North Carolina freshmen trying to avoid pressure of being future of Butch Davis' program Print
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Saturday, 11 August 2007 13:00
NCAAF Headline News

 CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -Mike Paulus wouldn't let it happen to him. One of the key members of North Carolina's highly rated recruiting class surely would avoid the struggles that usually plague first-year players.
Then, he arrived on campus and got a reality check.
``I thought it'd be a breeze,'' Paulus said Saturday. ``But it really is a tough time, from just (the) transition in a college offense. ... It's just very unrealistic for me to go in there and say, 'I'm going to win the starting job.' It'd be arrogant to say that.''
He and the rest of the freshmen came to Chapel Hill heavily hyped after signing day, when they were anointed as the saviors of North Carolina's downtrodden program. But after a week of preseason practice, it was clear those big dreams could wait - at least for a little while longer.
``There's no expectations,'' defensive lineman Marvin Austin said. ``The recruiting class that came in, our coaches did talk to us behind closed doors. ... They just want us to go out and work hard and play as hard as we can and do what we've got to do for our team. There's probably expectations from some of the fans, but we're just going to do the best we can.''
Instead, the top priorities for the Tar Heels' freshmen are adjusting to the pace of the college game and finding their place in new coach Butch Davis' system.
``It is a hard transition in six, seven, eight days of practice, and we have pulled no punches with any of these freshmen,'' Davis said. ``We could have taken the approach with Mike and all of those freshmen that we're just going to kind of spoon-feed them little bitty things. They might be really good at little bitty things, but you have no idea how much and how quickly they can potentially help you this season.''
It's still uncertain how many members of the recruiting class rated 14th nationally and second in the Atlantic Coast Conference by Scout.com will contribute this season. Austin, the service's top-ranked defensive line prospect, worked with the third team during the preseason's first scrimmage while fighting the temptation to rely on his natural talent while he works on grasping the Xs and Os.
``I was trying to rely on my athletic ability, just beating blocks, but that's not what you're supposed to do,'' Austin said. ``I wouldn't say the speed of the game is getting to me, but the quickness'' is.
Paulus came to campus hoping to compete for the starting job at quarterback, but admitted he's not ready to play after his first week of camp. After working almost exclusively from the shotgun in high school, Paulus is taking snaps under center and is adapting his footwork to the new system.
``I'm patient. I want to get in there and compete, but I don't want to rush the developing process ... and I don't want to go out there if I'm not ready to play,'' Paulus said. ``It's a lot of frustration, is what it is. All these changes and transition, I'm just keeping my mouth shut and learning as much as I can.''
At the very least, Austin is ready to deal with the off-field distractions that come with being a heavily hyped recruit.
Austin - who a few months ago as a signee out of high school famously signed autographs in the stands at North Carolina's spring game - needed no advice from upperclassmen on how to handle requests for pictures and autographs later Saturday at the team's annual ``Meet the Heels'' fan festival.
``They come up to me and say, 'You did this before. You know better,''' Austin said.
 

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