Football notebook: first day of practice

The first day of practice is just like Christmas for North Carolina football coach Larry Fedora. It has all the excitement of players buckling up a chinstrap for the first time in months combined with the clapping of shoulder pads.

Thursday morning, Fedora’s 2013 Tar Heels met for the first time and began preparing for the August 29th opener against the South Carolina in Columbia.

And for Fedora, day one is all about seeing what his players recall and getting to know new faces. Among the questions Fedora said he asks himself on the first day are “How did he really study (our schemes)?” and “How much does he really know at this point?”

“They’re going to move around great in shorts, and it’s day one. So I don’t put a lot of stock in that,” Fedora said. “You’re really looking for recall.”

UNC’s returning players have had a year to get used to Fedora and his system.

Fedora said with a year of experience in his system, his players are far ahead of where they were last year in terms of knowledge and preparation.

“You see guys moving around a lot faster,” Fedora said. “With the older guys, there’s no thinking involved. They know exactly what they’re doing, and they’re able to do it fast.”

Junior WR Roy Smith

In 2012, Smith, who also runs track at UNC, was a walk-on punt returner.

But in the first day of practice, he was notably absent. Fedora said that he couldn’t give Smith one of the 105 spots he is allotted to have at practice.

“You get 105 guys to bring in, and sometimes we’ve got to make some tough decisions,” Fedora said. “We have so many numbers we can bring in at a certain position.”

Return of T.J. Thorpe and Darius Lipford

Both Thorpe and Lipford were unable to play for Fedora in his first year due to injuries that forced them to redshirt.

Fedora said both players seemed to be in good shape this year, and he’s excited to see what they can do this year.

Terry Shankle brings experience

As a fifth year senior, Shankle has spent his career playing cornerback for the Tar Heels, but this year, Fedora has different plans for the veteran.

Thursday Fedora had Shankle taking reps with the bandits in an attempt to make him a more versatile defender.

“What we’re doing is working him at bandit and corner so he can do either,” Fedora said. “He already knows the corner stuff so we’re throwing him over at bandit so he can learn that as quickly as possible during camp.”

The return game

Last season, the Tar Heels depended heavily on running back Giovani Bernard not only in the run game, but in the return game as well.

With Bernard’s early exit to the NFL, Fedora and his staff will be forced to find a new returner, and in the first day of camp, he has a few candidates in mind.

Thorpe, freshman T.J. Logan and freshman Ryan Switzer, all took reps as a returner during Thursday’s practice.

“I would say, just in that little bit that I saw today, we’ll be able to find somebody out of that group,” Fedora said.

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