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July 25, 2007In football years, most of the players on Butch Davis' Carolina team are mere infants.
At quarterback, the most important position on offense, and maybe the team, only sophomore Cameron Sexton has played in a college football game. Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, a majority of Sexton's experiences could be described as negative.
He completed 41 percent of his passes, threw eight interceptions to just four touchdowns for 120 yards a game.
Then there is T.J. Yates, who epitomizes inexperience. He sat out last year as a red-shirt and took his junior year of high school off to focus on basketball. B.J. Phillips, another red-shirt freshman, and true freshman Mike Paulus are the other contenders.
The Tar Heels have not picked a starter, but Davis said it will have to happen quickly once summer camp begins in August.
"That will be one of our biggest challenges," Davis said. "In the first five days when we are going once a day and the next five days when there is a combination of some two-a-days and one-a-days, we have got to find out who the top two quarterbacks are going to be. We've got to find out if Mike Paulus can actually be one of those two.
"He didn't get an opportunity to go through spring practice, but he did go through both summer sessions. As soon as he got out of [high school], he came down. He was the only freshman in this coming class that was able to go through the first summer session. He went through the second one also."
Being on campus has given Paulus a chance to work out with the team, get to know his teammates and learn what he can by studying the playbook and film, Davis said.
But the coaching staff still cannot know whether Paulus has a chance to play in the first game until practice in pads begins.
"He's around the players," Davis said. "He's there. He's like a sponge. He's obsessive about trying to learn the playbook, and he's doing things on his own. I think the other quarterbacks, Cam Sexton and T.J. Yates in particular, those two, they don't want to relinquish the idea that they are the starter.
"This is a hallmark of all great programs. If you don't have competition, you're in trouble. That is what we've tried to create at all the positions. Whether it is coming from incoming freshmen or internally, you want competition. It's going to force the best players to come to the top."
Yates played on the first team in the spring game, but that does not mean he will be the starter when UNC takes the field on Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. against James Madison, Davis said.
"T.J. Yates came further than any quarterback in the program," Davis said. "He literally was an unknown commodity to anybody, whether you were there or a new coaching staff. He really had an excellent spring. But as we told them before the start of the spring and as I told them over the summertime, the job is not going to be won in the spring or over the summer. Everybody is going to get a fair chance.
"But at some point, two and a half, three weeks out from the first game, we have to figure out who are the two guys, at least for the time being. You have to make the repetitions 70-30 as you get ready for that first ball game."
Senior Joe Dailey moved from quarterback to wide receiver during the off-season. He also played quarterback at Nebraska, so Dailey understands the position better than any player on this team. His advice for the guys competing to win the job is simple.
"You've got to be the mailman - you have to deliver every day, regardless of what the weather is," Dailey said. "You have to come in with the same mentality - you're going to compete; you're going to complete the ball; you have to run the offense efficiently. If you don't come in with that mentality, you're probably not going to be that guy under center."