UNC’s fountain of youth brings early success with revamped offense
By Brad Crawford
When first year North Carolina head coach Butch Davis signed a multi-year contract with the Tar Heels in November 2006, he was expected to win early and bring recruiting expertise along with him to Chapel Hill.
Signing Day 2007 saw the Tar Heels pick up four of the top 100 five-star recruits including defensive tackle Marvin Austin and wide receivers Dwight Jones and Greg Little.
Little, a 6-foot-3 receiving gem from Durham Hillside High, enrolled at North Carolina ranked as the No. 6 prospect in the nation by superprep.com coming out of high school, headlining UNC’s 2007 signing class.
The freshman receiver scored his first collegiate touchdown on a 16-yard reception in a 21-15 loss to South Carolina on Oct. 13.
Through seven games, Little has five catches for 53 yards and one touchdown.
Wideout Brandon Tate along with sophomore receiver Hakeem Nicks have stepped up as focal points of the much
improved North Carolina passing attack that ranks third in the Atlantic Coast Conference with an average of 245 passing yards per contest.
Tate does it all for the Tar Heels, returning punts and kickoffs in addition to his wide receiver duties, averaging 24.7 yards per kickoff return in 2007.
The 6-foot-1 junior from Burlington, N.C., became just the ninth player in NCAA history in 2006 to return a kickoff and punt for a touchdown in the same game.
His 223 all-purpose yards this season on Oct. 6 versus Miami, highlighted by a 54-yard touchdown run, earned him Progress Energy Tar Heel Athlete of the Week accolades.
Tate has averaged 148.4 all-purpose yards per game through seven games this season.
Nicks returns to the Tar Heels as the Atlantic Coast Conference’s leading receiver from 2006, registering more receptions last season than a pair of 2007 NFL Draft picks.
He set a pair of UNC freshman receiving records last season including number of receptions, 39, and receiving yards, 660.
Thus far in 2007, Nicks leads the Tar Heels with 39 receptions for 527 yards and three touchdowns.
Alongside Tate and Little, Nicks leads a talented trio of Tar Heel receivers and is an All-ACC First Team candidate.
North Carolina currently sits at 2-5, hoping to win its remaining games to become bowl eligible in Davis’ first season as head coach.
UNC’s last trip to a bowl game came in 2004, when the Tar Heels lost 37-24 to Boston College in the Tire Bowl, then coach by John Bunting.
A formidable task awaits the Tar Heels with road trips to Wake Forest and Georgia Tech remaining on the schedule as well as contests with in-state rivals North Carolina State and Duke.