Draughn to return at tailback for Heels

The senior from Tarboro is cleared by UNC to play against Georgia Tech. He was one of 13 players who sat out the opener against LSU because of ongoing investigations.

Staff WriterSeptember 14, 2010 

— North Carolina's offense will have one of its veteran running backs in the lineup for Saturday's home opener against Georgia Tech.

The school cleared senior Shaun Draughn on Monday to play after he missed the season-opening loss to LSU on Sept. 4 in Atlanta.

Draughn was one of 13 players who missed the first game because of investigations into possible improper contacts with sports agents and possible academic misconduct. The school has not yet cleared any of the other 12 players, which includes seven starters on defense.

"The guys who played against LSU, that's who we're going to play with [against Georgia Tech]," coach Butch Davis said Monday. "If we're fortunate enough to get guys back, at any particular time, that's good for us. Right now, we're practicing and preparing to play our game with the exact same football team."

After running for just 24 yards as a team against the Tigers, UNC quarterback T.J. Yates said Draughn, who has 1,433 career rushing yards, should help.

"He has been running like a madman in practice," Yates said. "I know he'll be ready to go Saturday."

UNC did not say why it held Draughn out of the opener. Athletic director Dick Baddour was not available for comment on Monday.

Archived records of senior cornerback Kendric Burney's Twitter account show that Draughn met Burney, cornerback Charles Brown and former UNC player Chris Hawkins in Atlanta in May.

The NCAA defined Hawkins as an agent in its four-game suspension of Georgia receiver A.J. Green. Hawkins said he talked to the NCAA about his involvement with current UNC players but denied any wrongdoing. Brown and Burney were among the six players UNC declared ineligible for the LSU game.

UNC spokesman Kevin Best said Draughn will not be available to the media until after Saturday's game.

The Tar Heels have listed Draughn as the third-team running back, behind Johnny White and Anthony Elzy, two players who struggled against LSU. Given Draughn's limited role in practice because of the investigation, Davis said, Draughn will have to be worked back into the rotation at tailback.

White started the LSU game but fumbled on his first carry, the second play of the game, and finished with 29 yards on eight carries. Elzy, who has bounced back and forth between fullback and tailback during his college career, led the team with 46 yards on 14 carries.

Draughn ran for 567 yards last season in nine games before breaking his left shoulder blade against Duke and missing the final four games. He led UNC in rushing in 2008 with 866 yards.

"Anything right now is going to help us," said Yates, who threw for a career-best 412 yards against LSU.

UNC's offense is still without running back Ryan Houston and receiver Greg Little. Houston led the Heels in rushing in 2009 with 713 yards and nine touchdowns. Little led the team in receptions (62) and receiving yards (724).

Notes: Freshman Mywan Jackson, who suffered a concussion of the first half of the LSU loss, is listed as the starting corner on the depth chart released Monday. Davis said Jackson has been cleared to practice.

Sophomore Jonathan Cooper, who struggled with his shotgun snaps against LSU and was replaced by Cam Holland, will start at center. Davis said both Cooper and Holland will play against Georgia Tech.

jp.giglio@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8938

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