Thursday Practice Report

North Carolina head coach John Bunting said Thursday that several starting positions are still up for grabs with just over a week before the season begins. The starters at running back, wide receiver, strong safety, kicker, and punter could all be game day decisions.

On whether a decision has been made at running back, Bunting said, "Not even close at this point. We've got Ronnie McGill to practice today, a few snaps. He looked like he has before. I'm sure he's very rusty, but he looked good. Jacque (Lewis), we anticipate he will be back. We haven't had the four running backs together in over a week. So, I can't make a decision at this point.

"They are going to platoon this Saturday in our scrimmage, and then we'll make some preliminary decisions early in the week and see how that goes," Bunting continued. "I probably won't make a final decision until the day before the ballgame what we're going to do – in conjunction with what Gary Tranquill and Andre Powell want to do."

With several veteran wide receivers returning and three highly-touted freshmen in the mix, the starters at wide receiver are also still yet to be determined.

"I think the wide receiver position is going to be very interesting, all the way down to the wire, I really do," Bunting said. "I think we'll have to develop some rhythm as we get into next week between the quarterback and the receivers. So, we'll probably try to make some mid-week decisions, but with Gary (Tranquill), (about) the amounts of personnel we play, I still think those young guys are going to get on the field – and probably in the first game."

Wide receiver coach Gunter Brewer thinks another unheralded wide receiver will see action early.

"The surprise over there at "Z" is Chris Curry right now, who moved over from defense and played receiver in high school," Brewer said. "He's a big, strong, broad-shoulder kid that catches the ball well, provides us some depth and been a spark over there. So, he's really jumped in the mix. People won't recognize off the bat that he's a kid who is going to play. You'll probably see him in the opening game playing quite bit."

The challenge ahead of Brewer is to find the right mix of personnel groups and blending in the true freshmen with the more veteran receivers.

"We have personnel groups where we have two and three wide receivers out there at different times," Brewer said. "So, we're trying to get the best mix in the game at the same time. One (of the true frosh) may do something better than the other. (Adarius) Bowman is a 6-4 220-pound guy. You got (Mike) Mason who is quick as lightening. And, Jessie (Holley) is a tall guy who is very athletic. So, all of them do something different. Right now we're trying to determine what kind of personality our receiving corps is going to have."

Dan Orner, once thought to have a lock on the field goal kicking position, is getting strong competition from Topher Roberts, as is punter John Lafferty from David Woolridge, according to Bunting.

"Topher has had a tremendous camp," Bunting said. "Topher has really boomed the ball, getting it up high and splitting the uprights. He's doing all the right things. It's good competition there, just like it is at punter."

Finally, there has been strong competition at the strong safety spot, and the starting position has yet to be determined.

"Right now, I would say that's between Michael Harris and Mahlon Carey," Bunting said. "Tommy Richardson, we're going to look at him at free safety this whole week and see what happens there. He got injured last night in the scrimmage, so he's going to miss some time. But, right now, were trying to see what could happen between Mahlon and Mike Harris for that starting strong safety."

UNC fans will likely just have to wait to see which players take the field in these positions a week from Saturday, as will opponent Florida State.

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