North Carolina sophomore Tre Boston never figured he'd be playing a prominent role in UNC's 2010 season opener against LSU when training camp started last year, but when it was all said and done, he wound up starting at cornerback for the Tar Heels in his very first college game.
"Just playing---playing early on in the season like LSU, games like those---I matured real fast," said Boston.
Although Boston naturally had some growing pains his rookie year, he performed admirably for the most part---finishing 11th on the UNC roster in tackles (32).
He added one interception, one tackle for loss, and four pass breakups.
"It's a big-time thing (to have played as a freshman) because me and Jabari Price talk about it every day. We know the system a lot better than we did our freshman year. That's why it was so easy for me to transition to the free safety spot," Boston added.
North Carolina returns Price this spring along with Charles Brown, who started previously at cornerback, so the UNC coaches made the decision to move Boston this spring to free safety, where the Tar Heels have to replace four-year starter Deunta Williams.
"It's really good (at safety)," Boston said. "I have been at safety since Day One of spring ball. I really focused on it a lot. I've been in my playbook big-time."
"I pretty much know everything we've been installing. It hasn't been a hard transition for me, so I feel like it's pretty comfortable. I feel comfortable playing there (at safety)."
Boston admits it's a little strange this spring not seeing players like Williams and Kendric Burney, who were mainstays in the UNC secondary and multi-year starters, but he's been getting feedback from Williams on his new position.
"(It's) just a little bit (weird not seeing Burney and Williams) but I feel like we're up to the task," he said.
"I talk to Deunta a lot, and he just tells me stuff I can get better at."
"He (Williams) watches film on us just to tell me what I'm doing wrong, what I could do better, stuff like that. And I feel like him still telling me what to do, and him being gone, it helps me a lot," Boston added.
Everett Withers and the rest of the Tar Heel coaches were confident that Boston could effectively make the transition to free safety with his speed and size.
So far, so good.
"I feel like they (the Tar Heel coaches) just wanted me to take that role, playing free safety. And I feel like I'm doing a good job with it. I feel like I'm learning fast. I feel like I'm doing what I can to fill the shoes of Deunta, and those are pretty big shoes," Boston said.
"I feel like I know the defense enough where if I could just pick up on the free safety spot, it would be easy," he added. "I don't mind taking that role. That's what I'm here for. And if that betters the team, I'm willing to do it."
With his invaluable year of experience under his belt, Boston feels like he's a completely different football player than when he arrived at North Carolina a little less than a year ago.
"I feel like this year I'm way smarter," Boston said. "Last year you're kind of a freshman, and you learn what to do, but you don't know what you can do to better the team. You just try to do what you can do."
"I feel like from this year to last year, I'm two different players," he added. "Now I feel like if I had to, I could lead this team and help be a leader."
UNC is going to need Boston to step up as a leader in the back row of Carolina's secondary, not only to replace Williams, but also to give the unit a spark in a year where a lot of people are going to be expecting a downslide in the Tar Heel pass defense with all the personnel departures.
But Boston is here to say that the 'Rude Boys' aren't going anywhere.
"Oh, trust me. The 'Rude Boys' are back!" he said enthusiastically.