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Michael Felder will be twittering for UNC fans from the Spring Showcase.
The trees start to green up, the lawn mowers come out on weekends, windows stay open, and drinking beers on the patio of your favorite bar is back in season.
It can only mean one thing, spring football time in the south.
Teams are introducing philosophies, finding new quarterbacks, and filling roster holes left by graduation, dismissal, and the Holy Grail that is the NFL Draft.
New faces such as Lane Kiffin and Dabo Swinney are building program support, while the most familiar mugs Frank Beamer and Bobby Bowden try to teach another group of young men to cope with expectations.
Teams like Florida, LSU, Georgia Tech, and Alabama are racing towards their annual spring showcases trying to fill holes and show boosters that 2009 can be “THE” year.
The same can be said for Butch Davis, the 57-year-old head man for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. Davis enters his third spring at the helm in Chapel Hill, and coming off a brilliant recruiting effort, the Heels charged into the spring ready to do serious work.
They not only added three new faces to the coaching staff, but the Heels were tasked with replacing holes in the offensive line, secondary, linebackers, and the entire receiving corps.
Opening spring practice on March 4 gave the Heels one of the earliest starts in the nation, and gave the young team a chance to gel with their new staff early. While creating staff and player synergy is crucial, true benefits of Davis’ early spring schedule will be reaped on Saturday March 28, as well as in the months to come.
The advantages will be seen on multiple fronts, including current players, community goodwill, and most importantly on the recruiting trails. It certainly would appear that Davis and his staff have put together another win in Chapel Hill to add to the momentum build during the recruiting season.
For the Tar Heels currently on the roster, the advanced schedule should yield some clearly tangible results. The first and most important result will be the athletes’ abilities to spend the month of April functioning as a normal student; more or less.
Without the hours spent on film breakdowns, daily install sessions, practices, and scrimmages, the student athletes will have time to focus on the tests, papers, projects, and finals that never fail to pile up as the end of the semester approaches.
It gives the academic support staff, as well as the players, an opportunity to correct lapses, improve performance, and address problem areas in the classroom.
While the classroom benefits will be much appreciated by the academic support staff and the UNC community, the secondary benefit is the one that will be felt most noticeably on the gridiron. Spring football’s early ending begat offseason conditioning’s early beginning.
Teams across the nation will be wrapping up spring as the Tar Heels are keying up their summer conditioning program. Instead of bring players back after exams to initiate offseason workouts, the Heels’ bodies will be working trending towards summer time shape as they return to campus for the first summer session.
Unlike the Alabama's, Florida's, and Nebraska’s of the world, spring football has yet to become a statewide event for North Carolina. However, Davis is working to change this mindset and spring attendance has increased tremendously since his arrival in 2007.
The 2009 spring game should be a banner year as Chapel Hill hosts Super Saturday, a day in which visitors can take in all that Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina has to offer.
This event begins with Tar Heel Town, an interactive fan experience geared towards young and old fans alike and moves into the 2009 Tar Heel Spring Showcase where the football team will give the public a glimpse of what fall 2009 will hold.
Adding to the experience of the Super Saturday are four other sporting events to immerse attendees in the college sports atmosphere. UNC’s men’s and women’s lacrosse, softball, and men’s tennis will all take their respective fields to put on a show; all free of charge.
The culmination of the day of course being the No. 5 Tar Heels taking on the No. 24 Virginia Cavaliers on the baseball diamond. Fans not only get to take in a promising young Tar Heels football team projected to open the season in the top 20, but they also get to take in their choice from the UNC sports buffet.
This is the biggest plus for Davis and the Tar Heels entering the summer recruiting season. Getting kids on campus to the spring game is a major recruiting tool, it allows for them to witness practice intensity, simulated game scenarios, and interact more openly with staff and players than during the high pressure atmosphere of a game day Saturday.
UNC has a leg up on area schools in getting all the kids they want to visit Carolina for the spring game.
While Clemson, Georgia, and South Carolina are battling over who will come to campus for their April 11 spring games, the Heel’s March 28 date is almost exclusively their own as Miami is the only team of note to share this coming Saturday.
The 11th is only modestly crowded compared to the full slate of games on the 18th, most notably including ACC (Duke, GT, NCSU, UVA, Wake), SEC (Alabama, LSU, Florida, Tennessee), and recruiting threats West Virginia and East Carolina.
Schools such as OU (11th), Texas (5th), FSU (4th), and the aforementioned Miami, have set themselves up to be in the catbird seat just as the Heels have done.
With OU and Texas’ games coming on back-to-back weekends, they can show off for the same group of individuals and with staggered scheduling Florida, Miami, and FSU can push to get the cream of Florida’s crop on campus.
For UNC, the major recruiting threats of Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Clemson, South Carolina, and Georgia won’t be a factor in recruits deciding to visit the spring game; Davis takes the guess work out of it.
This recruiting season, Davis has taken a stranglehold on recruiting in the state of North Carolina, landing the majority of the states top recruits, as well as swiping big names from the border states of Georgia and Virginia.
His Spring Showcase is another step in the right direction for the Tar Heels football program. By moving up spring practice, the savvy veteran has taken some monumental strokes towards painting yet another recruiting class masterpiece for 2010.