Offense Confident In Spite of Personnel Losses

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.--The UNC football team's offense remains confident in spite of personnel losses, with BCS #3-ranked Miami coming to Kenan Stadium on Saturday night.

The most common adjective that gets used when the Miami Hurricanes are mentioned is "speed." They have enough that head coach John Bunting called it "scary" watching them on film against the NC State Wolfpack from last weekend.

But are they the fastest team the Tar Heels have seen this year?

"That's kind of hard to say," quarterback Darian Durant said. "Those guys are very, very close and similar to Florida State. They are very fast. They may be the fastest team we play."

The 'Canes bring the #23-ranked total defense at 301.7 YPG and the #17-ranked scoring defense at 15.8 PPG. And the Tar Heels will be forced to battle with significant personnel losses.

Wide receiver Adarius Bowman has been suspended indefinitely, pending the results of lab tests stemming from charges of marijuana use, following the 30-24 victory over NC State, which has necessitated a move by wide receiver Mike Mason.

"We've moved him to the 'X' position," Bunting said. "He's going to be playing that position and, hopefully, more of a prominent role because he has speed. Mike has made a lot of big plays for us in the kicking game. Mike has made some big plays offensively for us, but we have struggled at times to get him into the line-up. Now, because of circumstance, he is going to play a more prominent role down the stretch."

"They decided to put me back at 'X' to get me more one-one-one with the DB's," Mason said. "I think it is a good decision because I played there last year and was productive. I think it will be exciting."

As one of the fastest players on the team, Mason isn't intimidated by the speed of Miami. "I'm not going to doubt myself," he said. "I know I can match up with their speed. Their DB's have speed, and I have speed… We can match up with them."

Running back Ronnie McGill re-aggravated an ankle injury against Utah, and will not play against Miami.

"This was a game I was really looking forward to," McGill said. "I already had tickets for a lot of people who were going to come. All I can do now is cheer on the [rest] of the players and hope they do well."

Fellow tailback Jacque Lewis suffered a fractured transverse process in his back and is unlikely to play.

"He will only play in an absolute emergency because we have three other games to play," Bunting said. "He has practiced very little. There is a chance, but it will take a special situation. I haven't even thought about what that would be yet."

This will allow senior Chad Scott to get the starting nod.

"It's great playing against Miami, one of the top teams in the nation," Scott said. "It is a great challenge going out there being able to perform against those guys. Being on ESPN, on TV, that's even better. Everybody gets to see what kind of team you have against a top-notch opponent. And being able to start is even better. I've been waiting on that opportunity every since I've been here. It's an opportunity to go out there and showcase my ability."

Freshman Vince Wilson and senior fullback Madison Hedgecock will be available for action if called upon, but it is unclear how much either will play, at the present time.

Scott is another player who feels he can use a little speed of his own.

"[Speed] is my greatest asset," he said. "I'm from Florida, so I can pretty much relate to those guy's speed. I did the Nike camp at Miami, so I ran against a couple of those guys. With my size and my speed, the best thing for me to do, with their speed, is to hit the hole fast. Sideline to sideline is not going to work too well. I have to hit the hole fast and find the crease."

Durant is still suffering from a sore elbow, which he banged up on the last play of the first half against Utah, but he insists he will be ready to go.

"Slowly but surely, it's getting better," Durant said. "With light throwing [Thursday] and no throwing Friday, with basically all day Saturday off, I'll be fine."

And the best way to combat all that speed?

"You have to execute," Durant said. "I feel like we have a lot of speed on offense also. So we can execute and hit them in the mouth. Hitting guys in the mouth always takes away from speed; you can't run if you have a helmet in your chest. That's the way I look at it."

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