Wedding bells can wait, Sean Tapley has a game to play
North Carolina wide receiver Sean Tapley got engaged to his girlfriend, fellow UNC junior Britney Smith, on Tuesday night.
So Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora went to congratulate his player before practice Wednesday, but Tapley said he had other things to worry about.
“You have to appreciate that about him,” Fedora said. “He’s locked in right now.”
That focus is one of the reasons Fedora said that Tapley has had the best training camp of any offensive player on the team.
Even when Tapley cut the pinky on his left hand during the fifth day of practice, he taped it up and kept performing.
“We talked about being consistent and not having the ups and downs,” Fedora said. “He had something with a finger and never looked at that as an excuse to miss a ball. He adjusted well and made plays.”
Though he’s only a junior, Tapley is the most experienced member of the receiving corps, and offensive coordinator Blake Anderson said the Jacksonville, Fla., native has taken his leadership role seriously this summer.
“His work ethic every day has been phenomenal,” Anderson said. “His attitude has been great.”
Tapley, who had 26 catches for 361 yards and five touchdowns last season, has shown much better technique when running routes during camp. And after his blocking became a liability last season, Tapley has become more physical when taking on defenders.
“He’s become an every-down player, whereas last year we had to bring him in and out based on what was going on,” Anderson said. “To be able to leave him on the field all the time and know he’s going to hold up in every phase makes him a much bigger threat for people to have to deal with.”
Tapley’s offseason has solidified his role as the No. 2 receiver opposite standout Quinshad Davis. Of course, the biggest moment came off the field when he proposed to Smith at the Old Well, the most famous landmark on campus.
His fellow receivers were there to witness the event, and pictures quickly made their way to the Internet. Tapley, who said he doesn’t like attention, suddenly felt like the most popular man in college football.
“This proposal wasn’t supposed to be as big as it was,” Tapley said. “It hit social media quick and so I’m hearing from people I don’t even know. It made me feel like Johnny Manziel.”
Tapley, who met Smith during freshman orientation, said that he knew she was the one as soon as they started dating. But when it came time to actually propose, he purposely did it before the first game.
“At first it was going to be sometime during the season, but I wanted to do it before the season so there won’t be (any) distractions,” Tapley said.
Tapley said he still enjoys getting congratulated — despite his interaction with Fedora. It’s just that the wedding is sometime in the future, while the South Carolina game is just seven days away.
“I want to keep smiling but also I have to keep focused,” Tapley said. “I’m enjoying it (today), but after the day ends I’m going to get that serious face back on.”
PRACTICE NOTES — Kicker and East Chapel Hill High graduate Thomas Moore, starting linebacker Jeff Schoettmer, starting safety Dominique Green, punter Tommy Hibbard and deep snapper Mack Lloyd were among the walk-ons who received scholarships earlier this week.
Anderson said that if the season started today, Jon Heck would be the starting right tackle. Heck is the son of Andy Heck, who was a first-team all-America tackle at Notre Dame and is currently the offensive line coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Fedora wasn’t concerned about senior running back A.J. Blue, who has been battling a hamstring injury. “I don’t know if he’s 100 percent today, but I don’t think there’s any doubt he’ll be 100 percent by the 29th.”
Jordan High graduate T.J. Thorpe is the favorite to return punts, followed by true freshman Ryan Switzer. Kickoff returner is still up in the air, with Tapley, Thorpe, Switzer, cornerback Tim Scott and running back Romar Morris still in the mix.
Fedora said bandit Norkeithus Otis had the best camp of all the defensive players.