After the North Carolina football team put an entire week of practice in for the scheduled game, a last-minute cancellation by UNC-Charlotte gave the Tar Heels unexpected time off on Saturday.
“We were pretty upset,” junior safety Trey Morrison said in a press conference Wednesday. “We just love going out there and playing.”
Though the game against Charlotte was canceled, the preparation still allowed the new players to understand what a typical game week looks like. The team experienced the intensity of practice leading up to the game that week.
Despite the setback, the players have kept positive energy and high spirits during practice over the past few days. Junior linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel told reporters Thursday that they held a small scrimmage at the end of practice ahead of the Tar Heels' away game against Boston College on Oct. 3.
“The whole morale of the team was to get ready for Boston College,” Gemmel said. “Everyone on the team was energized. We all looked so alive and happy to be here.”
Head coach Mack Brown also said he views this hiccup as a restart and a chance to focus on the next opponent.
As they prepare for the away game, the coaches recently made some changes to the lineup after Myles Wolfolk was ruled academically ineligible. Morrison, who originally played in the nickelback position, is transitioning to safety, and first-year Ja'Qurious Conley will take over at nickelback.
Although Morrison is confident in his abilities to make the transition, he acknowledged that the safety position will take some getting used to.
“It’s pretty much the quarterback of the defense,” Morrison said. “I gotta talk a lot. That’s probably the hardest part for me.”
Conley, a first-year from Jacksonville, N.C., is expected to start at nickelback in the upcoming game against the Eagles. Conley wasn't projected to be a starter this season, so when he heard the news, he had an emotional moment with his his mom.
"She's not a big football fan, so once I told her, she didn't really understand," Conley said. "But then I started crying and said, 'Mom, I'm finally getting the opportunity to play,' and then she started crying with me."
The coaches and teammates are confident the adjustment will help the team excel in the game. With two seasons of experience as nickelback, Morrison can guide Conley in this new position. Conley said he has been receptive to Morrison's guidance because of his great physical shape and focus.
“He’s got really good speed and point of attack, and that’s something we really need in the nickel spot,” Gemmel said.
The extended period without a game is giving the Tar Heels extra time on the field to hone their fundamentals and nail down particular plays.
“We’ve tried to find all the kinks in our offense to try to perfect during these two weeks off,” sophomore quarterback Sam Howell said Wednesday. “We’re always looking to improve.”
Despite the inability to play Charlotte last weekend, the team is moving full steam ahead with a positive outlook on the upcoming game against the Boston College Eagles.
“From what we’ve learned from 2020, you can expect the unexpected now,” Gemmel said. “Nothing is unthinkable or out of the ordinary now. You just have to be prepared to switch things up if something doesn’t go your way.”
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