CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina's depleted lineup took another hit on Monday with the news that tight end Zack Pianalto will miss the remainder of the regular season.
Pianalto fractured his right fibula in the second quarter of UNC's 44-10 win at Virginia on Saturday and will be out the rest of the season, UNC coach Butch Davis said Monday.
Pianalto's the seventh player from the preseason depth chart that UNC has lost for the season to either injury or the NCAA investigation. An additional four starters have not played this season because of the NCAA investigation and a fifth was sidelined after four games.
The Tar Heels (4-2), who have won four straight despite all of the missing parts of their lineup, will travel to No. 25 Miami on Saturday. There's a chance they could also be missing linebacker Quan Sturdivant, who has not played since Sept. 25 because of a hamstring injury, or cornerback LeCount Fantroy, who injured his left shoulder against Virginia. The status of Sturdivant and Fantroy won't be determined until later this week.
Most of UNC's personnel issues have been on defense but Pianalto is a setback for the offense. The senior leads the team in receptions (30) and receiving yards (311). His value to the offense is even greater than his statistics because of the attention he demands in coverage. Since 2008, UNC is 14-5 when Pianalto is in the lineup and 6-7 when he's not.
Pianalto might be able to return if UNC (4-2) qualifies for a bowl game.
Pianalto was hurt with 2:35 left in the second quarter after he picked up seven yards on his third catch of the game. UVa linebacker Ausar Walcott tackled Pianalto low and cornerback Chase Minnifield hit him high. Minnifield was given a 15-yard penalty for a personal foul for his hit.
The injury continued a bizarre, tough-luck streak for Pianalto who has been injured in every college game he has scored a touchdown. Senior Ryan Taylor, senior Ed Barham and sophomore Nelson Hurst will be used at tight end in Pianalto's spot.
UNC's still trying to determine the status of two more starters for the Miami trip. Cornerback Kendric Burney was suspended six games by the NCAA for receiving agent-related benefits on trips to Atlanta and Las Vegas. He was scheduled to return this Saturday but the school announced he has "unresolved issues" related to the investigation.
Due to privacy laws, UNC cannot comment on the academic portion of the investigation, including the results of the players whose cases have been tried in the university honor court.
The school did clear running back Ryan Houston last Thursday but Davis said the team's leading rusher in 2009 is contemplating using this season to redshirt.
Houston ran for 713 yards and a team-best nine touchdowns in 2009 but he missed the first five games and was cleared too late in the week to prepare for Virginia.
UNC's top two rushers, Johnny White (464 yards) and Shaun Draughn (287) are seniors, so saving Houston for '11 addresses a potential void in the lineup.