Gift of reps wrapped in bowls
Aside from the game itself, one of the biggest benefits of making a bowl is the extra practices that football teams are allowed to have leading up to the event.
North Carolina will certainly take advantage of the added preparation time, although not as much as some other teams.
With exams this week and an early bowl date, UNC coach Larry Fedora expected that the team only will conduct between 10 and 12 practices before playing Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte on Dec. 28.
“We won’t practice during finals,” Fedora said Monday. “We had a practice yesterday and (we’ll have one) this upcoming weekend and go from there.”
NCAA rules allow bowl teams to practice for a maximum of four hours per day and 20 hours per week. For many teams, that adds up to about 15 extra sessions.
Last month, Fedora spoke about the importance of the bowl practices, which UNC didn’t have last year because of NCAA sanctions.
“I’ll take extra practices every day for a year,” Fedora said. “It’s important because we’re all about repetition and reps and how many can we get, how fast can we get them and get off the field as quickly as possible.
“I think it’s very crucial as we build this program and try to get this program where we want. Every extra rep that we get with these younger guys and guys that are maybe redshirting just makes us better in the future.”
Fedora said that the first few practices this month will be focused on getting his inexperienced players more work. It won’t be until the latter half of practices that the staff will start preparing for Cincinnati.
“I’ve been on staffs where you start very early in preparation, and really the guys kind of get bored with the reps and it didn’t work out too well,” Fedora said. “We’ll prepare for the future with these early practices, and then in the latter half implement the game plan.”
For his first bowl game with UNC, Fedora said he’s pleased to be headed to Charlotte. The Tar Heels have already played three bowl games there since 2004.
“We have so many alumni and Tar Heel fans in that area, and it’s a very lucrative area in recruiting,” Fedora said. “To be able to have such a great presence in that area for a full week getting ready for a bowl will be really good for our program.”
UNC has three starters from the Charlotte area — quarterback Marquise Williams, bandit Norkeithus Otis and punter Tommy Hibbard — and other regulars including running back A.J. Blue and defensive back Brian Walker.
“The (players) knew we would be going somewhere, but they didn’t know where,” Fedora said. “And then to be in Charlotte, to be in our home state, they were really excited and looking forward to it.”
NOTE — Each UNC player will receive a Fossil watch and a $450 gift card from Belk. The NCAA permits bowls to give $550 in prizes to the participants from each school.