By Megan Walsh, GoHeels.com
The start of North Carolina's spring practice this Wednesday was a far cry compared to that of a year ago. For starters, this year head coach Larry Fedora and his coaching staff actually know their players' names.
But the team's preparation, intensity and knowledge of Carolina's system also showed up at Navy Field for the first of UNC's 15 practices this semester.
"The one thing they understand is the tempo we want to practice at, and they understand what effort is," Fedora said. "They know that when that ball is snapped for that next four to six seconds they have to go as hard as they can go. You might make a mistake, but you've got to go hard. So we're not having to coach effort all the time, now we're coaching technique."
Fedora said he was impressed with the team's movement, energy and tempo, adding that he thought Carolina got everything they possibly could out of day one back on the field.
Stressing competition at every position, the Tar Heels are attempting to create as much depth as they can in the coming weeks. With just two practices before spring break, which begins on Friday, Fedora and his staff are stressing getting the players back in sync with each other first.
Fueling off a successful offseason in the weight and film rooms, quarterback Bryn Renner said he likewise is impressed with where this team is so far.
"We got a lot better as far as learning the system," Renner said. "This is our best first practice, as far as just going where we need to go and doing what we need to do. We're getting better on a daily basis. In the offseason it really paid off in the weight room."
He added that the difference between this and last year has so far been "night and day," a statement that senior tailback A.J. Blue seemed to echo.
"Both the offense and the defense moved around well, and everybody played with intent," Blue said. "Everybody seemed to be very coachable today and had their heads on a swivel. Today was a major success for day one."
No longer facing postseason restrictions or a bowl ban, this year's Carolina squad moves on to its next practices also moving on from 2012.
"One of the coaches said the other day, 'We don't get any credit for what we did last year,'" Fedora said. "There's no credit there. We're starting from scratch with the 2013 team. We've got to come up with an identity for who this team is.
"We know what our brand is - playing smart, playing fast, playing physical - but we've got to find what out the identity of this football team is, and that started today."
NOTE: The following players will not practice this spring due to injury - T.J. Thorpe, Eric Ebron, Travis Riley, Reggie Wilkins, T.J. Leifheit, P.J. Clyburn, Darien Rankin, Jeff Schoettmer and Darius Lipford.