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April 4, 2013Following Wednesday afternoon's practice, North Carolina's tenth so far this spring season, head coach Larry Fedora spoke about how last Thursday night's scrimmage at Mallard Creek High School in Charlotte went.
"We were not as sharp as we needed to be. Too many missed assignments. Not enough leadership when things weren't going good on both sides of the ball, you know," the second-year Tar Heel head coach said. "So we've got to have guys learn."
"For us (the coaches), it's an evaluation," Fedora continued. "It's another evaluation for a kid. He's out there. He doesn't have a coach in his ear telling him what to do. He's got to think. He's got to play the game the way the games are going to be played next fall."
"And so we get a feel for where these guys are at that time, not only individually but also as a unit. That was the first time that they were out there without us in their ear. And so it was kind of what I expected, but I expect this Friday to be much better."
This Friday is Carolina's second scrimmage away from Chapel Hill, as the Tar Heels will take to the road yet again for a trip to Grimsley High School in Greensboro.
The Tar Heel coaches shook up the depth chart a little bit, especially defensively, after last Thursday's session in Charlotte heading into this week.
It was evident in Wednesday's workout, veterans Norkeithus Otis, Alex Dixon, Brandon Ellerbe, and Tre Boston, were either back in the 'first' defensive rotation or working in it for the first time.
There have been times this spring where others, such as Shakeel Rashad, Malik Simmons, Dominique Green, have been working with the first defense in some of those spots as the UNC staff works to build a solid two-deep at every spot. Those guys are all still very much in the mix as the spring season winds down.
That's partially the case because UNC is not working at full strength this spring. Not even close.
The Tar Heels have several players who aren't practicing at all as they overcome various injuries, and others who are practicing in certain drills but not in team portions.
It's a mixed bag, as it gives the Tar Heel coaches a chance to give younger backup players invaluable practice experience in place of more seasoned talent.
"When someone comes back from injury they don't lose their position because of an injury but when they come back, you know, they can get beat out," Fedora said.
Dixon, a third-year sophomore, is ready to prove he can step in on gameday and make plays at cornerback for UNC. He and 'true' sophomore Malik Simmons have been getting a lot of practice work with the first and second teams in place of the injured Jabari Price and T.J. Jiles.
"I think (Dixon) has made some plays (this spring). You know, it'll be interesting to see this Friday (in the Greensboro scrimmage) because he's getting a lot of opportunities with No. 4 (Price) out," Fedora said.
"No, 35 (Simmons) is getting a lot of opportunities. No. 16 (Dixon) is getting a lot of opportunities. And so as long as those guys are getting opportunities, you know, they've got to make the most of it."
The opportunities are also there on the other side of the ball at the quarterback position, as true freshman Mitch Trubisky and redshirt freshman Kanler Coker were both working the second-team offense on Wednesday.
It appears abundantly clear from practice observations that the Tar Heel coaches are looking to keep the players on their toes and uncertain about where they stand depth-wise in order to promote maximum effort these last weeks of spring practice, while also promoting a culture of learning and mutual respect between guys battling for jobs.
"I would say probably just about in every position group we had some type of change," said Fedora. "That happened on Monday and we practiced on Monday and positions may have changed again. Now we'll see."
"(We practiced) today and that (the depth chart) may change again. And we'll go to Greensboro Friday and get after it and see where guys are and how they compare to where they were last Friday," Fedora continued.
While it would seem that Carolina's players would get a little thrill out of practicing in front of a crowd this spring instead of doing everything in the private, often-monotonous world of the UNC practice fields, Fedora had some comic relief when asked if he thought the players preferred the road scrimmages to regular practices.
"I've never asked them. Don't know," he said.