The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday May 28th

Durant to Start Thursday Night

QB Darian Durant will get his first start Thursday night because of a hamstring injury to Ronald Curry.

North Carolina coach John Bunting said Tuesday at his weekly press conference that redshirt-freshman Darian Durant will start Thursday night's nationally televised game at No. 23 Georgia Tech. Ronald Curry is still ailing from a hamstring injury he suffered Oct. 20 at Clemson.

"It's hard to say (Durant) hasn't had a lot of experience," Bunting said. "He's played in every single ballgame. He's earned a significant role in the last five wins. He has a lot of confidence. He's had a good week of practice so far. I feel very good about Darian Durant starting for us and playing the whole game."

A shot at the ACC Championship will be on the line at Bobby Dodd Stadium for No. 22 UNC (5-3 overall, 4-1 in the ACC). Maryland and Florida State each have a conference loss, as well. Both schools have Clemson and N.C. State remaining on the schedule, and FSU also has to play the Yellow Jackets (5-2, 2-2).

"I feel like I'm prepared," said Durant, who has completed 78-of-124 passes for 949 yards, nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. "Coach gave me an opportunity to play early in the last five games, and I feel like I'm ready to step it up."

Durant and Curry began rotating every two series in the Florida State upset that kickstarted UNC's five-game winning streak. But Curry has started all eight games.

Curry, the Tar Heels' all-time leader in total yards, needs 30 passing yards to become UNC's career leader in that category. Durant needs 27 yards to break Curry's freshman passing record.

Curry has not been taking his snaps in practice. Durant has gotten them, and Aaron Leak has been taking the backup spot while Curry has nursed his leg.

"I feel good," said Curry, who is 43 for 101 with 672 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions in 2001. "Yeah, I could play (Thursday).

"I think (Durant) might play better (because he's starting). He might have a more productive day because he won't be playing two series on, two series off. He can get in a groove and stay in a groove."

Bunting said Curry told him Monday he would be ready if needed. Bunting said he would rather be safe than sorry with three games and a possible bowl left.

"If Ronald's available, with so much football left in this season, I probably will not play him unless there is a situation that we absolutely desperately need him in the game," Bunting said. "I would not want to risk it. But he is available, at least that is what he's told me. We'll wait and see."

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