Bernard Handling Punt Returns

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Larry Fedora offered up a rare bombshell toward the end of his media availability when he told reporters that, as of Wednesday afternoon, first-team All-ACC running back Gio Bernard would be the likely starter at punt returner.

"If it was a punt return right now, it'd probably be Gio," Fedora said. "But that may change between now and [Sept. 1]."

Bernard, a red-shirt sophomore hailing from Davie, Fla., joined Amos Lawrence as the only freshman tailbacks in school history to earn first-team All-ACC honors after churning out 1,253 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2011. He became the first Tar Heel to break the 1,000-yard barrier since Jonathan Linton in 1997.

Despite returning kickoffs for Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Aquinas High School, Bernard has not returned any kicks during his short career at North Carolina. He started fielding punts in training camp after the preseason depth chart at punt returner – consisting of T.J. Thorpe, Reggie Wilkins and Todd Harrelson – was decimated by injury and attrition.

Bernard missed the 2010 season after tearing his ACL on the third day of training camp.

Fedora added that sophomore wide receiver Sean Tapley and red-shirt freshman running back Romar Morris would be the starting kick returners if a game were played on Wednesday.

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