Training camp has only just begun for the Tar Heels, but North Carolina coach Larry Fedora is all too aware of the countdown to the Sept. 3 opener against South Carolina.
“We’re running out of time,” Fedora said. “You can’t tell yourself that lie that you’ve got plenty of time, ’cause you don’t. We don’t have plenty of time. … There’s a tremendous sense of urgency in what we have to get accomplished between now and then.”
With just more than four weeks until the Tar Heels meet the Gamecocks in Charlotte, Fedora has plenty to worry about: A defense that must be fixed and an offense that needs to gel after several starters missed spring ball.
Then there’s the chemistry issue that junior receiver Ryan Switzer spoke out about after UNC’s loss to Rutgers in the Quick Lane Bowl.
“If you don’t have chemistry off the field, it’s hard to gain it on the field,” Switzer said after Monday’s camp-opening practice.
After a January team meeting and a summer of workouts, though, Switzer said he thinks the Tar Heels are in a good place.
“We got it out of the way,” he said. “We’re starting fresh. It’s a whole new season.”
And with that new start is a mentality senior quarterback Marquise Williams hasn’t seen during his time at North Carolina.
“Everybody’s excited to be back. We haven’t felt this way in years,” said Williams, who joked that his surgically repaired left hip felt so good he wished he could have the same procedure on his right side.
“No one’s ever been excited going into training camp like we (were) this year.”
Williams seems quieter and mellower compared to past years, according to Switzer, but UNC still takes its lead from its quarterback. And in sharp contrast to the comments Switzer made in December, he said the team now seems ready to work.
“You’re not trying to survive, you’re trying to excel,” Switzer said. “You’re trying to get better, better your craft. I sense that in a lot of guys. It’s good to have.”
But as the team trudges through August, the Tar Heels will need to maintain the same sort of attitude. Fedora stressed to his players as practice wrapped up Monday that he needed to see the same effort in practice 16 that he saw on Day1.
“We haven’t accomplished anything,” Fedora said about the months leading up to Monday, “but we’ve put in a lot of work. Now let’s find out who we’re gonna be.”
▪ Senior cornerback Malik Simmons was back on the field after being reinstated by Fedora. Simmons will face two misdemeanor charges in an Orange County court Thursday. “We’re gonna wait to see this thing play out and then there will be, obviously, consequences later,” said Fedora.
▪ Senior receiver Quinshad Davis practiced for the first time since fracturing his tibia in December against Rutgers. Davis isn’t in playing shape yet, but Fedora said he wasn’t worried about his readiness for the start of the season.
“I’m not concerned,” Fedora said. “I don’t worry about Quinshad. He’ll make that happen.”
DiLalla: 919-829-4835; @AricDiLalla