First-year freshmen Quinshad Davis of South Carolina and Jessie Rogers of Texas have worked their way into the playing rotation, UNC first-year coach Larry Fedora said during Monday's news conference on the opening game of the season on Saturday.
UNC will play Elon at 12:30 p.m. at Kenan Stadium.
Davis missed much of preseason camp while he awaited to be cleared medically. The reason he is ready to play, Fedora said, is that Davis utilized his time when he wasn't getting repetitions on the field.
"It was interesting to watch that process," Fedora said. "For most young men, when you're not cleared and you're standing there in a pair of shorts, the coaches are telling you to make sure you getting mental reps, make sure you're learning what to do, you get out there and 90 percent of the time they have no idea what to do.
"Quinshad was different," Fedora said. "Quinshad prepared. Over all that time period when he was not being able to do anything, he was learning what to do. I'm proud of the fact he was able to do that and in a short period of time he showed he has the talent to help this offense. So he is definitely going to play for us this year."
Rogers is another young man who seized an opportunity. There is a lack of depth along the defensive line, and he attacked without hesitation when he got the opportunity. Now he will get to back up Kareem Martin
"Jessie Rogers, a defensive end from Texas," Fedora said. "Jesse is a very mature young man. He was able to handle the coaching. He was able to handle the workload. He's got some real endurance.
"He's got some football savvy about him. He understands the game. The workload [line coach Deke Adams] put on him, he was able to handle. A lot of freshmen aren't able to those things. He's going to backup Kareem, and he is definitely going to play in the game."
Other freshmen will play, but some may have to earn their time on special teams. These two are going to get snaps on offense and defense.
The other news from Monday is that starting running back Giovani Bernard will return punts in addition to his regular duties.
Fedora said this will provide Bernard with yet another chance to get the ball in space. Bernard has proven to be an extra ordinary runner when he can get one-on-one with defensive players.
"I love it," Bernard said. "I wouldn't do something I don't love, and I think that is the mentality you have to go into it. You have love what you do. Returning punts is what I'm doing, and I love it.
"I played baseball in high school, so tracking something down in the air for a while is something I'm used to. Being a football player, you have to be able to do that, add to your game in different ways.
"It's new for me," Bernard said. "And I think I'm doing a pretty good job. There are little things I need to work on, but that will come with experience."
Bernard and Fedora said there is no doubt all three running backs -- Bernard, Romar Morris and [/db]A.J. Blue[/db] -- will get plenty of repetitions, given the fast pace at which the Tar Heels will go.
"If you look at a lot of spread teams, a lot of teams have those three or four running backs who get in there. With this offense, we need three or four guys who can do things and not miss a beat. A.J. and Romar have done a great job throughout this entire camp and spring ball, kind of meshing each other to get better."