PINEHURST — Senior defensive end Hilee Taylor says the Carolina football team hasn't really worked any harder this summer than a year ago.
The difference, Joe Dailey said, has been the team's goals.
"Our emphasis this summer has been speed and conditioning, literally," said Dailey, a senior who moved from quarterback to wide receiver during spring practice. "Five days a week we would run. Four days a week we would lift. We want to be the fastest team in the ACC and the best-conditioned team. Some people say you can't have both, but I believe [strength coach Jeff] Connors and his staff have done a great job.
"What we've done this summer that we didn't do the past two summers is we would run every day of the week," Dailey said during the annual ACC Kickoff on Sunday. "We just grind every day. They beat the brakes off us, but we are in so much better shape now than we have ever been in the past. We can stay faster longer, and we're much stronger. The fourth quarter is when you impose your will if you can maintain the speed you had at the start of the game."
The ACC Football Kickoff occurs each July, bringing together the 12 head coaches and a couple of players from each school. This year it is being held at the Pinehurst Resort. On Sunday, the players met with the media. The head coaches will talk to the press on Monday.
This will be the first season under new head coach Butch Davis for the Tar Heels. Dailey said that Davis and his staff have brought a consistent, positive approach to the team, an approach that is making a difference with the players.
"He's like your father, your grandfather and your mother," Dailey said. "You don't want to let him down."
This is going to an extraordinarily young team. There will be a new quarterback, new running backs, some new offensive linemen as well as some new faces on defense. The first step in having a better season than a year ago, when UNC went 3-9, was getting the players into positions where they could be successful, Dailey said.
"We have guys in the position where they belong," Dailey said. "We're going to distribute the ball evenly and in an educated manner."
Getting the right players into the right position began with Dailey's move from quarterback to wide receiver.
"I switched to a position where I will have an opportunity to actually help and not hurt our team any longer," Dailey said. "I've learned this: When you put people in a position where they don't belong, good things are not going to happen. When you put people where you know they can excel, only good can come of it.
"It was a mutual agreement [to move]. I just have not been a West Coast Offense quarterback. All I can do is run the football. So maybe I needed to get outside and make some plays. Coach [Davis] said, 'Do you want to play wide receiver?' I said, 'That is what I had in mind.'"
While the emphasis of what this team is trying to accomplish in training has changed, Taylor said the effort has been similar
"Honestly, I don't see a difference," Taylor said. "The record did not reflect how hard we worked. This year we have worked just as hard as we worked last year. That is what was so frustrating about it. I know we worked hard and then we get out there and do not have the record that reflects our working hard."
Taylor does concede that Davis' upbeat, positive attitude has helped this team, particularly coming off such a disappointing season.
"There is no room for complacency," Taylor said. "You have a different position coach than you had for three years. You have a different head coach. You have to give it all you have got to gain that position. That has brought a whole lot of competitiveness to our team."
In his case, Taylor said that he loves his new position coach, John Blake, who is the defensive line coach, recruiting coordinator and assistant head coach.
"I love that guy," Taylor said. "I would do anything for him. I'd run through a wall for that guy. He's a great guy. He's religious. He's genuine. He's like Coach Davis. I think Coach Davis hires guys like him, and that helps us out."