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December 16, 2005

Shrine Bowl breakdown: North Carolina

SPARTANBURG, S.C.-Practice sessions are winding down for the 69th annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas and despite an ice storm putting a damper on festivities and activities, the teams have plowed forward and are ready for the 1 p.m. Saturday kickoff.

Here's a breakdown of some of the action from the North Carolina practices this week.

Perhaps no player saw his stock rise more this week than Wake Forest commit Dennis Godfrey of Lee County. The 6-foot-2, 255-pounder was impressive at defensive tackle all week and has drawn serious looks from programs like Virginia Tech, Clemson, North Carolina and Virginia.

Godfrey plays the game the way it should be played, with passion and intensity. He is a smart football player and is much faster than his posted 5.24-second 40-yard dash he ran at the Blacksburg NIKE camp in April.

If as many schools get involved with Godfrey as are expected, it's going to be quite a challenge for the Demon Deacons to hold on to him.

Another prospect currently committed to an ACC school that saw his stock rise was Butler tight end Michael Ingersoll, who has pledged to the University of North Carolina. Though there is speculation that the Tar Heels will use the 6-foot-5, 245-pounder at offensive tackle, they may want to reconsider after the week he has had at tight end.

Ingersoll runs smooth routes, has solid speed and showed good hands throughout the week. Given his prowess as a blocker, he can become a complete tight end at the next level.

South Carolina and other schools have been rumored to be getting involved. Ingersoll, however, grew up at Tar Heels fan so it will take an absolutely great recruiting job to keep him from ending up in Chapel Hill.

Of course the top player for either team during workouts was five-star Durham offensive lineman Carl Johnson. The Florida commit has the complete package (size, speed, strength, heart and toughness) and one informed observer stated that he could probably step into an NFL training camp this July and have a better-than-average shot of making the roster.

Johnson's Florida recruiter Doc Holliday scouted his star recruit and the rest of the North Carolina team, including Rivals100 linebacker Brandon Spikes, a top Gator target, on Wednesday.

Speaking of Spikes, he has enjoyed a good week of practice from the middle linebacker spot. He's big and he hits big and moves better in space than once was originally thought. He consistently blew up ball carriers during practice sessions throughout the week.

Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks of Charlotte's Independence High has also had a nice week of work. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Nicks flew under the radar during much of his stellar senior season, but had somewhat of a coming out party this week. While he has a big enough body to go across the middle and be physical with defensive backs, he also showed that he has enough speed to get open deep. North Carolina is getting a big-time playmaker with this one.

Another Tar Heel verbal, Ryan Taylor, looked very good during Wednesday's practice. He runs crisp, sharp routes and has a knack for getting open and catching the ball. After an inconsistent first day, the 6-foot-4, 210-pounder has looked very sharp as the week has worn on.

Taylor compares nicely to Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Brian Finneran and could be used in that type of role on Saturday.

Notre Dame-bound cornerback Raeshon McNeil of Mocksville has enjoyed a great week of work and has seen time at wide receiver in addition to defense. He plays physical at the line of scrimmage and blankets opposing receivers.

Clemson verbal commitment Crezdon Butler of Asheville has enjoyed a solid week of work on the offensive side of the ball (he projects to play in the secondary at the next level). Butler, who played quarterback in high school, is very elusive and the North Carolina coaching staff has been looking at ways to get him the ball in different situations, including taking the snap.

Given his speed and ability, don't be surprised if Butler comes up with a big play or two on Saturday.

Another Clemson commit, sleeper offensive lineman Chris Hairston is coming into his own. He has tremendous balance for a player his size and has great extension of his arms, handy for holding off oncoming defenders. The Tigers, who secured his commitment earlier this week, got a prospect with big-time upside here.

There has been a battle at the running back spot for the North Carolina team between Norman Whitley of Rockingham and Josh Adams of Cary. Both have had their moments with Whitley being the more consistent of the two.

The diminutive Whitley has run hard every play and has outstanding balance. He will present a challenge to the South Carolina defense on Saturday. Recruiting is picking up a bit. Coaches from the University of South Carolina said hello earlier this week.

Adams is a big-play threat that can take it to the house. Clemson, N.C. State and Virginia all are in the mix here.

O.C. Wardlow is a better quarterback when he has a live defense coming at him than he is in pass drills. He holds onto the ball a little too long when he sits in the pocket and is better when he can run around and sling it. His arm has been the most surprising thing about the Virginia commit's game this week.

UNC commit Deunta Williams is at his correct position at the rover linebacker spot. He can make plays all over the field. That's not to say he couldn't be a great wide receiver, mind you. But it would not be shocking to see him make a huge play or two on defense this Saturday.

The Shrine Bowl kicks off at 1 p.m. Saturday at Gibbs Stadium on the campus of Wofford College. Stay tuned to Rivals.com for complete coverage of the Shrine Bowl.


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