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August 29, 2012Coach Larry Fedora fast-forwarded the normal game-week schedule because of the lengthy preseason UNC has undergone.
"Today was like a typical Thursday for us," Fedora said of Wednesday's practice. "We're going to get good drives on both sides of the ball and then we're going to concentrate for a good hour on special teams. That is what we did today.
"Tomorrow we're just 30 minutes on the field to kind of polish things up and it's done," Fedora said. "That is the way we look at it. We want to be sharp. We want to be crisp. They want to show their coaches they understand every aspect of the game plan, and fly around and have a little bit of fun."
Fedora seemed genuinely pleased with how the team responded. He said that it is vitally important the Tar Heels be prepared on special teams.
"I don't know where we are, but I know where we have to be," Fedora said. "Guys are starting to understand what we have to have.
"If you look at all the early games across the country, turnovers and mistakes in the special teams usually determine who wins the game and who loses the game. So those two areas we spent a lot of time concentrating on.
"Those two will be throughout the season, but especially early on."
Junior safety Tre Boston said the defensive players have learned what they are supposed to do. They have spent recent practices working to be as crisp as possible in executing the plays.
"In camp, we were still kind of learning the defense," Boston said. "Right now, it's executing. We're trying to finish our touches. We're only a few days away, and we feel like we're ready now. This defense is definitely ready for the task.
"I think now a lot of us are polishing up the young guys. The coaches and the older guys did an excellent job of getting us into this defense and preparing us for this game."
One of the biggest keys to this team's mentality as it prepares for Saturday's opener, Boston said, is the bond the players have built so quickly with the new coaching staff.
"We really enjoy this coaching staff," Boston said. "Every day is just fun being out here. We're executing our game plan, making sure we know this defense. You have to know this defense like the back of your hand to make plays, and we're so ready to do that.
"These guys are so passionate," Boston said. "These guys are energetic. Every day these guys give you a reason to work for them. These guys are just as pumped up as we are. They come out dancing to music. They're a younger group of guys. We have a few older coaches, but the older coaches act like they're young, too, and give us a few moves every so often.
"When you have energetic coaches, you're so ready to play for them," Boston said, "and just have fun."
Senior tackle Sylvester Williams said this staff has changed the way this defense approaches the game.
"Just being around the guys, everybody is excited," Williams said. "At the end of the day, we have been given a coaching staff that has given us something we have never done before. You have a lot of guys who are making plays all over the field. All 11 players in that defense, at some point, have a chance to make a play.
"Everyone sees themselves making plays in practice," Williams said, "stuff they couldn't do last year because the defense prevented them from doing it. This year, the DBs are blitzing. You didn't see that a lot in the defense we had last year."