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March 3, 2008
North Carolina opens spring practice today.
UNC is the second ACC school to open spring drills.
Here's a look at Butch Davis' bunch as it prepares to begin spring ball:
NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS
Butch Davis has 10 starters returning on offense to work with.
Offense—10: G Calvin Darity, T Kyle Jolly, WR Hakeem Nicks, H-back Zack Pianalto, TE Richard Quinn, T Garrett Reynolds, G Aaron Stahl, WR Brandon Tate, TB Johnny White (moving to cornerback), QB T.J. Yates.
Defense—6: CB Charles Brown, CB Kendric Burney, LB Bruce Carter, SS Trimane Goddard, FS Deunta Williams, E E.J. Wilson.
Special teams—1: P Terrence Brown.
CB Melvin Williams (junior college transfer).
POSITIONS OF STRENGTH
Nicks, Tate and Brooks Foster return at wide receiver after combining for 128 catches for 1,854 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. The Tar Heels return the players who had 218 of the team's 220 completions last season. North Carolina also brings back four of last season's five starters on the offensive line.
HELP IS NEEDED
North Carolina signed five linebackers in its most recent recruiting class for good reason. The Tar Heels have a severe shortage of healthy and experienced players at that position. Carolina also lacks depth at cornerback, even though it has two returning starters at that spot in Brown and Burney. The lack of cornerbacks explains why White is moving from tailback to the secondary.
KEEP AN EYE ON
TB Greg Little: After spending most of his freshman season as a backup receiver, Little moved into the backfield late in the season and rushed for 243 yards in the Tar Heels' final two games. Little enters spring practice as the favorite to open the season as North Carolina's starting tailback.
QB Mike Paulus: A shoulder injury will keep Yates on the sideline this spring, which gives Paulus a chance to prove he deserves a shot at opening up the competition.
CB Melvin Williams: North Carolina's lack of depth could allow this four-star prospect from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College to make an immediate impact.
HIS TIME IS NOW
After playing three games as a freshman two years ago, CB Jordan Hemby tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and sat out the 2007 season. This spring could help determine whether Hemby regains a featured role or spends the entire season playing catch-up.
After spending his first season at North Carolina on the sidelines, Paulus – a former four-star prospect whose brother, Greg, plays basketball at Duke – should take center stage this spring. If he performs well, he just might have a chance to push Yates for playing time this fall. Paulus spent last season on the sideline after getting beaten out by Yates in the preseason. North Carolina fans now will get a chance to see if Paulus can live up to the fanfare that accompanied his arrival on campus.
Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.