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Injury, Lack of Depth Cause More UNC Lineup Changes

It's doubtful, though, that anyone would have predicted the change would have put an offensive player on the opposite side of the ball.

So that's exactly what UNC coach John Bunting did against Wake Forest on Saturday.

Bunting moved fullback Madison Hedgecock onto the defensive line with hopes that as defensive end the sophomore could reinforce a crumbling Tar Heel line.

"We don't have a lot of players to play on the defensive line," Bunting said. "We played Madison Hedgecock out of necessity at defensive end. I love that kid, what a tribute to him to have the courage to go over there in three days time and get lined up to play.

"It just goes to show you where we're at right now with that front."

Hedgecock practiced with the ends last week and said he didn't even flinch when Bunting requested the change.

"I was surprised," Hedgecock said. "But they wanted more depth there because we've had some injuries there so I tried to do it for the betterment of the team."

Hedgecock proved to be a sound choice for Bunting and the Tar Heels, especially with his knowledge of the position. As a high school sophomore and junior, he played defensive end.

He also saw time at the spot in the North Carolina East-West All Star game.

This knowledge translated into productivity on the field, as Hedgecock notched five tackles.

But his presence didn't make the difference on an injury-plagued team in a game full of offensive errors and penalties.

"I think I played all right," Hedgecock said. "On the first drive I felt a little bit uncomfortable but for somebody in a new position, anybody would. After the first drive I felt pretty comfortable."

Bunting hasn't said whether Hedgecock will be a permanent fixture on the defensive line.

Injuries Keep Carey in Spotlight

As injuries continue to hinder the Tar Heels, Mahlon Carey keeps collecting minutes. A true freshman, Carey shed his redshirt at Bunting's request during the Virginia game.

Eight North Carolina players were injured during the Wake game, so Carey got yet another chance to earn some time on the field.

But in Saturday's contest he was more than a warm, healthy body for UNC. Carey was a bright spot for a struggling North Carolina offense, carrying the ball 11 times for 47 yards, the team's game high. Sophomore Jacque Lewis, the team's leading rusher this season, struggled to keep up, gaining 39 yards on nine carries.

Success Eludes Offense

Junior transfer C.J. Stephens got his first start of the season, filling in for an injured Darian Durant on Saturday. But any productivity that the junior amassed during the game was quickly erased by offensive penalties.

On one particular drive in the first half, the score 17-0, Stephens fired a pass to tight end Bobby Blizzard, which Blizzard then ran for four yards. However, a North Carolina illegal formation penalty brought the ball right back to UNC's 48.

So try again, he did.

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Stephens threw a complete pass to wide receiver Jawarski Pollock, who ran for seven yards to the 50-yard line.

A North Carolina personal foul negated the gain and pushed UNC back 15 yards.

And so the game continued. Fouls came as often as completed passes -- a statistic that ruined the team's progress. UNC tallied seven penalties for 83 yards, while Wake had nine for 70.

Of course it seems logical to chalk up the Tar Heels' sordid season to inexperience, especially with players at new positions and a host of injuries.

But freshman linebacker Jeff Longhany, who made his first starting appearance Saturday, said that's not the case.

"If this would have happened in the first two to three games of the season, I would lean toward inexperience, but our inexperienced players are experienced now," Longhany said. "We're seven games into the season. It's not technical -- Dave Huxtable, our defensive coordinator, has us prepared so we know what's in front of us, we know what they're going to do.

"It's just for the last couple of weeks we haven't been reacting to what we see."

The Sports Editor can be reached at sports@unc.edu.