RBs: Still a three-man race

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina has three experienced running backs, all of which expect to contribute in 2004. Barring injury the platoon should work; Chad Scott, Jacque Lewis and Ronnie McGill bring talent, diversity and depth to a running game that must live up to high expectations.

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    Conditioning and cramping have been about the only things that could slow down McGill in his first season. And he'll be held out of Saturday's scrimmage due to more cramps and a lacerated hand.

    The lightly recruited Clover, S.C. product led all Tar Heel rushers last season, averaging 5.1 yards per carry and a team best seven touchdowns.

    Initially, even with McGill's surprising emergence, UNC coach John Bunting is in no hurry to turn the running game over to him. He's got too much speed and experience in Scott and Lewis.

    To start the season, the Tar Heels expect to have the luxury of six fresh legs. But as the season wears on, it may be up to McGill to carry the load.

    "That's why we love Ronnie McGill," Bunting said, "because we think he can take all of those hits. [Lewis] is a smaller back, so he'll take some hits. And in the course of an 11- or 12-game season, that could knock him out of action. Right now, we have not seen Chad do that. Chad has not played a lot of snaps. I would have loved to have played him more, but he had an injury himself last season. We're hoping that he can be relatively injury free and play a lot of snaps for us this year."

    McGill has been touted by some on the offensive line to be the first Tar Heel to rush for 1,000 yards in a season since Jonathan Linton accomplished the feat in 1997. To do that, he'll need to get the lion's share of the carries this season. However, McGill said it's not an all-encompassing goal of his.

    "It's personal, but it kind of gets hung over your head coming from this university and the thousand-yard backs," McGill said.

    So don't expect Carolina to make McGill its feature back anytime soon. And with LSU transfer Barrington Edwards now practicing with three years of eligibility set to begin in 2005, competition for the ball will only strengthen in the years to come.

    Kentucky transfer Chad Scott, a speedster with receiving skills, will try to earn more playing time this season behind McGill and Lewis.

    "I feel real adjusted in this offense, this being my third year here," Scott said. "Me, Ronnie and Jacque; we run the ball real well. We've all got three different styles of running; and with me clicking with the offense…I feel real well."

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