- Associated Press - Friday, August 29, 2014

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) - The week started at North Carolina with the focus on who would start at quarterback for the No. 23 Tar Heels in Saturday night’s opener against Liberty.

By midweek, however, the attention had shifted to the suspension of four defensive players - a moment that overshadowed the preseason optimism for a team aiming to play for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship.

“You know me, I worry about every kind of thing that could be a distraction,” Fedora said. “But I know we’ve got a large amount of players on this football team that have worked their rear ends off for a long point to get to this point.

“It would be a shame and a tragedy to let any kind of distraction to keep you from playing at your best. So that’s my job, is to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Fedora announced Wednesday that sophomores Des Lawrence and Brian Walker, redshirt freshman Donnie Miles and true freshman M.J. Stewart were suspended for one game due to a “violation of team policy.”

The suspensions came a day after a Yahoo Sports report of an alleged hazing altercation that left a redshirt freshman walk-on receiver with a possible concussion. The school has said it is investigating what it described as an incident involving team members, though it hasn’t confirmed it was a hazing incident.

Walker and Lawrence were scheduled to start at cornerback against the Flames. The suspensions will force adjustments in the secondary against an experienced quarterback in junior Josh Woodrum, who has started 21 straight games and threw for 2,581 yards and 19 touchdowns last year.

Fedora hasn’t said whether junior Marquise Williams or redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky will start at quarterback for the Tar Heels. Williams started six games last year and helped spark UNC’s turnaround from a 1-5 start to finish with a bowl win.

Liberty coach Turner Gill said the uncertainty of who will start hasn’t affected his team.

“We understand their offense and what they do,” Gill said. “Yeah, one guy may throw or run a little bit more than the other. But we’re all protected and schemed up to be ready to play whichever quarterback goes.”

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Things to watch when the Tar Heels host the Flames:

UNC’S QB USAGE: Fedora is big on using competition to push players and used two quarterbacks for much of last season, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see both Williams and Trubisky get significant reps. “We’ve got two guys on our team that have responded to every bit of that challenge,” quarterbacks coach Keith Heckendorf said. “They both deserve opportunities to play, they both deserve opportunities to start.”

SPECIAL TEAMS: North Carolina receiver Ryan Switzer tied an NCAA single-season record by returning five punts for touchdowns last season, while tailback T.J. Logan returned two kickoffs for scores. Gill said that return ability is “probably keeping us up a little bit at night” and the championship subdivision Flames can’t afford to let UNC’s returners get loose.

FLAMES’ NEW RUNNER: With last year’s leading rusher out for the year with a knee injury, junior D.J. Abnar is expected to make his first career start for Liberty. He ran for 411 yards and six scores last year. “I know he’s going to be overly excited,” Gill said, “so it’ll be more about us trying to tone him down a little bit and making sure he stays focused on what he needs to do on each and every play.”

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