue broke into the secondary, juked a defensive back and raced about 75 yards for a touchdown.
A player who has apparently seen his UNC career revived by Fedora this spring is receiver Todd Harrelson.
Harrelson was suspended indefinitely by the previous coaching staff late September and intended to transfer to another school for his senior season.
But Harrelson changed his mind and convinced Fedora to give him a second chance. The decision to allow him back has apparently paid off as some have told me Harrelson has been one of the most improved players on the team this spring.
After playing cornerback last year, Harrelson is back at his old wide receiver spot where he's competing for playing time. He's also in the mix to return kicks with T.J. Thorpe and Reggie Wilkins.
The Tar Heels enjoyed the presence of a high profile visitor to practice Wednesday.
Former UNC All-American and ex-NFL All-Pro cornerback Dre Bly dropped by the watch the workout and in the process offered his thoughts on a couple of the Tar Heel defensive backs.
Bly told other practice visitors he thinks junior safety Tre Boston has the potential to be "all pro'' at the next level.
He also likes what he sees in sophomore cornerback Tim Scott.
But back to offense and another player whose progress, I think, could be pivotal to UNC next fall - senior receiver Jheranie Boyd.
Boyd has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his Tar Heel career. The guy has compiled 12 touchdown receptions among his 33 career catches to this point. But Boyd has never developed the consistency to be an every down receiver.
Fedora, and especially wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer, have been applying the pressure to Boyd this spring in hopes he can turn the corner in the final year of his career. If he can make that happen, it would be a tremendous boost to the Tar Heel offense next fall.
But perhaps the player I most want to speak with after the spring game is sophomore defensive tackle Devonte Brown.
I covered Devonte during his prep career at Jack Britt High in Fayetteville and throughout his recruitment. Great kid with super potential.
It was quite perplexing to me, however, to see how the previous coaching staff dealt with him last season. They played Devonte in the season opener for a few plays and never saw the field again.
Why a staff would waste a player's entire year of eligibility for a handful of plays at the start of a season is still a mystery? But it'll certainly be a question I pose to Devonte after Saturday's scrimmage.
Hope to see a lot of faces in the stands at Kenan on Saturday. UNC's spring game has not consistently drawn the attendance that East Carolina or N.C. State does, but perhaps the excitement surrounding Fedora's arrival will help push that interest to a new level.