The Tar Heels opened spring football this week in Kenan Stadium and they will work for five weeks, culminating with the Blue-White Game on Saturday, April 14.
Coach Larry Fedora and his staff have completed two weeks of Blue Dawn conditioning sessions and will practice three times this week. They'll break March 10-18 for campus-wide spring break and then return to the field roughly three times a week through mid-April.
“The biggest thing this spring is to build depth,” Fedora says. “We have to count on twos and threes who we know are going to have to play for us sometime.”
There are a lot of new faces and changes across the spectrum of the program, now under Fedora's leadership going into its seventh year.
Most notable in Kenan Stadium is the removal of the metal bleachers on the north side as the process will run throughout the off-season of installing new individual seats throughout the stadium. The seating capacity will drop to around 53,000 and give fans a more comfortable experience.
Also visible are a myriad of boundary lines across the football field. Kenan Stadium is being used this spring not only for Tar Heel football practices, but also for lacrosse games for the men's and women's programs. This time next year, Fedora will have at his disposal a new indoor practice facility and two outdoor fields—one turf and the other grass. And the lacrosse and soccer teams will have a new field and stadium on the site of the old Fetzer Field.
That's leading to a lot of traffic in the stadium and keeping the grounds crew on its toes. The Athletic Department budgeted to re-sod the field up to seven times last fall to accommodate home games, but because of an abnormally dry fall, they re-sodded half that amount. The field will certainly need some fresh turf at some point this spring.
And there are handful of new faces on the coaching staff.
Former Tar Heel linebacker Tommy Thigpen has returned as safeties coach. Henry Baker comes from Rutgers and is the new cornerbacks coach. Luke Paschall returns to Carolina as an offensive assistant after spending the 2012-13 seasons as a graduate assistant for the Tar Heels. He was most recently at Arkansas State.
Paschall was brought back to coach running backs, but the departure on Monday of long-time receivers coach Gunter Brewer to the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL leaves the offensive staff in a state of flux. Brewer worked with receivers on Sunday, but Paschall coached them on Tuesday, with Fedora working with the running backs.
And there are eight new players in the mix, each a January enrollee after signing in December. There are two quarterbacks among them, Jace Ruder and Cade Fortin, who are alternating as the third-team quarterback behind Nathan Elliott and Chazz Surratt.
“We have everyone competing at quarterback,” Fedora says. “Nathan goes out first, then Chazz and the two freshman are rolling in there next. Everyone's competing for a job right now.”
Mailings to Lettermen have gone out to register for the annual Morris Mason Golf Tournament on Friday April 13 at Finley Golf Course, dinner that night and a barbecue Saturday at 1 p.m. If you have not received your invitation, contact Teresa Vanderford in the Carolina Football Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919/962-9144.