The Tar Heels have dealt with serious personnel issues the entire season, arguably an issue that has cost them at least one victory out of their 1-2 start. With the status of ten players still undetermined, and defensive backs Kendric Burney and Deunta Williams suspended for at least another week (Burney is out for three more games), the last thing North Carolina wants to hear is the word "injury."
But with running back Johnny White and starting linebacker Quan Sturdivant both suffering injuries in the Tar Heels 17-13 victory at Rutgers, an already weakened starting lineup looks like it could be even thinner.
White turned his right ankle in the third quarter, and Sturdivant tweaked his left hamstring tackling quarterback Tom Savage in the fourth. Neither starter returned the game, and head coach Butch Davis is unsure whether if they will be available against ECU on Saturday.
"We'll get a much better, clearer picture as to their availability probably by Thursday," Davis said Monday. "They'll get all the treatment that they can and we'll have a better idea later on in the week."Sturdivant was cleared to join the team just hours before they kicked off the season against LSU in Atlanta, so North Carolina has not had to play without the team's leading tackler yet this season. He will likely be replaced by Zach Brown if he is not cleared to play. Brown saw significant time against LSU and has been a frequent contributor on special teams.
With 12 players still sidelined by an NCAA investigation, UNC can't afford to lose any available starters, not ones as valuable as White and Sturdivant, senior quarterback T.J. Yates said.
"To not have one of those guys would be big for us, especially Quan on defense," Yates said. "He's the guy that gets everybody going; he's the quarterback over there."
"I'm pretty confident Johnny will be back," Yates said. "We would be fine rolling with Shaun, but I think the defense would struggle without Quan."