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DeCock: Expectations for UNC’s Davis high, but with no number attached

By Luke DeCock - staff columnist
Luke has worked for The News & Observer since 2000. He covered the Carolina Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a sports columnist in August 2008. A native of Evanston, Ill., he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.
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CHAPEL HILL There’s no target for Quinshad Davis this season, no number to reach, no gaudy total to surpass.

A year after North Carolina coach Larry Fedora demanded 100 catches from the wide receiver – and 12 touchdowns from tight end Eric Ebron – Fedora isn’t throwing around any hard figures this year.

“I haven’t set targets for them,” Fedora said Monday. “Really, it’s more just challenging them and talking about what their goals are and what they want to accomplish as an individual, and then what we need to do as a team.”

In other words, no numbers this time around. Not after Davis and Ebron fell quite a bit short of where the ballyhooed bar was set.

Oddly enough, Davis came closer to Ebron’s target with 10 touchdowns and Ebron came closer to Davis’ goal with 62 catches. But Davis couldn’t get halfway to triple digits, finishing with 48 catches on the season – a decrease from the 61 he caught as a freshman, although at a higher per-catch average and with twice as many trips to the end zone.

“When you got a guy like Eric Ebron on the other side of you, obviously he’s going to get a lot of catches, how explosive he was,” Davis said. “It really didn’t make a difference, the 100 catches, when you’ve got someone like that on the other side.”

It took the Tar Heels a while to get rolling, and about the time they did, quarterback Bryn Renner was lost for the season and Marquise Williams was running the offense. The disruption deprived Davis of some of the throws he and Fedora were expecting.

There’s still uncertainty at quarterback, with Williams and redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky battling for the starting job, but Ebron is off to the NFL and T.J. Thorpe is injured again, leaving Davis as the Tar Heels’ undisputed No. 1 target.

“I feel like I’ll get more double coverage this year, with Eric gone,” Davis said. “But that’s not going to stop me. You have to make plays somehow.”

The ACC returns some extremely talented receivers, most notably Duke’s Jamison Crowder, Florida State’s Rashad Greene and Pittsburgh’s Tyler Boyd. All three were first- or second-team all-ACC last season. Davis wasn’t.

But in this fast-paced offense, with Davis’ physical ability, 6-foot-4 frame and speed, what’s stopping him from being the most productive player at the position in the conference?

Nothing. Just as long as one of the quarterbacks can get him the ball.

“That’s always my goal,” Davis said. “I just have to get a good connection with both quarterbacks, because we don’t know who’s going to be playing.”

Even after bulking up last summer, Davis was able to add more muscle again, going from 204 pounds a year ago to 218 now. If “100 catches” was appended to his name last year, he hopes “physical” is the word this time around.

“I just want to go out there and play this year,” Davis said. “Just let it happen.”

No round numbers this season. If the quarterback situation is settled and North Carolina’s offense clicks the way it’s capable, the catches will pile up for Davis whether there’s a numerical target set for him or not.

DeCock:, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947
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