UNC opens spring football drills hoping to build on momentum

Mar. 05, 2014 @ 10:05 PM

North Carolina held its first spring practice Wednesday, hoping to keep the momentum from last season’s 6-1 finish that including a Belk Bowl win over Cincinnati.

“It’s really important to try and carry over where we left off,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said. “We were playing our best football as the year went on at the end of the year, and so we challenged them to be at that level when we stepped out here today, and try to get better from there.”

The Tar Heels return at least seven starters on each side of the ball, including their starting quarterback (sophomore Marquise Williams), leading running back (freshman T.J. Logan), leading wide receiver (sophomore Quinshad Davis) and freshman returner Ryan Switzer, who tied an NCAA record with five punt returns for touchdowns in 2013.

Switzer said that his goal for 2014 is six punt return touchdowns.

“I’m going to get the all-time record — I’m four away from breaking it — so I’m really not worried about that. It’s going to come,” Switzer said. “My personal goal would be to get six in a season because I want the record to myself.”

That kind of optimism is common in spring football, when even Fedora acknowledged, “We’re in shorts. They always look good at this time.” Still, Fedora said he was pleased with the enthusiasm, the excitement and the “will to be good” that he saw during the first practice.

There are still plenty of holes to fill — tight end Eric Ebron and defensive end Kareem Martin could both be first-round draft picks this spring, and departed left tackle James Hurst, center Russell Bodine, defensive tackle Tim Jackson, safety Tré Boston and cornerback Jabari Price were all key components for the past two seasons.

But junior defensive back Tim Scott said that the way last season ended will help in the transition.

“Knowing that you’re 1-5 and finished 7-6 is a big thing to us,” Scott said. “A lot of young guys that are coming back, they have confidence in themselves, which we need.”

NOTES — Scott will move from cornerback to free safety for the upcoming season. … Junior Brandon Ellerbe, a potential starter at ram, is not with the team this spring. Fedora said he expects Ellerbe to return in the fall. … Fedora said that there is no update on the status of starting linebacker Travis Hughes, who was suspended from the team after he was charged with misdemeanor assault in January.