Secondary Reshuffle

Price

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina head coach Everett Withers spoke to reporters prior to Thursday afternoon's practice, touching on Tre Boston's move back to safety while also providing a series of injury updates.

EVERETT WITHERS
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* Withers continued his new tradition of opening his media availability with a preview of the injury report.

The interim head coach termed the following players as questionable for Saturday's game against Louisville:

  • Running back A.J. Blue (high ankle sprain) -- ‘We'll evaluate him [on Thursday]. Probably try to get a few things out of him and see how he goes."

  • Center Cam Holland (back soreness) -- "We'd like not to have to, but if we needed to, we think he'd be okay to play."

  • Safety Jon Smith (high ankle sprain) -- Smith will be a game time decision.

  • Linebacker Kevin Reddick (high ankle sprain) -- "We feel like if we needed Kevin, he could play."

    Withers added that weakside linebacker Zach Brown could see playing time at middle linebacker if Reddick doesn't play.

  • Linebacker Ebele Okakpu (high ankle sprain) – Withers expected Okakpu to participate in a limited amount on Thursday.

* Placekicker Casey Barth is on track to miss his third straight game with a groin injury.

"We'll probably hold Casey at least another week and hopefully be able to get him back maybe in a week or two," Withers said.

* The big news of the day occurred when Withers announced that Tre Boston would return to safety now that Jabari Price is back with a game under his belt.

"Jabari did a good job for us last week, so we want to see about him starting and trying to get back into a normal routine back in our secondary," Withers said.

Withers said that safety is Boston's "more natural position." The sophomore defensive back added 15 pounds during the offseason to play safety before Price's injury in training camp forced him to move back to cornerback.

"I think he feels more comfortable there," Withers said of Boston.

* Red-shirt freshman center Russell Bodine took a slew of snaps against East Carolina last weekend, and Withers reiterated to reporters how far along the Scottsville, Va. product has come in his development.

"Russell's as good as Cam now," Withers said. "I think that's one of those deals where I don't think we'll miss a whole lot. Cam gives us senior leadership, but we shouldn't miss a beat as far as technique and fundamentals."

* Louisville ranks 116th nationally in sacks allowed, giving up four per game and 16 on the season. While the Cardinals don't run a spread offense predicated on three-step drops like the Pirates run, UNC is expecting quarterbacks Will Stein (49-of-79 passing, 615 yards, 5 TD, INT) and Teddy Bridgewater (32-of-50 passing, 341 yards, 3 TD, 3 INT) to get rid of the ball quickly in the face of intense pressure from the Tar Heels' front four.

"I think they want to give their quarterback some confidence by getting the ball out of his hands and trying to get some early completions with hitches and slants and those type things," Withers said. "I think more than anything else, they're going to try not to turn it over. They play good defense, so they're going to try not to turn it over."

Louisville hasn't had much success in that regard, either. The Cardinals rank 109th nationally in turnover margin (minus-1.00).

* On the flip side of the ball, Charlie Strong's second team in the Bluegrass State has been effective in stopping the run, allowing just 85.0 yards per game (13th nationally). But don't expect UNC to alter its offensive plans based on those statistics.

"I think you try to do what you do," Withers said.

The Tar Heels are prepared to be stubborn early in hopes of loosening up their running lanes as the game goes on.

"Those two or three yard runs early that turn into 4-5-6 yards late, that's what I like," Withers said.

* North Carolina's offensive line has given up eight sacks on the season, but seven of those came against Georgia Tech and Withers has previously indicated that only two were credited to the front five. As a result, he believes that UNC's pass protection has been solid thus far.

Rutgers and Georgia Tech both blitzed in hopes of forcing first-year starting quarterback Bryn Renner into making bad decisions, and they succeeded in snagging five interceptions. Louisville will bring a blitz-heavy defensive scheme to Kenan Stadium on Saturday.

"Obviously, it's an emphasis because I think that's what people try to do to our quarterback – they want to try to pressure him and try to make him make quick decisions," Withers said.

* To prove that some statistics are simply a matter of perspective, consider Withers's comments earlier this week bragging on UNC's red zone defense numbers. The Tar Heels are tied for 22nd nationally in red zone defense (.72) in allowing 13 scores (7 TD, 6 FG) in 18 attempts.

To look at those statistics from a different angle, the only ACC teams to allow more opponents to enter the red zone are N.C. State (20), Boston College (20) and Virginia (19). Miami and Duke are tied with UNC with 18 opponent appearances. Virginia Tech has allowed a league-low eight trips into the red zone.

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