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April 1, 2011
Price fighting for starting spot
Take it back a second to Labor Day weekend---the LSU game.
That weekend in Atlanta was about as miserable an experience as North Carolina fans could have possibly imagined, save a remarkable turn of events in the third and fourth quarters.
But as it turned out, the makings of a new era in UNC football reared its head on the turf of the Georgia Dome field that night.
The depletion of virtually the entirety of North Carolina's secondary leading into the game against the Bayou Bengals forced a bunch of young and/or experienced Tar Heel defensive backs to suddenly become key contributors.
And for Jabari Price, whose last time on the football field before LSU was a state playoff game in Florida, it meant growing up in a big hurry.
"It opened my eyes the LSU game. The Georgia Dome in front of so many thousands of people. Not only did I have the jitters. But I got rid of them that game. I almost helped my team come back and win a game," he said.
"It not only took the redshirt away from me, but it also kind of made my eyes open and say 'Wow,' I'm really playing college football'
"I thought I was going to be a redshirt but it really opened my eyes and let me know that I play an important role on my team, so I've got to contribute," Price added.
"Before the NCAA investigation I probably would have been another redshirt guy but as far as when that took place, I had to jump on the installations even harder."
Knowing that he was going to have to step in and play was a clear benefit to Price from the standpoint of making him accountable in terms of video preparation and bringing it each day on the practice field.
The Pompano Beach (Fla.) native wound up playing in all 13 games for the Tar Heels---including making multiple starts later in the season---finishing with 20 tackles and an interception that he returned for 29 yards. He also deflected six passes.
"I wound up having a starting role later in the season, so I went from not knowing the plays to basically knowing the plays like the back of my hand almost," Price said.
As the majority of Carolina's secondary members gradually returned over the course of the 2010 season, Price picked up some pointers that he can take into his workouts this spring.
"That definitely helped a lot (having players return during the season), because the seniors came back and they corrected our mistakes---they corrected things I could have done better---so from a technical standpoint and from a physical standpoint I think it helped me a lot (playing right away)."
Now as he works through his first spring practice, Price is competing against multiple players for one of the open starting cornerback jobs left by the departing Kendric Burney.
"This is my first spring, so I'm really looking forward to the new installations and working like I never did before," he said. "As you know we took a bit hit in the secondary---we're losing a lot of guys to the NFL---it's just an opportunity for someone else to step up and make plays."
"These 15 practices are basically competition as far as you've got this amount of time to get this amount of installations and compete against the offense. They (the coaches) want to see what you can do (as far as) mental toughness and so forth," Price added.
"You've got to bring what you have to the table and compete in front of the coaches against the offense and against everyone else."
With senior Charles Brown returning after a year-long suspension, it might be suggested that the opposite cornerback spot might be a potential weak spot for the Tar Heels.
Price, of course, is out to make sure that's not the case.
"Obviously they're going to pick on the 'other' side, so I have to step up and play an important role on the defense if my number is called," he said.
One of Price's goals over the next few months leading up to his sophomore season on the gridiron is gaining a little bit of weight to help him match up even better against opposing receivers.
"Physically right now I'm at 195 (pounds)," said Price. "If I could touch 200 that would be a good thing out there being 200 strong. So right now I wish I could gain five more pounds and take advantage of that opposing receiver."
It's a little more than a week before the climax of Carolina's spring season, and Price for one can't wait to get out there, strap it on and lay it on the line one last time until August.
"Personally I put a lot of importance on the Spring Game. People from all over are coming over to watch the Spring Game," he said. "It's the fifteenth practice, and I'm leaving it all out on the field as if it was a game April 9."