Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tar Heels shuffle secondary

CHAPEL HILL – Jabari Price entered the starting lineup at cornerback for North Carolina on Thursday, and fellow sophomore Tre Boston moved back to safety from cornerback.

North Carolina interim coach Everett Withers announced the moves before practice Thursday. Last week at East Carolina, Price made five tackles in a reserve role after recovering from a torn tendon in his left hand that caused him to miss the first four games.

Price started the final four games of the 2010 season as a freshman.

“Jabari did a good job for us last week,” Withers said, “so we’ll see about him starting and trying to get back into a normal routine back in the secondary.”

Charles Brown at cornerback and Matt Merletti at safety are the other two starters in the secondary. The Tar Heels (4-1) will play host to Louisville (2-2) at noon Saturday.

Boston had moved from cornerback to safety in the spring, but went back to cornerback after Price’s injury. Boston has 26 tackles, third-highest on the team, and one interception.

“We felt like [safety] was his more natural position,” Withers said. “I think he feels more comfortable there.”

The secondary has been somewhat of a problem for the Tar Heels this season. North Carolina is giving up 258.8 passing yards per game, the second-highest mark in the ACC.

Merletti said earlier this week that the defensive backs need to take responsibility for improving the pass coverage.

“It’s on us in the secondary,” Merletti said. “Our defensive line is obviously very, very good.”

Place-kicker Casey Barth, who has missed the last two games with a groin injury, will miss Saturday’s game. Five other players are fighting injuries that could keep them out of Saturday’s game, and Withers said he will make game time decisions on many of them.

Running back A.J. Blue (high ankle sprain), center Cam Holland (back), safety Jonathan Smith (ankle), linebacker Kevin Reddick (ankle) and linebacker Ebele Okakpu (ankle) are injured.

Withers said he would prefer to be able to hold Reddick and Holland out of Saturday’s game to avoid aggravating their injuries.

Ken Tysiac