The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday January 25th

SportSaturday: Huard Ponders Future As UNC Quarterback

Things just haven't worked out the way Luke Huard imagined.

Huard earned Washington player of the year honors from three publications as a senior at Puyallup (Wash.) High School in 1997. He was rated among the nation's top five passing quarterbacks.

Huard looked ready to star at the collegiate level, just like his two older brothers before him. And the scholarship offers poured in.

He signed with North Carolina on Feb. 4, 1998, and nothing has gone quite right for him since.

In April of that year, national player of the year Ronald Curry announced he would attend UNC. Because Curry also played basketball, he was allowed to make his decision after the football signing period ended in February.

"At the time I was more surprised than anything else because I had the expectation I was going to be the only quarterback signed," Huard said. "For a minute there was a little bit of frustration because I knew the type of athlete that was coming in. I heard all the hype and accolades, so it was a little bit disappointing."

But Huard still came to UNC. He said he wanted to find out how he stacked up against the nation's top talent.

Curry won the backup quarterback job that fall, and saw plenty of game time as Oscar Davenport struggled through injuries. Huard redshirted.

Huard got a chance to start last season after Curry was lost for the season with an Achilles injury. But Huard suffered a rotator cuff injury in his throwing shoulder in the same game he replaced Curry.

Huard didn't discuss the severity of the injury with his coaches and tried to play anyway.

"Obviously with the shoulder injury, it was beyond words how frustrating that was," he said. "Because of the lack of depth we had, I didn't let 'em know how much it actually hurt. I tried to hide it a little bit just so I could go out and compete. Once got in the game, I thought the adrenaline would take over."

It didn't, and Huard posted some ugly numbers. He completed just 38.7 percent of his passes (29-for-75) for one touchdown and two interceptions in parts of seven games.

"Last year, people didn't see the real Luke Huard playing," he said.

Huard took another hit this fall when he lost his backup job to Antwon Black, who played defensive back for two years before converting to QB in 1999. Black, a more athletic player like Curry, fits offensive coordinator Mike O'Cain's option-based attack better than the Huard, a classic drop-back passer.

"When they brought the option in, it was for me kind of a frustrating feeling knowing that they're going to rely on somebody that has that capability," said Huard, who hasn't taken a snap this year. "I can run it, but not with the effectiveness of Ronald or Antwon."

Huard has two seasons left after this one, but Curry will be around for one more season. That leaves Huard a small window of opportunity to be UNC's

No. 1 quarterback. But if the Tar Heels keep the same offensive scheme that requires a more mobile signal caller, Huard might end up losing out to current freshmen Aaron Leak or Adrian Durant.

Huard also has the pressure of living up to his older brothers' accomplishments. Both are in the NFL, a place Huard hopes to end up.

Damon started for the Dolphins last season when Dan Marino was injured. Brock beat out Jon Kitna to become the Seahawks starting QB midway through this season, but got injured.

"You've got two older brothers who are very talented, but you're right there in the mix," Huard said. "I just want to put myself in the position to have the opportunity to play the next level.

"It may not work out, but I want to put myself in the position to have that chance."

For that chance (read: playing time), Huard might have to transfer to another school - a thought that's crossed his mind. He plans to sit down with Coach Carl Torbush and O'Cain and discuss his future at season's end.

"If my best opportunity to play football is somewhere else, then that's something I've got to look into," Huard said. "My ambition is still to reach my full potential, and everybody knows you have to do that with experience on the field of play."

Even if Huard stays in Chapel Hill and never gets the playing time he seeks, he said he won't regret his decision to enroll at UNC.

"There are some days that I look at another school and think, `Man I could be a starter there,'" Huard said. "Right now I'm trying not to look back because hindsight's 20-20, and if you do that to yourself - you look back - you're just going to hurt yourself."



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