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UNC forced to practice indoors on short field

UNC’s indoor practice facility is scheduled to be ready by August 1, 2018 -- but the Tar Heels could have used it on Wednesday.
UNC’s indoor practice facility is scheduled to be ready by August 1, 2018 -- but the Tar Heels could have used it on Wednesday. UNC

Think Larry Fedora is counting down the days until North Carolina's indoor practice facility becomes a reality instead of a rendering?

“I can't emphasize enough how excited we are about building a new facility,” Fedora said on Wednesday, after the threat of lightning forced the Tar Heels off of their usual outdoor practice fields.

He was speaking inside the Eddie Smith Field House, where the Tar Heels practiced on a 50-yard field that lacks the space to allow Fedora and his staff to accomplish what they'd like to accomplish in a practice. And so, Fedora said, “We do the best we can.”

It wasn't the best of days for weather to disrupt UNC's practice schedule. The Tar Heels play at No. 12 Florida State on Saturday in another one of those measuring stick games for UNC, which hasn't beaten a top-15 team on the road in 15 years.

Fedora estimated that UNC accomplished between 65 percent and 75 percent of what it normally would have during a Wednesday practice. For one thing, practicing in the field house virtually eliminates any special teams work for kickers, because of the low roof.

The length of the field limits what the offense is able to do. And when the offense and defense go against each other in drills that don't include the offensive and defensive lines, there's not a lot of space for the linemen to work elsewhere.

“So you're kind of finding pockets that you can't get something accomplished,” said Chris Kapilovic, UNC's offensive coordinator. While he spoke he looked down at the turf beneath his feet – a thick, dark green surface turf at least looked like the infamous turf in the old Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.

“This turf and the stability of it makes you a little nervous,” Kapilovic said. “I played on this stuff back in the late 80s. So, this is the astroturf – this is old-school stuff. So you don't want to be on it too much, but the nuts and bolts of our practice, we got accomplished.”

Construction on UNC's indoor practice facility, which will cost an estimated $25 million, hasn't yet started. The target date for its completion is Aug. 1, 2018.

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