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North Carolina’s Draughn cleared to return
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina is getting one key player back for this weekend’s home opener against Georgia Tech.
Draughn is the first of 13 players who missed the LSU game to be cleared by the NCAA and the school as the review continues into agent-related benefits and possible academic violations involving a tutor.
School spokesman Kevin Best said Draughn won’t talk with the media until after Saturday’s game. Draughn has been practicing while his status was in question, though he’s listed alongside Johnny White and Anthony Elzy on a jumbled depth chart.
“We’re going to try to get him back into the flow of things,” coach Butch Davis said. “There’s been a period of time over the last couple of weeks where because of the question of whether he would be available that some of his roles during practice have been significantly minimized.”
Draughn ran for 866 yards and three touchdowns in 2008 as a converted safety, then took the starting job in a timeshare with short-yardage and goal-line specialist Ryan Houston last season. He ran for 567 yards last year before suffering a broken left shoulder blade, sidelining him for the last three games.
Houston, who had scored 17 touchdowns in the past two seasons, is one of the 12 players whose status is still in doubt. And considering Johnny White fumbled away the first rushing attempt against LSU and the Tar Heels (0-1) finished with 24 yards on the ground, Draughn could provide a big spark _ assuming he can get up to speed in time.
“I know Shaun’s going to be running like a mad man out there and he’s been doing it in practice the last couple of days,” quarterback T.J. Yates said. “I’m excited to see him just absolutely go crazy this game.”
The school has been conferring with the NCAA to determine which players are eligible to return. North Carolina was off last week, though athletic director Dick Baddour has said he is “hopeful” the Tar Heels will hear about more players before the weekend.
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson wasn’t interested in worrying about who the Tar Heels would have in the lineup by the weekend.
“I don’t think they’re going to line up any differently just because they don’t have anybody,” Johnson said. “They’ve still got good players.”
Davis wouldn’t say how long the Tar Heels would wait to find out on the remaining 12 players who are uncertain to play, though he said the team is planning to play with “the guys that played against LSU” and that any late additions would be viewed as a bonus.
“I think their role would be determined by how early do you find out about their potential availability,” Davis said. “Certainly, the longer the week goes, the less they’re going to have opportunities to impact and participate in the game.”
The list of players who sat out the opener included several NFL prospects on defense in end Robert Quinn, cornerback Kendric Burney and safety Deunta Williams. On offense, the Tar Heels were without top receiver Greg Little, among others.
Defensive tackle Marvin Austin remains suspended indefinitely for violating team rules and isn’t practicing, though Davis said Austin is “still in the process of earning his way back to practice.” Austin and Little were at the center of the NCAA’s agents review that led to similar probes at South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia.
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