CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -When Butch Davis is coaching an elite quarterback, his teams have been tough to beat. Just ask Ken Dorsey.
Nobody knows yet whether T.J. Yates belongs in that class. But while North Carolina's quarterback hopes to have transformed from interception-prone redshirt freshman to a sophomore confident in his command of the offense, Davis certainly isn't asking him to morph into the second coming of Dorsey or do his best Troy Aikman imitation.
With one of the Atlantic Coast Conference's best sets of receivers at his disposal and in an up-for-grabs Coastal Division, Yates' game plan is simple: Get the ball to those playmakers, and get out of the way.
``There's times when I have to squeeze (passes) in there, but the majority of the time, we've got to take what we can and give them the ball, and let them make the play,'' Yates said Friday during the team's media day, adding that offensive coordinator John Shoop ``always says, 'Plays gain yards, but players score touchdowns.'''
For the Tar Heels to live up to their status as the chic upstart in the Coastal, they'll need plenty of production from a trio of receivers - seniors Brandon Tate and Brooks Foster, and junior Hakeem Nicks - plus speedy wideout-turned-running back Greg Little. Those four accounted for seven of the 10 offensive TDs scored by North Carolina during the final six games of a 4-8 season.
``That's what's going to help T.J. a lot, knowing that he has playmakers in these skill positions,'' Little said. ``That's going to make him very confident to get us the ball, and that's going to help him look good.''
Yates insists he's a much different quarterback than he was a year ago when threw for a school single-season record of 2,655 yards as a redshirt freshman. However, he faded down the stretch with just five touchdowns and 15 interceptions in his last nine games - perhaps a function of North Carolina's struggles to establish anything resembling a complementary running game - after an impressive three-game start in which he had nine TDs and was picked off only three times.
``At first, nobody (on other teams) really knew what we were doing,'' Yates said. ``We went deep a whole lot the first three games. After a while, people started backing up on us, so we had to dumb it down a little bit. It's the ACC. Defenses, they're not stupid. They know what we're doing. They know we like to go deep, so we had to do other things throughout the season.''
He had surgery on his right (throwing) shoulder to clear up what the school described as tissue trauma. The procedure kept him out of spring workouts but has healed so completely that when team officials run down the list of injured players, ``we don't even talk about (Yates') or discuss it,'' Davis said.
The injury also gave Yates time to take an academic approach to Shoop's offense, digesting it from both the sideline and the film room - ``He became an absolute film junkie,'' Davis said - and helping to teach the system to the rest of the Tar Heels' quarterbacks.
nly that but to even be better.''
The same can be said for the entire team of Tar Heels. Seven years removed from their last winning season, they were the preseason pick to finish second only to defending champ Virginia Tech in the division. Much of the reason for that buzz centers on Davis and the expectation that Yates can capably keep feeding the ball to those four playmakers.
``Last year, at this time, we were all trying to learn the offense,'' he added. ``This time this year, the offense is the last thing we're thinking about. We're thinking about defenses and what we're going to do against those defenses. ... Everybody's got the offense down. Everybody's comfortable with it. Now we're just trying to take the next step.''
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