Monday, October 18, 2010

Pressure now on young Carolina receivers

North Carolina senior Zack Pianalto is one of the best tight ends the Tar Heels have ever had - Alge Crumpler and Charles Waddell come to mind as two of the school's best ever - and the fact that he fractured his right fibula in Saturday's win at Virginia puts renewed pressure on Carolina's offense.

Pianalto is one of the team leaders, a tough kid who doesn't complain and a senior who committed early to Butch Davis. His loss will put pressure on offensive coordinator John Shoop, who has used him creatively, and T.J. Yates, who has gone to Pianalto in clutch situations. There's a reason why Pianalto leads the Tar Heels with 30 receptions for 311 yards and one touchdown. He already has the school record for career receptions by a tight end at 94.

Carolina's receivers, though young, have been strong, and continue to find ways to make plays. Dwight Jones went nuts at Virginia, and Erik Highsmith and Jheranie Boyd give the Heels a talented threesome there. The challenge for Yates, and Shoop, will be finding the confidence in a receiver to match what they had in Pianalto.

Pianalto was out five games last year, suffering an injury at Connecticut and missing the next five contests. The receiver who flourished in that span was Greg Little, who had 23 catches over those five games .Of course, Little is not an option this season. Erik Highsmith snatched six balls per game in the first two after Pianalto went down, but only three total in the three games following. Boyd (seven catches) and Jones (two) were no factors with Pianalto out.

Of course, those receivers are all more experienced this season, and UNC will need them in a tough stretch ahead.

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