The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday February 3rd

Unit Hopes Preseason Meetings Pay Off

Special teams had up to five meetings a day during two-a-days and worked on multiple skills in practice.

Reed, a senior kicker, had never kicked a game in Kenan Stadium before 2000 but came into that season knowing he was The Guy.

Lafferty's 2000 involved fighting for punting time against Blake Ferguson. He started three games before mononucle-osiscut his season short. Ferguson was slated to be the starter opening day, but abruptly left the program and the University on Aug. 12.

Instead of challenging for the posi-tion, suddenly it's all Lafferty's, and there's not a whole lot of backup.

"It's a pretty interesting situation," Lafferty said. "I'm excited about the season -- I have been since January -- so I'm crazy with enthusiasm."

Last year, Lafferty had 20 punts for 708 yards while Ferguson punted for 1,475 yards in 40 tries.

Although Reed's position is a lot more solid that Lafferty's, he said his position isn't secure.

"I'm in the same boat as he is still," Reed said. "Just because I played for one year doesn't mean I know it all and I can do whatever. There's a lot of pressure on me,too.

"I just told him to worry about the catch. The protection will be there. And don't look up; don't look at any-one. Just kick the ball, and I know he'll do it. He's cool under pressure."

If Lafferty can perform like Reed thinks he will, then the Tar Heels can breathe a sigh of relief similar to last season when Reed stepped comfortably into the kicker role.

After Josh McGee graduated, UNC has to find someone to replace their record-setting kicker. Reed turned in a 16-for-20 field goal performance, good enough to make him a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, which goes to the best kicker in the country, and to earn him a football scholarship.

The entire special teams unit have undergone intensified practices. During two-a-days, the squad met up to five times a day and practiced most facets of special teams like punt returns, blocking

punts and kickoff.

"We worked on special teams a lot last year," cornerback Kevin Knight said. "But this is like way different. We've got meetings in the morning, we've got meetings at night. We've got meetings, meetings. On the field, we put things together."

Michael Waddell and Knight will handle kickoff returns, while wideouts Bosley Allen and Sam Aiken pull double duty returning punts.

Last year, Allen returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown to give the Tar Heels a 28-14 lead against Wake Forest. Allen returned 28 punts for a school-record 421 yards and two TDs.

"We work a lot, and we work harder on special teams," Allen said.

"I think we're going to produce more than three times what we have in the past."

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