"Throughout the year, and also following the bowl game, we sat down with the juniors who were considering entering the NFL Draft and educated them on the selection process and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of leaving early," said Davis, who has coached or recruited 30 NFL first-round draft picks as a college head coach. "After talking with NFL personnel around the country, I thought it was in the best interest of all six players to return for their senior seasons. Not only will they benefit as football players by staying an additional year, but all six are on track to earn a degree from North Carolina.
"It was an individual decision for each player, and for some it was harder than others. They all want to continue the momentum we have in this program, build Carolina into a championship contender and be a part of a special senior class."
A native of Washington, D.C., Austin started 11 games at defensive tackle and earned second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors in 2009 after posting 42 tackles, including six for losses and four sacks for 40 yards. He also forced one fumble, had one fumble recovery and broke up three passes.
Burney and Williams, first-team defensive backs from Jacksonville, N.C., combined for 11 interceptions and 314 interception return yards in 2009. Burney had five interceptions for 200 yards and two touchdowns, while also recording 52 tackles and three pass breakups. Williams led the team with six interceptions for 114 yards and had 47 tackles and eight pass breakups.
Sturdivant, a native of Oakboro, N.C., was a first-team All-ACC linebacker and led Carolina with 79 tackles. He had 12 tackles for losses, including one sack, and scored a touchdown on a 49-yard fumble recovery.
A native of Havelock, N.C., Carter was a second-team all-conference pick after posting 65 tackles, including 7.5 for losses and two sacks. He broke up two passes and scored on a 41-yard interception return.
Little became just the fifth player in UNC history to top 60 catches in a single season. The Durham, N.C., native had 62 receptions for 724 yards and led all receivers with five touchdowns.