The waiting days are over for the Tar Heel football players. After an offseason of intrigue and growing excitement, the Tar Heels are to report to campus Thursday for the start of official preseason practices. Only a month remains before the regular season kickoff for Head Coach Larry Fedora’s troops.

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“We all learned a lesson from last season that we don’t want to start out a season like we did. That’s a good thing if something good can come out of that. Unfortunately, last year we had to play a lot of young guys, but fortunately for this year, all those young guys got a lot of experience. They won’t be so wide-eyed at the beginning of the season. They’ll know what’s going on and play the way they should play,” Coach Fedora says.

With a year under the belt for a majority of the key athletes on the Tar Heel roster, it will be interesting to observe first-hand the improvement most of the Carolina coaching staff and players have been talking about for months now.

Coach Fedora has a veritable laundry list of offensive playmakers ready to explode this fall. Not surprisingly, the UNC skipper is highly optimistic about his chances on the offensive side of the football.

“We’ve got Jack Tabb at the tight end position following Eric Ebron. You can go out to Quinshad Davis, T.J. Thorpe and Bug Howard. You’ve got Ryan Switzer in the slot, and you’ve got T.J. Logan, Khris Francis, Elijah Hood and Romar Morris in the backfield. We’ve got a little bit of talent,” Coach Fedora says.

“A little bit of talent” may be an extreme understatement. But one of the most fascinating inner-squad battles to watch in the preseason period will no doubt be the competition for the starting quarterback position.

Although junior Marquise Williams represented the Tar Heels at the ACC Kickoff media event a couple weeks ago, Coach Fedora has either kept his cards close to the vest on his chosen leader or is speaking the truth when he says the job is up for grabs.

UNC head coach Larry Fedora (Elliott Rubin)

UNC head coach Larry Fedora (Elliott Rubin)

Either way, it’s the developing story that everybody wants to see. It’s ironic that the man who is to carry the unit that promises so much in 2014 has yet to be named.

But Coach Fedora maintains there’s another X-factor that will determine the prolific nature of his offense this fall – the offensive line.

“We ought to be able to score some points, if we can gel up front. That’s going to be the key to our team,” Coach Fedora says.

As far as the broader landscape of where his Tar Heels fit into the ACC race, Coach Fedora agrees with the media members, projecting the Coastal division title as up for grabs.

“I believe the Coastal is wide open. I believe anybody can win it. I believe it’s going to be the team that turns the ball over the fewest times, plays best defense and continues to be good on special teams,” Coach Fedora says.

Marquise Williams will be aiming to return as starter this fall (UNC Athletics)

Marquise Williams will be aiming to return as starter this fall (UNC Athletics)

Will the ever-youthful Tar Heels be able to take care of the fundamentals of the game that so often decide nail-biting contests in the parity-laden ACC?

It’s anybody’s guess for now, but Coach Fedora has his eyes set on the bigger picture of the program. He says Carolina’s stock is rising, primed for a big payout in the near future.

“I think we’re making the progress that we’ve expected to make. Now it’s continuing that and staying on track. As long as we stay true to our philosophy and keep doing the things the way we think they ought to be done, we’ll get over the hump,” Coach Fedora says.