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UNC starts anew with first preseason football practice

By Andrew Carter
acarter@newsobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/02/01/31/1eTxYm.Em.138.jpeg|200
    photos by Robert Willett - rwillett@newsobserver.com
    UNC quarterback Marquise Williams runs the offense during the Tar Heels' opening day of football practice for the 2014 season on Friday at Navy Field in Chapel Hill, N.C. Williams will compete with redshirt fresham quarterback Mitch Trubisky throughout the preseason
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/02/01/31/G4MMM.Em.138.jpeg|211
    Robert Willett - rwillett@newsobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/02/01/31/1jgOWh.Em.138.jpeg|224
    Robert Willett - rwillett@newsobserver.com
    UNC coach Larry Fedora directs his team during the Tar Heels' opening day of football practice for the 2014 season on Friday at Navy Field in Chapel Hill, N.C.

CHAPEL HILL Bobby Bowden, the retired Florida State coach who led his teams to more victories than anyone at the FBS level, liked to say that everybody looked like an All-American on the first day of practice, running around in shorts and without pads.

And so it was on Friday at North Carolina, where the Tar Heels officially began preseason practice at 9:50 a.m. By then, the Navy Practice Fields were already full, the music was already blaring and coaches were already yelling.

It was a typical scene in a typical first-day practice – one that didn’t include any pads or hitting while players go through an NCAA-mandated acclimation period. In terms of real news, there wasn’t much out of UNC’s first day.

Marquise Williams, the fourth-year junior quarterback from Charlotte, took snaps with the first-team offense and Mitch Trubisky, the redshirt freshman, worked with the second team.

Williams and Trubisky, both competing for the starting quarterback position, split time with the first team throughout the spring, and that rotation is likely to continue in some form during the next four weeks of preseason practice.

Elsewhere, John Ferranto, a sophomore, worked with the first team offense at left tackle, which is a position of concern following the departure of James Hurst, a four-year starter. Ferranto will compete with R.J. Prince and Bentley Spain, a heralded freshman, for the starting left tackle position.

On defense, Jeff Schoettmer, who missed spring practice while recovering from shoulder surgery, resumed work with the first team at middle linebacker. Spring practice ended with Schoettmer, UNC’s leading returning tackler, listed as a backup on the depth chart.

UNC began practice without four scholarship players, three of whom have left the program for good. The departure of defensive tackles Shawn Underwood and Greg Webb have created depth concerns at that position, and it’s likely coach Larry Fedora and his staff will have to shuffle players into new positions on the defensive line.

The best news, perhaps, for UNC on the first day: The Tar Heels began practice without any injuries. No one was sidelined, and the exercise bikes – usually occupied by players nursing various injuries – went unused, at least during open-to-the-media portion of practice.

Fedora and players weren’t available for post-practice interviews Friday, but plenty of those will come on Saturday during UNC’s annual media day – which precedes the “Meet the Heels” event, scheduled to start at 4 p.m.

There likely wasn’t much to say on Friday, anyway. UNC started practice, and the players looked good, energized by the start of something new. The long grind of the preseason, though, was just beginning.

•  Charlotte-area recruits sign: UNC announced Friday quarterback Anthony Ratliff and tight end Carl Tucker signed scholarship papers and will enroll in January 2015.

Ratliff is a 6-1, 195-pound nationally-ranked dual-threat quarterback from Butler High near Charlotte.

Tucker is a 6-2, 220-pound tight end from Hough High School in Cornelius. Tucker is regarded as one of the top athletes in the 2015 class.

Carter: 919-829-8944; Twitter: @_andrewcarter
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