Rain doesn't dampen Tar Heels' recruiting push in Charlotte

dscott@charlotteobserver.comApril 5, 2012 

North Carolina’s planned football scrimmage at Mallard Creek High was transformed into an autograph session in the school’s cafeteria after rain and lightning passed through the Charlotte area Thursday evening.

Because of the bad weather, the Tar Heels never took the field in the Mavericks’ stadium – although light-blue yardage markers and goal-post pads had already been set up by UNC’s football staff.

Instead, the team and several hundred fans who had hoped to see the scrimmage repaired to the cafeteria, where they mingled for autographs and photos for about an hour.

Then the Tar Heels turned around and returned to Chapel Hill. They’ll make up the lost night of practice with another later in the spring on their own practice fields.

“I’m disappointed about missing some reps,” said first-year coach Larry Fedora. “And I’m sure the players are disappointed about not being able to get out there in front of some fans.”

The trip to Mallard Creek – where Tar Heels redshirt freshman quarterback Marquise Williams played – was an effort by Fedora to help spread the North Carolina brand around the state and to also make some recruiting inroads in Charlotte.

The Tar Heels’ roster includes three scholarship players from Mecklenburg County – Williams, punter/placekicker Miller Snyder of Myers Park and offensive guard Peyton Jenest of North Mecklenburg.

“We’ve got to do a great job (of recruiting) in Charlotte,” said Fedora. “There are a lot of great football players in the Charlotte area and it’s going to be a point of emphasis for us to do a better job with it.”

Fedora said he plans on continuing to scrimmage around the state each spring, probably in more than one city.

Williams (who was recruited by former Tar Heels coach Butch Davis) spent a lot of time talking to fans and old friends in the cafeteria where he once ate his lunch every day.

“I kind of got a little emotional coming back here, where I played on Friday nights,” said Williams.

Williams is competing for the quarterback job with last year’s starter, Bryn Renner. They would have been part of a two-hour scrimmage Thursday that was to have included 150 plays in Fedora’s no-huddle, spread offense.

Contrast that to Davis’s more conventional offense, which would run closer to 65-70 plays in two hours. Fedora said the Tar Heels have run more plays in seven days of practice than UNC did in 15 days of spring practice in 2011.

That takes some adjusting to by the players.

“The work load itself is tough, not only pace itself, but amount of reps,” said Fedora. “The first thing that happens is fatigue, then soft-tissue injuries and things that hurt more than they normally hurt.

“Once you overcome those problems, you’re doing things at a very fast tempo where people are yelling at you all the time. It’s fun, but it’s not fun, if that make sense.”

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