CHAPEL HILL - The first building blocks for the 2013 season have been laid, but there's plenty of work ahead before North Carolina's football team is ready to face South Carolina on August 29.
So said UNC's second-year head coach Larry Fedora[ on Saturday after watching the veteran Blue squad defeat the White, 34-10, in the annual scrimmage to cap spring practice at Kenan Stadium.
Senior quarterback Bryn Renner completed 16 of 27 passes for 216 yards and three touchdowns, while sophomore running back Romar Morris rushed for 80 yards on 15 carries and scored once to pace the Blue squad's victory.
Despite those impressive statistics, Fedora left the field still very much concerned about the Tar Heels' continuity on the offensive front, their ability to stop the run on defense and the team's overall depth.
"We've come a long way,'' Fedora said. "We've got a long way to go, but you got to see a few guys get out there and make some plays today. (We made) A lot of mistakes. But anytime you split the team, you get real thin in a lot of areas, and it makes it that much tougher.''
The Blue team was stacked with many of the players expected to start for the Tar Heels next fall, at least those who actually participated. Seventeen players sat out Saturday's action due to injuries or other reasons, including projected starters like sophomore safety Sam Smiley, junior linebacker Darius Lipford, senior offensive tackle James Hurst and junior tight end Eric Ebron. Senior cornerback Jabari Price was also listed on the "Will Not Play'' list prior to the game, but did see action
The White squad consisted mainly of underclassmen and its roster didn't include a single senior.
But there were still some impressive performances by the White squad, most notably by true freshman running back Khris Francis. The 5-foot-9, 195-pounder, who would normally be preparing for his prom at Durham's Hillside High School, was instead asked to carry the ball 20 times for the White squad for 101 yards.
Fedora said after Saturday's scrimmage that Francis had proven worthy to compete for playing time next fall with senior A.J. Blue and Morris. Another incoming freshman, T.J. Logan from Greensboro, is also expected to join the competition next fall. Logan was rated as the state's top prospect at running back in the recruiting Class of 2013.
"Right now I'm just trying to make sure I understand everything in the playbook and get my conditioning up,'' Francis said. "I noticed that after a couple of plays running today I was sucking for wind. Like the coaches say, they are going to need all of us (running backs) because of the fast tempo we run. I can't wait.''
Francis is one of four recruits from the 2013 signing class who enrolled early at UNC and participated in spring practice. Another of those is quarterback Mitch Trubisky from Mentor, Ohio.
In the absence of last year's second-team quarterback, Marquis Williams who left school for the spring semester, Trubisky worked himself this spring into position to become Renner's backup. He completed 7 of 14 passes for 88 yards for the White team on Saturday, then went 3-4 for 82 more yards for the Blue team after Renner completed his day. Trubisky threw his only touchdown pass - a 20-yarder to sophomore Damien Washington in the fourth period - and was intercepted twice in the game.
Fedora expects Williams to return to school this summer, but noted Trubisky's spring performance had earned him a chance to compete to for the No. 2 job.
"If went out there to play today, he (Trubisky) would be in the No. 2 spot,'' Fedora said. "Marquis comes back in summer and will be competing for No. 2 spot.
"I did not expect him (Trubisky) to pick things up and grasp offense as fast as he did, or command the offense as quick as he did. He's been able to do that right now at this early date, and I was impressed with him.''
Freshman receiver Jordan Fieulleteau also enjoyed a strong spring outing, making eight catches for 59 yards on the White team.
But the day belonged to the Blue squad, which jumped out a 21-3 halftime lead and never looked back.
The biggest offensive play of the afternoon by the Blue team didn't go for a touchdown and wasn't a pass throw by Renner. Instead it a was 52-yard wide receiver pass from sophomore Quinshad Davis to junior Sean Tapley to start the second period. The play set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Morris that provided the Blue's halftime advantage.
"We ran it one time last year,'' Tapley said of the play. "But I was supposed to be throwing the ball this time. But Quinshad wanted to be the quarterback, so I said he could throw it.''
Defensively, the clear star of the day was senior end Kareem Martin. Martin dominated the White offensive front, breaking free to make four sacks for 24 yards in losses and seven tackles overall.
"I was amped up to play,'' Martin said. "I just wanted to show people what I've been working on during spring ball.''
But while Martin enjoyed a big day, the defensive lines on both teams surrendered big yardage on the ground. The offensive lines also gave up nine sacks in the game.
Both those performances left Fedora concerned heading into the off season.
"Up front on both sides of the ball we've still got to do a much better job,'' he said. "Defensively, we've got to stop the run. We were getting gassed in a lot of different areas.''
Of course, the offensive line was missing a key performer in senior tackle James Hurst, who sat out the game.
One other highlight of the spring game activities was the unveiling of a new uniform combination to be used next season. In cooperation with Nike, the new uniforms will give the Tar Heels three different jersey options, including a Carolina blue top with black numbers, a white jersey with black numbers and a black jersey with blue numbers. Carolina will have three pant options - Carolina blue, white and black.
The Carolina blue top and white pant will continue as the traditional home uniform, according to a release issued by the school.
The new apparel was revealed to the Tar Heel players on Friday. Several players modeled the uniforms at halftime of Saturday's scrimmage.
"I'm just happy we got the uniforms before I left,'' Tapley said. "(Former running back) Gio (Bernard) and (receiver) Erik (Highsmith) are pretty made they weren't able to step into those uniforms.''
UNC will wear the all-black uniform combination in an Atlantic Coast Conference game against Miami scheduled Oct. 17. The school has billed the game as "Zero Dark Thursday,'' due to its Thursday night date on national television.
But well before that will be South Carolina, which is likely to be a preseason Top 25 pick in 2013. The Tar Heels were already focused on the Gamecocks as soon as Saturday's scrimmage ended.
"We've had 15 great practices,'' said Renner. "We did OK. But we'll build on this and work on it this summer because we've got a very big game in 138 days.''
2013 North Carolina Spring Game
Blue 34, White 10 • April 13, 2013
Kenan Stadium • Chapel Hill, N.C. • Attendance 15,000
Score by Quarters
Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th Final
White 0 3 0 7 10
Blue 0 21 6 7 34
Team Qtr. Time Scoring Play Conversion Score
Blue 2 13:50 Morris 2 run Moore kick 0-7
Blue 2 10:27 Blue 33 pass from Renner Moore kick 0-14
White 2 5:58 24 FG by Weiler 3-14
Blue 2 4:20 Tapley 48 pass from Renner Moore kick 3-21
Blue 3 7:11 Singleton 10 pass from Renner Spelman miss 3-27
Blue 4 12:05 Washington 20 pass from Trubisky Johnson kick 3-34
White 4 6:41 Hollins 25 pass from Pressley Weiler kick 10-34
Blue: Blue 8-30; Morris 15-80, 1 TD; Renner 3-(-4); Davis 1-0
White: Francis 20-101, Trubisky 8-(-28), Brunson 14-39, Hollins 1-(-1), Coker 4-(-7), Pressley 1-6, Davis 4-(-2)
Blue: Davis 3-34; Platt 3-61; Morris 2-25; Singleton 2-24, TD; Tabb 1-12; Albright 2-17; Stogner 2-16; Blue 1-33, TD: Tapley 3-108, TD; Washington 1-20, TD
White: Fieulleteau 8-59; Knox 6-72; Darty 3-19; Heavner 1-2, D. McNeill 1-3; Hollins 1-25, TD; Campbell 1-37, Washington 2-22
Blue: Jackson 2 tackles; Green 3, INT; Hughes 14, 2 sacks for 14 yards; Martin 7, 2 TFL for 8, 4 sacks for 24 yards; Price 5, 1 PBU; Staub 9; Boston 6; Ellerbe 5, 1 PBU, 2 sacks for 17; Otis 7, 1 TFL for 6; Broach 1; Mangum 1, 1 TFL for 1; Champagne 3, 1 TFL for 3; Alberts 3, 1 sack for 5; Gnonkonde 3; Scott 1
White: Heffernan 4, Dixon 5, 1 TFL for 1, 1 INT for 4; Rashad 1, 1 PBU; Thomason 7; Furr 2; James 1; A. Moore 2, 1 PBU; J. Jackson 4, Battle 8, 1 PBU; Davis 2; K. Jackson 2, 1 INT for 13, 1 PBU; Bales 1; Mastromatteo 3; Brown 2; Williamson 1; Farmer 2, 1 sack for 9; Petrocelli 1, Heaven 1.