Immediately after Saturday’s 19-6 victory against Duke, in which he rushed 37 times, North Carolina running back Ryan Houston said he was ready for even more of the workload.
But Monday, after having time to feel some of the damage inflicted upon him, Houston admitted his body was feeling some of the effects.
“After the game, I had a real sharp pain in my chest and it was kind of hurting me,” Houston said. “I don’t know if it was an after effect of me being hit so many times or me just being worn out.”
Houston said that the sharp pain subsided, but added he endured plenty of soreness Sunday.
And with starting running back Shaun Draughn out for the season with a fracture in his left shoulder blade, or scapula, Houston’s already readying his body for another game where he will be depended upon to carry the load for UNC’s running game.
With reserve running backs Jamal Womble (wrist) and A.J. Blue (knee) also out for the remainder of the season, UNC’s coaches are scrambling to find capable backups to take some of the burden off Houston.
“We’re going to have to find something to compensate for it,” coach Butch Davis said in his weekly news conference Monday.
One switch Davis and his coaching staff made was moving fullback Anthony Elzy back to tailback, a position he last played two years ago. Elzy, a junior, gained 321 yards during his freshman season.
He tallied 12 yards on two carries in his return to the position against Duke, and was listed Monday on UNC’s updated depth chart as Houston’s backup.
“(Elzy) got a little bit of playing time the other day against Duke,” Davis said. “I would suspect that when we get a chance, the more comfortable he is and the more reps during the course of the week in practice that we’ll be able to get him more opportunities in the game.”
Draughn’s loss takes away some of the big-play ability of the Tar Heels’ running game. Draughn’s longest carry of the season was 44 yards, and Houston’s best has been 20.
Still, quarterback T.J. Yates said he doesn’t see UNC’s rushing attack changing too drastically without Draughn in the lineup.
“Ryan obviously doesn’t have the speed that Shaun did, but for the most part, during the course of the last game, we didn’t change the running game too much,” Yates said. “We just kind of stuck to the things that Ryan is good at, some of the inside type of stuff.”
As for Houston, he said he’s more than ready to take on the role of the team’s starter.
He doesn’t think much too much will change for him on the field, other than being in for more than just short-yardage situations.
“I’m not hesitating in there because I know everything that’s going on,” Houston said.
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