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The Daily Tar Heel
From the Press Box

Football notebook: August 7

North Carolina football coach Larry Fedora has preached the necessity of depth for his Tar Heel team since practices began a week ago.

But with eight practices now complete, the Tar Heels have begun to lose some of that depth due to three season ending injuries.

Sophomore bandit Shakeel Rashad, safety Sam Smiley and wide receiver Dalton Stogner will all miss the 2013 season due to injury, Fedora said.

“Any time you lose one guy it’s concerning,” Fedora said. “And to lose three —that’s why you’re constantly talking about depth, building depth, and doing what it takes depth-wise.”

To create that depth, Fedora has given young players as many reps as possible early in camp to get used to the fast-paced style.

“We’re going to have young kids that are going to have to step out there,” Fedora said. “I don’t want the first they try to be when they get out there on Aug. 29.”

Mastromatteo gets first team reps

Among the young players seeing reps is redshirt freshman linebacker Dan Mastromatteo. So far, he’s seen some time with the first-team defense.

While Fedora said that Mastromatteo is still making mistakes and has a lot to learn, he was quick to compliment his young linebacker.

“He goes hard all the time,” Fedora said. “He doesn’t ever take a lazy step. If he’s going to make that mistake, he’s making it full speed.

“That’s all you can ask for from a young guy right now.”

Progress being made

Even though the Tar Heels have until the end of the month to prepare for their season-opening game against South Carolina, Fedora knows he’s running out of time.

Along with stressing the importance of depth, Fedora said he’s trying to instill a sense of urgency into his players.

“I couldn’t tell you how many days we have left because we’re in camp, and I don’t even know what today is,” Fedora said. “There’s got to be a sense of urgency in everything we do whether it be a meeting, a walk through (or) a rep in practice.”

Fedora said he’s installed 99 percent of his schemes so far, but added his players need to learn the little things.

Francis the freshman

There’s no question that veterans Romar Morris and A.J. Blue are the front runners for starting tailback.

But with spring practices under his belt, freshman running back Khris Francis is prepared to help the Tar Heels in whatever way possible. In the spring game, Francis ran for 101 yards on 20 carries.

Though Francis said it was too early to know his role in the offense after practice Wednesday, he sees himself backing up Morris and Blue.

As a newcomer to the UNC offense, Francis is trying to assimilate into Fedora’s program as quickly as possible, but the pace of the Tar Heels’ offense is faster than anything he experienced at Durham’s Hillside High School.

“I’ve never been this tired after four plays in my life,” Francis said. “I mean, we didn’t do huddles in high school, but we never ran at this pace.

“We thought we were fast, but apparently we were not.”

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