AP Sports Writer
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Quinshad Davis is figuring things out on the field for North Carolina, a promising sign for the freshman receiver's future in the Tar Heels' fast-paced offense.
Davis has 13 catches in the past two games for the Tar Heels (6-4, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) heading into Thursday night's trip to Virginia, offering the team a big target at an injury-depleted position.
"It's like a new experience for him every time being a true freshman out there," UNC coach Larry Fedora said. "At this time last year, he was in high school, and right now, he's doing well against good football teams and good corners _ and he's just going to get better and better."
The 6-foot-4 wideout moved into the starting lineup after two games and is fourth on the team with 36 catches for 463 yards and three touchdowns.
He had six catches for 67 yards in the win against rival North Carolina State that snapped the Tar Heels' five-year losing streak in the long rivalry on Oct. 27. Last weekend, the 18-year-old had seven catches for 104 yards with an 11-yard touchdown grab in the 68-50 loss to Georgia Tech.
"He's a tall, slender, athletic guy," Virginia coach Mike London said. "Looks like he's got good speed. He's another one of those targets that when you throw the ball up in the air, he can go up and get it so you've got to a do a great job of playing to his arms, getting the safeties over the top to help with double coverage. That's kind of the M.O. of their receivers when you look at them as a whole."
Davis, a Gaffney, S.C., native, said he ran a similar offense in high school that made it easier to adjust to the Tar Heels' no-huddle spread offense.
"At the beginning it was kind of hard getting the concept of the plays and reading defenses," Davis said. "But now a couple of weeks down the line, I'm doing that pretty well now. ... So yeah, I'm more comfortable with my abilities."
Davis has started eight games in the Tar Heels' three-receiver formations and has been the team's fourth passing option behind top wideout Erik Highsmith, tailback Gio Bernard and tight end Eric Ebron _ who has set UNC single-season records for catches and receiving yards by a tight end.
Davis has just two more games this season because the Tar Heels are banned from a bowl for NCAA sanctions, then will enter next season as the top returning wideout.
"You see the production," quarterback Bryn Renner said. "We're looking to get him the ball. He's really stepped up and become a big-time threat for us. He's mature beyond his years as far as football-wise."
AP Sports Writer Hank Kurz in Charlottesville, Va., contributed to this report.
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