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August 17, 2012Head coach Larry Fedora sees light at the end of the tunnel of North Carolina's training camp, which conducted its 16th practice Friday morning. The Tar Heels will have another series of practices Saturday and Sunday, and then another two-a-day session on Monday before breaking camp at 20 practices.
"(We'll break camp) the day before school starts. So we'll go all the way through Monday. On Monday camp will be over officially," said Fedora after Friday's practice.
"The guys will have the day off for the first day of class (Tuesday) and focus on those things, and then we get back in on Wednesday and do some things for our first game."
Fedora has seen considerable progress with his team over the past two weeks, but he's also seeing a group of players that are banged up and beaten down a little bit after so many workouts in such a short period of time.
"The guys have worked hard (this summer)," Fedora said. "They're getting to that point where everybody gets in camp, where you're 16, 17, 18 practice int, you're tired. You're sore. It's monotonous what you do. It's the same thing every day."
"You get really tired of hitting each other, your teammates, because you don't really want to unload on those guys. You want to take care of each other. But at the same time, guys get chippy and they get frustrated and tempers flare, but that's a good thing."
Competition has been fierce this summer at several positions, particularly in the secondary, as free safeties Sam Smiley and Darien Rankin are battling it out.
There's also competition in the offensive backfield, as guys like A.J. Blue and Romar Morris are grappling for carries as Giovani Bernard's primary backup.
"I wish we could have competition at every single position. That's a good thing, because they're battling. Each one of them (Smiley and Rankin) wants that job (at free safety), so that makes each one of them better. They're both fighting for it, and the other one is trying to out-do the other one. If you could have that kind of competition at every position, then you've got a chance," Fedora said.
"(Blue) came back from the summer 15 pounds down. We asked him to cut down some weight and he did. And he's a whole different player in fall camp. That guy has probably been in my opinion, as far as guys that were with us in the spring, has probably made the most ground as far as what he's accomplished this camp," the UNC coach added.
Fedora gave some insight as to how UNC calls in offensive plays for Blue and the other Tar Heels to run.
Basically the play is called up in the booth by offensive coordinator Blake Anderson and its relayed down to the field via tight ends coach Walt Bell, who subsequently passes the play along to the quarterback.
It's a system that served them well at Southern Miss, and they don't intend to change it.
"Blake will make a call in the box. It goes down to Walt. Walt will signal it in, and that gets it to the quarterbacks. The speed of it, it's pretty quick. We've been doing it that way for a long time," Fedora said.
Although quarterback Bryn Renner is coming along nicely in camp, Fedora said jokingly that 'probably in his fifth or sixth year in the offense we'll give him some leeway,' implying that Renner won't be making his own play calls anytime soon.
While it's getting easier and easier with each passing practice to get a better feel for UNC's two-deep rotation offensively and defensively, Fedora says the official first and second units won't be decided once and for all until game week.
"I'd say September 1 (the season opener we'll have a depth chart). Will that help ya'll?" Fedora joked. "We'll have a depth chart before then. I don't know what the exact day is, but we're going to have it and we're going to know the middle of that week as far as who is going to step out there first."
Although UNC will be breaking training camp early next week, Fedora doesn't intend to see the intensity or tempo of practice change with the start of the academic year.
"The tempo and all those things won't change at all. If anything we hope that it gets faster as we go. As guys become accustomed to it and what we expect, we hope that it gets faster," he said.
"They're never where I want them to be. I mean, that won't happen on September 1 or December whatever. Because I'm always going to expect us to be one more step, maybe a little bit farther than we maybe can be. But that's what we're going to do. We're going to push for perfection and see what we get."