CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina may be missing starting safety Jonathan Smith (doubtful because of an ankle injury) and starting linebacker Ebele Okakpu (questionable because of an ankle injury) for Saturdays game at East Carolina.
But it will have three other defenders back to help try to slow the Pirates big-play passing game.
Interim coach Everett Withers said Thursday that wide receiver-turned-cornerback Todd Harrelson, who has missed two games, has had his suspension lifted and will be able to play. In addition, starting linebacker Zach Brown, who played on special teams last Saturday but did not play on defense because of unspecified disciplinary reasons, will be back in the defensive rotation. Brown is second on the team in tackles.
Perhaps most notably: defensive back Jabari Price, a part-time starter last year who needed hand surgery during training camp, will also return.
Im really looking for Jabari to go out, and get his feet back under him and playing, Withers said. For us to expect him to go out and expect him to be dynamic the first ball game may be much, but Im looking forward to him to get back on the field, maybe help us in some special teams.
Withers said Tre Boston who made the switch from safety to corner with Price sidelined will remain at corner for now. If Smith cannot play, Gene Robinson will start at safety.
In other injury news, starting wide receiver Erik Highsmith, who missed last weekends game because of an ankle injury, will play. As expected, senior kicker Casey Barth will miss his second straight game with a groin injury.