Tuesday, August 11, 2009

UNC's defense ahead of offense

CHAPEL HILL — With nine starters back on defense, UNC coach Butch Davis expected the defense to be ahead of the offense, which is trying to break in two new linemen and a new set of receivers.

The defense hasn't let Davis down after the first five days of practice.

"Our defense, thus far, as you would suspect, has has the better end of the deal," Davis said Tuesday.

Davis singled out the defensive line, defensive backs Kendric Burney and Jordan Hemby and linebackers Bruce Carter, Quan Sturdivant and Kevin Reddick for their quick starts in camp.

Davis has been especially pleased with the defensive front, which returns the top eight players on the depth chart.

"Our defensive line has set the tempo for all of our practices," Davis said.

A bright spot on offense has been junior receiver Greg Little, Davis said. Little is the only receiver in the program with a career reception but he split his time between running back and receiver last season. He finished the 2008 season with 11 catches for 146 yards while running for 364 yards on 78 carries.

"I like what I see out of Greg Little," Davis said. "He's really pushing himself."

Davis added young offensive linemen Jonathan Cooper, the slated starter at left guard, and freshmen Travis Bond and Brennan Williams to the list of players who have stood out.

TATE IN CAMP ... SORT OF: Freshman quarterback Donavan Tate is in camp but he's not participating in practice.

Tate, an outfielder from Cartersville, Ga., was the third overall pick in the Major League Baseball Draft in June. He, and agent Scott Boras, have until Aug. 17 to negotiate a deal with the San Diego Padres.

In the interim, Tate's trying to get acclimated with the UNC football program, in case he decides to choose college over professional baseball.

"At some point, they'll make an offer, and if the offer is significant enough, he'll make that decision," Davis said. "We'd certainly love for him to be here."

Until the Aug. 17 deadline passes, it's unlikely Tate would risk injury and participate in any live drills. Davis said Tate is attending meetings and working on his conditioning.

"We're just playing it day-by-day," Davis said.

ETC: Sophomore linebacker Zack Brown joined the team after missing the first two days of camp to attend a family wedding. Sophomore guard Kevin Bryant, listed as the backup on the depth chart, still has not reported to camp. ...New lights were installed on the North side of the stadium. Two games were delayed last season due to lighting problems. ...The deal to play LSU in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic in 2010 is "getting closer and closer," UNC athletic director Dick Baddour said, but still has not been finalized. -- J.P. Giglio