Tar Heels enjoying summer months

August 5, 2009 

Football players talk every year about how hard they've worked in the summer. They summarize how much progress they have made, how things will be different this time around, especially if they have not been winning.

North Carolina coach Butch Davis and his players say there is tangible evidence this summer of the difference in this football team.

"Far and away, this is the best summer that we've had," Davis said this week. "We have an award we give kids for participation, how much improvement, how hard they work, their dedication. [Strength coach Jeff Connors] is pretty tough on them.

"The first year, I think we had 11. Last year we had 18. This year we had 40 who are going to be recipients of that, so that is definitely moving in the right direction."

Carolina senior defensive end E.J. Wilson said that UNC's bowl game after last season provided a good point of reference for a team that improved from four victories in Davis' first season to eight a year ago.

"We needed to see if we were put into that situation how we would handle it," Wilson said. "Even though we lost that game, we played fairly well, considering we played a great team and a great quarterback."

"More people have seen how that actually pays off," Wilson said. "You can't just show up on Saturdays without putting the work in. The games are won in the summer in the heat and in the weight room. The games aren't won on Saturdays. You have to put the work in before you actually go out there.

"That has become a part of people becoming stronger, getting faster, getting more explosive. The coaches aren't just talking about it."

There's more to it, too, than just running, lifting weights and the players running plays on their own.

"Even when no one tells us we have to do anything, there are a lot more people coming in," Wilson said. "And it's not just the veterans. The freshmen have come in. (Defensive back) Gene Robinson is probably the hardest-working freshmen I've ever seen come into the program. He holds himself to a high standard.

"That does give me confidence, that those guys come in and see how we work, and they want to be the same way. This program is really going the way we want it to go." And this is one line to fill.

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