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The Daily Tar Heel

Little earns veteran title with solid start

Coming into the 2009 season, Greg Little’s title of North Carolina’s “veteran” receiver was tenuous at best.

Little had all of 24 career catches and 255 career receiving yards coming into his junior year, not exactly close to the more than 1,200 yards Hakeem Nicks gained for the Tar Heels last season.

But Little’s lived up to the preseason billing.

He’s already doubled that career catch total through only five games, and he’s gained 222 receiving to cement himself as the leader of a receiving corps bursting at the seams with youth.

“He leads by example when the ball is in his hands,” receivers coach Charlie Williams said. “That’s the way he leads. He doesn’t have to say a lot or say anything.”

And while that production so far doesn’t put him in the same class as Nicks, his consistency has drawn plenty of praise from his coaches, including coach Butch Davis.

Davis singled out Little as one of the bright spots in the Tar Heels’ 16-3 loss to Virginia, saying that the junior’s dependability was something from which UNC’s young receivers could learn.

Little had eight catches against the Cavaliers to bring his season total to 25, and he has recorded at least two catches in every game this season.

And watching him make all those catches has rubbed off on some of his teammates.

“When one guy catches the ball, then that makes the other guy want to catch the ball and have his opportunity to run with it,” Williams said.

Even though he’s leading UNC in receptions, he’s poised to do even more.

In the Virginia game, he was demonstrably frustrated, pumping his arms across his chest several times when T.J. Yates couldn’t find him or one of his teammates on third downs.

“He’s definitely pissed off about it, but he’s just stays on it,” Erik Highsmith said. “All the receivers, he tells us to just keep working, keep catching balls.”

But Little’s game-day performances isn’t the only way he’s helped out with the development of North Carolina’s new playmakers.

Receiver Jheranie Boyd said Little was instrumental in streamlining his transition from high school to the collegiate level.

“For the first three weeks of training camp, he would actually walk with me out of the huddle and tell me what we were running just to get used to it,” Boyd said.

Of course, Little is still far from a finished product in his first full season as a receiver.

Williams said he still needs to work on blocking downfield and battling for position with cornerbacks and safeties for 50-50 balls.

Those skills­ — along with remaining upbeat when he isn’t involved with every play.

“The thing we talk about all the time is being patient,” Williams said.

“He just needs to be patient and let the game come to him instead of thinking he has to do something special. He just has to run his routes and catch the ball when it comes his way.”

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