The same group of guys who have been standing on the sidelines, hoping to return from injury the last few weeks will likely get one man shorter Saturday. According to the UM injury report released Thursday night, defensive end Eric Moncur has been upgraded from doubtful to probable for Saturday's game at North Carolina.
Moncur, who has played just once since the Florida A&M game on Oct. 10 (vs. Clemson), returned to practice Wednesday according to coach Randy Shannon. Moncur was seen on the sidelines last Saturday against Virginia with a soft cast on his left knee.
Also listed probable for an undisclosed lower extremity injury: cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke, who has started five games including the last two.
Listed out as expected -- the other four guys who have stood next to Moncur on the sideline: Safety Ray Ray Armstrong (lower extremity), fullback Pat Hill (ankle), safety Jojo Nicholas (upper extremity) and linebacker Sean Spence (leg).
FRESH BACKS: I spent about 10 minutes talking to running backs coach Tommie Robinson Wednesday about the diversity in his backfield. When Graig Cooper ran for 152 yards last week against Virginia, it marked the first time at UM that three different running backs had run for more than 150 yards in a game in the same season. Robinson said the difference with his guys this year is "freshness."
One look at the stats tell the story. No back has carried the ball more than 18 times in a game. Cooper did that Saturday against Virginia. Between Cooper (84 att., 478 yards, 2 TDs), Javarris James (79 att., 421 yards, 4 TDs), Damien Berry (55 att., 363 yards, 6 TDs), Lee Chambers (36 att., 142 yards, 1 TD) and Mike James (15 att., 46 yards, 1 TD) there are more than enough people to carry the rock for UM. And to think, two years ago at Boston College, UM was down to just Derron Thomas.
"What having this many guys does is it let's you run multiple plays and do different things with them," UM quarterback Jacory Harris said. "You don't just have that one back who can only do this and do that. You have different backs that could do anything you need in your playbook."
BUTCH PLAYS CANES UP: You got to give North Carolina coach Butch Davis an award for the best sales job to the media about an opponent this week. While Randy Shannon said UNC's front seven was better than Oklahoma's, Butch took his compliments to the extreme Wednesday talking about the Canes offense.
"We're going to try to lobby the NCAA and see if we can play with about 13, 14 guys on defense," the former Canes coach said. "They're really talented. You watch at the way they've dismantled people. The score was closer than the game ever thought about being against Oklahoma. They just totally demolished a Virginia team we could barely make first downs against. We've gone through a lot of injuries and are playing a lot of young kids, so it will be baptism under fire for our football team."
And there was more... "You wish they were one dimensional," Davis said. "We were fortunate in that Duke game last week in that Duke came in averaging 400 yards a game passing and virtually non-existant in attempts in running the football. Miami making dramatic changes offensively, schematically from the previous two seasons when they tried to run some version of the read option offense and spread offense. They turned that into multiple tight ends, multiple receivers, some two back runs. They have changed their scheme and they're explosive in the running game that can make people miss and score from anywhere on the field and a quarterback that has a lot of targets. Someone told me when we were going through our offensive meetings that they have 12 different guys that have caught at least five passes. They have a quarterback that makes plays. I wish we could find weaknesses, but it doesn't look like they have any."
At least offensive coordinator Mark Whipple knows who to find when he needs a recommendation.
JACORY: WHIPPLE TRUSTS HIS GUYS... Speaking of Mr. Whipple, I thought the most interesting thing Jacory Harris talked about this week was about the relationship Miami's offensive coordinator has with his players. When asked the biggest thing he's learned about Whipple, Harris said he wouldn't say anything about football.
"I know he puts a lot of trust in his guys," Harris said. "If he trusts you with his plays and what he's calling, if you make a mistake he's got your back 100 percent. He'll come back with something else to make the game go a different way. Like Clemson when I was down, throwing an interception for a TD, he said you're going to throw a touchdown right here. And on a go route Travis [Benjamin] scored. He just has a lot of faith in his players. That's what I've learned about him."
LAMAR MILLER UPDATE: One thing I hear constantly at UM is how well freshman Lamar Miller has been playing on the Canes scout team. So, I asked Robinson about Miller, who is being redshirted, to get his thoughts.
"Lamar is a very talented kid. His job is, right now for this football team, to be the back of North Carolina, the Duke back or the South Florida back. He's doing a good job, is working hard," Robinson said. "Lamar is a big, fast, exploding guy. I haven't seen everything this kid is capable of doing because he's spent a lot of time on scout team. It'll be interesting to see how everything works out - we'll get a good idea of Lamar Miller this spring. I'm very encouraged by Lamar."
As good as Miller might be, consider Robinson is sold on Mike James. "Mike James, golly, I can't say enough about that kid," Robinson said. "People talk about all these backs. Still, one of the best ones is Mike James. He's a true freshman."
> Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to speak with defensive coordinator John Lovett this week despite requests early on. Lovett, who coached at North Carolina for the past seasons, would have naturally been a great person to talk this week for the game. But I did at least get this quote from North Carolina cornerback Kendric Burney about facing their former coach.
"We're kind of down a little bit because he knows all our calls," Burney said. "He was our secondary/corners coach. He definitely knows our tendencies and knows all our flaws. I think this is going to be a great test for us."
> In case you want to tune in, Jorge Sedano will have Butch Davis on at a 8 a.m. Friday on 790 The Ticket.