Triangle Notebook

Triangle Notebook: Checking in on UNC and Duke football practices

August 6, 2013 

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UNC's T.J. Thorpe (5) had five returns for 155 yards against Rutgers on Sept. 10, 2011, in Chapel Hill.

ROBERT WILLETT - 2011 NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

— T.J. Thorpe was injured so often that the assistant coaches at North Carolina started to have some fun with it.

“Some of the coaches (were) always messing with me,” Thorpe, the sophomore receiver at North Carolina, said Monday. “Like, ‘Hey, I heard we have an opening for a (graduate assistant coach), or a water boy. You could be equipment manager if you like.’ ”

Thorpe spoke Monday after the Tar Heels’ fifth practice. The significance of the third one, Saturday, wasn’t lost on him. Thorpe suffered a broken foot during UNC’s third preseason practice last year. And then, at the start of spring practice, he suffered nearly the same exact injury.

His return has bolstered a position that entered the preseason with plenty of questions.

“He’s doing a really nice job,” coach Larry Fedora said. “It’s early for me to say anything about him because I don’t want to (jinx) anything about it. … He looks really good (practicing). It’s just been a long time since he’s done it.”

Thorpe last played in a game in 2011, when he led the ACC in kickoff returns as a freshman. It has taken time to regain his motion – “I kind of felt like I was waddling at one point,” Thorpe said – but he said he has become more fluid recently.

“My expectations are to come back and really make an impact on the game,” he said. “Just make as many plays as possible.”

• 

North Carolina junior linebacker Travis Hughes faces a Sept.24 court date in Durham County on a charge of misdemeanor drug paraphernalia possession.

A clerk of court said Hughes was charged during January.

Hughes, who had 38 tackles last season, is atop the depth chart at strong-side linebacker.

Fedora said he had just learned of the charge. Andrew Carter

Duke: The Blue Devils’ list of preseason injuries is much shorter this August than it has been in years past.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Thomas Sirk continues to be out indefinitely while he recovers from surgery on April 10 to repair his ruptured right Achilles tendon. Coach David Cutcliffe doesn’t want to rule him out for the season yet, but it’s safe to say he will not be ready for the Aug. 31 opener against N.C. Central.

Redshirt junior Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo is still rehabbing his left ankle after undergoing surgery May 22. The Blue Devils don’t yet know if he will be available for the season’s start, Cutcliffe said. DeWalt-Ondijo is listed as the backup right defensive end on the depth chart, behind Kenny Anunike.

“He’s still trying to get well,” Cutcliffe said of DeWalt-Ondijo. “He’s not yet getting back.”

DeWalt-Ondijo has struggled with injuries dating back to a Nov. 2011 game against Virginia in his redshirt freshman year. It’s too bad, Cutcliffe said, because DeWalt-Ondijo was one of the fastest young defensive end prospects he has ever had.

Redshirt senior Justin Foxx, listed as the starting left defensive end, is practicing but will be limited as he continues to work back from January knee surgery that kept him out of contact drills in the spring.

Those were the only injuries Cutcliffe mentioned – quite a change from last August, when five projected starters were out indefinitely.

“I would love to be one of those teams that everyone is irritated by when you look at them and they’ve had the same starting lineup for 12 games,” Cutcliffe said. “We see that out there on occasion, but we haven’t come close to that. We have 32 guys on this team that have started at least one game for Duke. Thirty-two! That means way too many people have gotten hurt over the last two-to-three years. We need to slow that down a little bit.”

•  Brendan Fowler, the two-sport athlete who earned most outstanding player honors in the lacrosse national championship game, is no longer with the football team. Fowler, also the ACC defensive player of the year for lacrosse, had been a walk-on for both sports for the past three years. He is now receiving a partial scholarship from lacrosse, which would count against the football team’s 85-scholarship limit, too. Football doesn’t have any available scholarship spots, so Fowler, a reserve linebacker, left the team with no hard feelings on either side.

Laura Keeley

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