North Carolina wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer spoke with Tar Heel Illustrated Tuesday afternoon as UNC gets closer to Saturday's season opener against Elon in Kenan Stadium. Brewer provides an overall look at the Tar Heel wide receivers corps as the season nears its arrival.
Do you feel that the UNC receivers are ready to go out there and play a game?
Right now we've got nine guys in our room, and that's what we've got. So we're going to go with those nine, and they're going to get better as every play goes by, and they've worked hard.
People are going to be given opportunities before their time, and so it's a case where when you recruited them, you told them they had a chance to play early, and that wasn't a lie. We just didn't know how early it was going to be due to injuries and other things.
They're going to get thrown into the fire and we'll see how they turn out. But we're excited.
The biggest thing is that they've been there before. Whether it's a pre-game walk-through. Whether it's a pre-game meal or how you dress in the locker room. What do you do before a game? How do you handle yourself? Riding on the bus, the Old Well Walk. Just the things you don't even think about as a fan that they handle as a group because of experience.
You're talking about rookies that haven't done anything, so they can show them one how to practice, and just maturity level. That's the main thing.
You've got a guy like Sean Tapley who has shown potential but doesn't really have the playing experience. What have you seen out of him since the spring in terms of his growth?
He's growing because of the number of reps he's getting and the opportunities he's getting. So we're excited about what he's been able to do with the reps he's had. He's getting better. You see that.
We obviously want a finished product, just because that's what we're used to, but this is the first time this offense has been instilled and they've got to react to that. We haven't been in a game situation yet other than the spring game. They'll obviously grow by playing and getting better with those high reps.
We'll see what happens on Saturday and we're looking forward to making that improvement from game to game, and this team will grow and improve as the year grows on because of the youth and inexperience. And not only the way we do things in the new offense and how we want things done.
Is it unique to get players like Mark McNeill and Roy Smith to come from other sports? Have you seen that?
You see every blue moon a guy come from track. Of course I haven't been very many places that had lacrosse, but Mark had played football before, and Roy played in high school. He's a couple years out.
It's just one of those years that it's happened, and they have an opportunity earlier to play. They're going to get that chance on Saturday, and both of them are going to be able to play a vital role, whether it be on special teams or whether it be on offense.
What about the freshman receivers?
All of them have good work habits. That's the best thing about it. They're very coachable. That's extremely important, because it's a tough deal. They're kind of like boot camp. They've been thrown to the fire early. They've been sent to war as 18-year olds, and now you've got to learn to keep your head down or get shot.
They've gotten a literal sense. They've been thrown into the fire. So now they've got to be fire-tested and hope the other guys will show them how to do it.
All of them have worked hard and have extremely good attitudes. And that's something they can work with. They've all got good talent too. It's just putting them in the right place and finding out where they fit in this offense.
Erik Highsmith, how has he been sort of the 'rock' this summer?
He's been the steady guy. He's kind of our go-to guy because he has been on the field more than anybody, and he has shown a propensity to make plays. So therefore your quarterback finds that guy when times are tough. That's my rock over there. I can go to him.