“The investigation now has two prongs, so I want to caution you against making assumptions if student-athletes don’t play,” Baddour said at a Aug. 26 press conference after possible academic misconduct was uncovered.
The Wednesday press release of Austin’s suspension came after Kevin Best, director of football communications, sent an e-mail on Wednesday morning that said players would not be available to the media for the rest of the week. Requested players were scheduled to be available between 1:15 and 2 p.m. at the tunnel of Kenan Stadium.
“In order to allow the team the best opportunity to prepare for Saturday’s LSU game, North Carolina football players will not be available to the media the remainder of the week,” Best said in the release.
While the Tar Heels could use a player of Austin’s caliber against a team that has two national titles in 10 years, they also face a squad that had the 112th-ranked offense in the nation in 2009. The Tigers’ offensive line also allowed 2.85 sacks per game — good for 105th in the country.
In 2009, Austin played in all 13 of UNC’s games and accumulated 42 tackles and four sacks. He’s listed as an All-America candidate and was likely to be one of the first defensive tackles selected in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Austin is also one of the biggest personalities on the team. He regularly finds the camera and celebrates with his teammates after nearly every tackle for a loss.
His absence will certainly be felt by the defensive line, but foresight on the part of the Tar Heels has put the team in a position to soften the blow.
Austin and wide receiver Greg Little, who was also investigated by the NCAA, played with the second team during training camp. From the first day of camp, which began on Aug. 6, the players were missing from the first-string squad.
Neither of the players have been allowed to talk to the media since the investigation began.
Juniors Quinton Coples and Michael McAdoo moved along the defensive line earlier in training camp because of the probability that Austin wouldn’t be able to play this season.
“I think the most prudent thing that we can do is prepare,” Davis said in an interview with The Daily Tar Heel on Aug. 24. “Give (Austin and Little) some practice opportunities, some practice reps during the course of the week, but also prepare for the inevitability that potentially they might not be able to play in this particular ball game.
“That’s where depth, that’s where experience, that’s where other guys stepping up and realizing how important it is for them to be prepared to play a small, limited role or maybe potentially a bigger role.”
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