UNC's Little gives receivers big leadership
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
North Carolina junior Greg Little has been moved back and forth between running back and wide receiver during his career in Chapel Hill.
This spring, there was little choice.
Considering Carolina lost players who accounted for 17 of its 21 receiving touchdowns last year, Little took on a role of leadership this spring among the inexperienced wide receivers. Little, who moved from running back to receiver midway through last year, had just 11 catches in 2008. More is obviously expected of him this season, as he should be one of the starters this fall.
"I feel like it was a void we had to fill with Hakeem [Nicks] leaving and Brandon [Tate] and Brooks [Foster] graduating," Little said. "I feel like we had to come find some guys who could make plays like they did and I feel like we accomplished that. Just guys working hard and guys competing and me pushing the guys to not have as many mental mistakes, and if you're making mental mistakes, you're still making the play on the ball and finishing downfield.
"You have to practice what you preach," he said. "If I'm telling the guys to catch every ball, then I can't drop anything. I have to be more conscious of my actions and finish downfield and get to practice early and get extra catches in and meet with the quarterbacks on my off time -- anything to help better our receivers."
Little moved back to wide receiver prior to the Virginia game last year following the knee injury to Brandon Tate. He finished the season with 11 catches for 146 yards, including two receptions for 36 yards against West Virginia in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. As a tailback, Little rushed for 339 yards and three touchdowns on 78 carries.
Little said he was more comfortable in the offense now that he's been moved back to his natural position.
"It's just that I've been all over the offensive skills positions," he said. "... I feel I can dominate that position (receiver) with size and speed and strength.
"Entering the third season I know what the offensive guard should be doing, even though I'm playing receiver," he said. "I know what the fullback should be doing. I have a full understanding of where everybody should be and how much time I need to get there."
The Tar Heels recently wrapped up spring practice, and several of the young receivers started to establish themselves. Dwight Jones caught a 46-yard pass from T.J. Yates and took it to the 1-yard line in the spring game. Freshman Joshua Adams, who enrolled in January, started with the second-team offense and caught three passes for 20 yards.
"He did some things I thought said that he could come in and play right away as a freshman," Little said. "You can get him the ball if need be."
Little said Rashad Mason also had a good spring.
"He always had the potential," Little said. "I knew once he finally sat down and studied his playbook, I knew he'd emerge and give us some quality minutes and plays."
Overall, Little said the group made significant strides they can build on in summer camp.
"I feel like the production we had during the spring was real good," he said. "I feel like if we come out and just work hard this summer, that we'll be able to be just as competitive as the receivers in the past were."