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Football: Little wants to better his reputation

Just a year after opening the season at starting tailback, Greg Little is now UNC's No. 1 wideout. DTH File Photo.
Just a year after opening the season at starting tailback, Greg Little is now UNC's No. 1 wideout. DTH File Photo.

For the second straight season, Greg Little is wrapping up training camp at a No. 1 spot on UNC’s depth chart — just at a different position this year.

While he entered last season with a lion’s share of expectations as North Carolina’s young-gun starting running back, he’s now back to working full time with wide receivers.

He’s also found himself in a different position in terms of experience. Little, a junior, returns as the elder statesman of a stable of young wideouts, and has found himself the de facto leader of a group trying to replace a trio of NFL draft picks.

But Butch Davis isn’t ready to cede that title to him after Little’s less-than-spectacular 2008 — at least not yet.

“Greg Little has got to take care of Greg Little. He can be a great role model. He can go out and practice hard,” Davis said.

“But I’m not too concerned about him being a mentor and being a coach on the field. If you want to set a great example for all those young wide receivers, go out and perform.”

Quarterback T.J. Yates said Little has heard the criticism after a 2008 that saw him relinquish his hold on the running back position after just four games and struggle to make an impact after he switched positions to wide receiver.

To remedy the negative connotations that accompany a disappointing year, Little devoted himself this offseason to refining his skills and improving his chemistry with Yates.

“We spent a lot of time together in the offseason, and building a rapport with him and developing camaraderie has put us over the top,” Little said. “Just knowing where he’s going to throw it and him knowing where I’m going to be and giving me that time to get open.”

So far, reports from training camp suggest Little’s offseason work is producing dividends. Yates answered without hesitation that Little is the receiver he is most comfortable with on the field and has given glowing reports of his athleticism.

“You can kind of get away with making mistakes, because he’s such a good athlete, he can make up for it,” Yates said. “He can catch the balls you’re not supposed to.

“He’s got all the tools to do pretty much anything out there on the field.”

One development Yates has noticed is that Little isn’t trying to do too much after catching the football. Rather than trying to race a defender to the sidelines and turn the corner every play, Little puts his head down and gets the sure yardage.

Time will tell if his work in practice will translate to Saturdays, but Little said he is poised to fill the void at receiver.

“We’ve been left some pretty big shoes to fill,” Little said. “I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself. I feel like I’ve got to step up to the plate, and the bar’s been set pretty high.”


Contact the Sports Editor at sports@unc.edu.

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