Saturday, August 2, 2008

Long throws, weight loss and Dopplegangers: DAY 1 at UNC

North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates said he knew his shoulder was recovering well from offseason surgery this summer when he overthrew wide receiver Hakeem Nicks — 65 yards down the field. Yates didn't attempt to throw one that far during the hour that reporters were allowed to watch UNC's first practice on Friday. But he did compete at least one 45-yarder, to freshman wideout Todd Harrelson.
No wonder coach Butch Davis said Yates is the definitive No. 1 QB.

Other notes from practice:

* It would have been hard to recognize sophomore tailback Ryan Houston if it weren't for his jersey number and dreadlocks. Running backs coach Kenny Browning said Houston, currently penciled in as the No. 2 tailback on the depth chart, has lost between 25-30 pounds since the beginning of last season.
"I've just got a feeling he's going to be a significantly better player, not just because of the weight, but because the work ethic is one of the things I wanted him to get better at,'' Browning said. "I'm really excited about seeing him at 240 as opposed to 268 ... He'll be able to play lower because of it. And if he plays with great pad level, he is a hard man to tackle. He is a powerful human being."

* You couldn't help but do a double-take when walk-on kicker Casey Barth took the field. His hair is a bit redder, and he's wearing jersey number 11 instead of 10, but he is the spittin' image of older brother Connor, who set the school record last season for career field goals made — and is now trying to make an NFL roster. Casey is competing with redshirt freshman Jay Wooten for the kicking job.

* Offensive guard Kevin Bryant, who broke his wrist in the spring, and linebacker Linwan Euwell, who suffered a left knee injury last season, are further ahead in their recoveries than expected, Davis said.
"We're going to keep them on the watch list,'' he added. "They're going to practice, they're going to go out and we may limit some of the reps and some of the drills that they're going to do, because we're going to ... build their confidence up to where they're full go, and we'll turn them loose."