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March 29, 2013CHARLOTTE--- UNC head coach Larry Fedora seemed pleased with what the Tar Heels accomplished Thursday night during the team's two-plus hour scrimmage on the campus of Mallard Creek High School.
"We got some really good reps tonight. We wanted to get about 125 reps, and we got them," Fedora said. "We got three phases of the kicking game worked on tonight, which was really good. We had a lot of guys flying around. We had some mistakes, some balls on the ground, and we're going to learn from it."
"It was our first live scrimmage of the spring, so it was really good."
Fedora and his UNC coaching staff attempted to host a spring scrimmage in Charlotte a year ago before they had even coached an actual game at North Carolina, but last April's event was cancelled due to inclement weather.
Although Thursday evening got cooler and cooler as it went on, especially after the sun went down, the North Carolina players got a great deal of work in and the coaches were able to make critical evaluations.
And they were able to do so in a more festive environment than simply having a private workout in Chapel Hill.
While they dumbed down some of the schemes and formations in case any scouts from South Carolina drove up from Columbia to observe the scrimmage, it was a great opportunity for the UNC football program to reach out to its fans in Charlotte.
Plenty of former Tar Heels were on hand, including former basketball player and coach Matt Doherty, and All-American football player Dre' Bly, among several others.
There were also a plethora of Charlotte-area football recruits on hand including 2013 signee Brian Walker, 2014 commitment Robert Dinkins, and uncommitted prospects such as Elijah Hood, Cayson Collins, Antonio Williams, B.J. Hill, Jalan McClendon, and others.
"(There's) a lot of players from here (in Charlotte). There's a lot of great high school coaches in the area that want to be able to see us practice. So it was good all the way around (to come here)," Fedora said.
"Our largest fanbase in the state is Charlotte. We've got a lot of fans here. They're excited about it. I wanted them to see where this 2013 team was after eight days into it."
"And then at the same time, I think it's great for our guys to be able to get on the road, be able to do something live, scrimmage, in front of the fans. That just adds more excitement for them."
The scrimmage included several big plays, explosive 80-plus yard scoring catches and runs by A.J. Blue and Romar Morris, a punt return fumble for a score by Brandon Ellerbe, and a couple touchdown tosses to Quinshad Davis.
The running game as a whole seemed pleasing to Fedora, although naturally that means the UNC defense didn't do such a good job defending the ground game.
"We've got three guys. Blue and Romar and Francis have really been working hard on it (running the ball)," Fedora said. "Where we stand right now, if we had to put somebody out there, Blue would go out there with the first unit just like he did tonight, unless after this scrimmage we evaluate it and something changes."
"We're going to make depth chart changes at all positions on Monday. So we'll see after the film tonight," Fedora continued.
Rising senior quarterback Bryn Renner looked to be in good command of the Tar Heels offense during his reps Thursday evening, while true freshman Mitch Trubisky, running the second-team offense, also looked the part with a mature, poised performance in the scrimmage.
"The thing that's been nice about Bryn is that he's just picked up from where he left off during the last five weeks of the season, and has really moved forward from there," Fedora said. "He's worked hard on being a good leader and managing the game, and I think you saw a little bit of that tonight."
"You think about this---Mitch ought to still be in high school and he commanded the offense pretty good out there today. He never lost it. He understood what was going on. They understand what he's wanting to do, and so that's a good thing," the second-year UNC coach continued.
"I think that was big for him (Trubisky) just to get live reps tonight."
One area that was not so exciting was the punt return game, as Morris, despite scoring several touchdowns from long range and in red zone situations, fumbled two punts and allowed the defense to recover both.
"Did we catch one tonight? Are ya'll concerned? I'm concerned. Yeah, we've got a long way to go in that position. A long way to go," Fedora said about the punt return game.
Morris, along with Khris Francis and Kedrick Davis, got punt return opportunities during the scrimmage.
One of the key things for Fedora individually this spring is not not only get more familiar with the North Carolina personnel at his disposal, but do a better job of finding ways to make them more useful.
In his own words, Fedora says he could have done a better job of that in Year One.
"I haven't gotten any taller. I've put on maybe a few pounds (since last year)," he joked.
"Hopefully I've got a better handle of this team. I think I did a poor job early in the season last year of understanding what our guys could do, and put them in bad positions at times," Fedora added. "But hopefully I get better every day."
"We stress that in the program. You're either going to get better or you're going to get worse. I mean, you're never going to stay the same. That's players, coaches, trainers, managers. That's everybody in the program. And so, each and every day we're trying to do something to make ourselves better."