T.J. Thorpe, the North Carolina receiver who early in the preseason suffered another broken foot, is planning to play on Saturday in the Tar Heels' game at East Carolina. I wrote a story about this here.
If you'll read it, you'll know that Thorpe received some good news and bad news with his injury, which he endured on the second day of the preseason. The good news (and there usually hasn't been much good news for Thorpe with these): The bone in his foot didn't break all the way through. That enabled him to come back this season.
The bad news: The doctor told him he'd likely break his foot at least three more times.
Keep in mind that Thorpe has already broken his foot three times. So, doing the quick math, his doctor expects him to break that left foot at least six times. For some reason I thought Thorpe had injured his right foot at some point. I referenced that thought last week during a conversation with Thorpe.
“My right foot seems to be holding up, knock on wood,” he said. “So hopefully we can continue that. Hopefully the left one will come back with it.”
Thorpe just resumed full practices last week, so it'll likely take a while for him to become acclimated and to be in top shape. Though he's planning to play on Saturday against ECU, there's reason to question how effective he might be, or what his role might be.
Fully healthy, though, Thorpe can help the Tar Heels' passing offense. He said last week that he was practicing at all of the receiving positions – outside and in the slot – but the hope for him, always, is that he'd be a guy who can stretch defenses down the field.
After breaking the same foot three times, it's fair to wonder if Thorpe will ever rediscover that top end speed he showed during his freshman season, when he averaged more than 26 yards per kick return, and returned one kickoff for a touchdown.
I asked Gunter Brewer, the Tar Heels' receiving coach, how Thorpe would fit into the offense upon his return. Brewer said:
“He adds a different body type to our group. We've got a lot of tall, rangy guys, and then we've got a couple of shifty, quick guys in Switz and Proehl. He brings a 6-foot, 200-pound guy that can stick his foot in the ground, change direction, muscle his way through. It's just a different body type that really helps us. And a lot of experience. You know, he's been through a lot of things with injury.”
Andrew Carter is the UNC athletics beat reporter for The News & Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow him on Twitter @_andrewcarter .