North Carolina’s media day is typically a tame affair, not anything like the infamous press circus before the Super Bowl. But junior receiver Mack Hollins did his best to liven up the event on Saturday.
Hollins — a noted animal lover — brought out two pythons from a box marked “Rushed Delivery, Frozen Meat” partially through team pictures. The two snakes, a 2-year-old albino snow glow python named Nikity and a four-year-old ball python whose names include Gavin, Slice, Kendrick and Cersei, belong to Hollins, who prefers the convenience of snakes to other pets.
“They don’t mess up my carpet, they don’t chew up the pillows…I don’t have to feed them every day,” Hollins said. “It’s kind of convenient for situations like this when I’m in camp for two weeks straight or three weeks straight at a hotel and I’m not able to get back to the house. The snakes will be fine.”
Other than that, the rest of media day adhered to normalcy. Here are some quick notes and quotes.
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▪ UNC added a new face to its punting competition in former Aussie rules football player Tom Sheldon. Coach Larry Fedora noticed a trend in college football of Australian punters like LSU’s Brad Wing, who now kicks for the New York Giants. After looking into it, he found an organization called Pro Kick Australia that works to transition Aussie rules players to American football.
After a few phone calls, he was set up with Sheldon.
“It was just a few phone calls and hoping when he got here I wasn’t going to get catfished,” Fedora said. “It was basically over the Internet and over the telephone. I never saw Tom in person, so I was hoping when he got here he really was a real person.”
The 27-year-old Sheldon will step into competition immediately with senior Joey Mangili. Last season’s opening day punter, Corbin Daly, is not at fall camp. Teams can only bring 105 players to camp and Daly didn’t make the cut after a rough first season.
▪ After burning his redshirt part of the way through his first season, former 270-pound defensive end Jalen Dalton is now listed at 300 pounds and at defensive tackle. The sophomore will compete with fellow sophomores Robert Dinkins and Jeremiah Clarke for the second starting defensive tackle spot next to junior Naz Jones, but so far appears to have an early lead.
“He’s just a great player,” Jones said. “He showed he belongs in the starting position over the spring. I always thought he should be playing beside me.”
▪ Junior defensive end Dajaun Drennon is still easing his way back from a foot injury he suffered in April. He was on the sideline in a red jersey doing conditioning on Friday and walked out for team pictures on Saturday with a boot on his right foot. In the meantime, first-year defensive end Tomon Fox has impressed with his level of physicality.
▪ Speaking of physicality, UNC’s first practice in shoulder pads will be on Sunday. The team will be hitting from here on out.
“First two days in helmets and shorts, everybody looks pretty running around in shorts and all that,” Fedora said. “But tomorrow, we start playing football.”
▪ The Tar Heels appear to have come a long way from the 2014 season, where back-to-back crushing losses against N.C. State and Rutgers to close the season revealed the sometimes toxic chemistry on the team. Last year’s team was much closer, and the slogan #GotYourBack was more than a hashtag.
This year’s team appears to be even closer. From Fedora snapping a selfie with the team before picture day to Mack Hollins and the other receivers providing both levity and leadership, the team appears to have grown closer. The season is only two days old, and as Fedora says there’s still a lot of adversity to come, but so far so good.