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April 12, 2014
Davis working for even bigger role
Certainly anyone who has watched North Carolina play the last two seasons is quite familiar with wide receiver Quinshad Davis, who arrived in Chapel Hill in 2012 out of Gaffney (S.C.) and made his presence felt right away.
Over his first two seasons in Chapel Hill Davis recorded 108 catches for an even 1,500 yards---evenly distributed over two seasons with 776 yards his rookie season of 2012, and 724 this past fall. He caught 61 balls his freshman season---the second most for a first-year player in Atlantic Coast Conference history---and last season he had 10 touchdown receptions, the third-highest total in UNC school history.
So what can Davis do as an encore in his upcoming junior season of 2014?
Quite a lot actually, says both he and his head coach.
"(Quinshad is) realizing that he's going to have to make more plays. You lose 85 (Eric Ebron) in the middle, and so there's going to be more of a focus on him. So he's got to make more plays when those opportunities arise, and there's going to be more opportunities," said head coach Larry Fedora.
Knowing that he's going to have more balls thrown his way and is going to be relied upon as the primary pass catcher in UNC's spread offense is something that has Davis thrilled heading into Saturday's Spring Game.
"It's been (a) pretty good (spring)," Davis told Tar Heel Illustrated. "We've been productive, getting in plays, trying to move quicker and faster, trying to pick up tempo on offense. We've been picking up the pace a little bit, so I feel like we're progressing this spring."
"I just wanted to step up and be a leader, and get separation at the top of my breaks. And I feel like I've accomplished that this spring."
Davis hasn't even turned 20 yet, and is still technically a sophomore in college. So it's a bit of a weight to handle being looked upon as a leader and such a key player for the Tar Heels.
But knowing that he's going to be counted on so heavily serves as motivation in and of itself for Davis not to slip up and to come to practice every day ready to work.
"(At age) 19, being an old guy it's kind of hard. But I mean, I just try to step up and speak up when I can and when we need it," he said. "I feel like we're coming along real well. We're going to have to make a lot of plays. We're going to have to be the playmakers in this offense, and we know that. So I feel like we're ready to take on the challenge."
UNC heads into 2014 with several different types of playmakers within its wide receivers corps.
You've got Davis and Bug Howard, a pair of big targets who can challenge opposing defensive backs both down the field and in the air with their length, and then you've got well-rounded, traditional wideouts such as T.J. Thorpe and Kendrick Singleton who do a good job of getting open and are tough to catch.
Then there's Ryan Switzer, who is smaller but quicker and nearly impossible to catch when he breaks free. Switzer, an A-Back in the UNC offense, is a challenge with his good hands and breakneck speed.
"Everybody wants to play, and everybody competes hard. And I just tell them, 'Keep your head up. When you're not getting in you can get mental reps, and when you get in, show the coaches what you've got,'" Davis said about his leadership style.
"I feel like we've got an amazing group with all those guys. You've got a special talent in (Ryan) Switzer, T.J., and Bug (Howard). And you get different things from them. With those guys, we're going to make a lot of plays. Since everybody is experienced, it helps other people get open. And people know what to do. It makes the offense be more well-oiled."
Davis gave his us thoughts on how the rest of the UNC offense has progressed this spring, breaking down the Tar Heel running backs and quarterback situations, while also giving some praise to the development of the offensive line.
"I would say the offensive line has progressed a whole lot from the beginning of spring. Because we've got a young offensive line. And they have progressed so much. They've improved so much since the beginning of spring," he replied.
He suggested that Mitch Trubisky and Marquise Williams could very well be in a rotation at quarterback, sort of how Williams and Bryn Renner were at times last season before Renner was injured.
"Both of the (quarterbacks) are doing a great job, and both of them want to play. Right now I feel like they're going to be like 'Quise and Bryn were last year. But yeah, they're competing hard at that position," Davis told us. "Those (running backs) are doing a great job. "Elijah (Hood) has come in, stepped in and is doing his thing. T.J. Logan and Khris Francis and Romar (Morris), they already know what they're doing. So it's going to be a great running back group."
After several weeks of practices and a couple scrimmages away from Kenan Stadium, Davis is especially excited to get back on the UNC campus and play a simulated Spring Game Saturday in front of the Tar Heel faithful.
He figures to get plenty of opportunities to impress them, and he's looking forward to taking advantage of each one of them.
"That's what you live for---to go out and play in the stadium and have all those fans come out and support you. That's the best feeling in the world," he said.