CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina's Cooter Arnold missed having the football in his hands. First when he was switched from running back to safety after his freshman season. Then last year as a junior, when he was suspended for the first five games by new head coach Butch Davis.
So after returning from his suspension — which he said was partially because of an academic issue — Arnold asked to be switched back to the offense.
Now as a wide receiver, he's making a last-ditch grab to help the Tar Heels to a winning season and bowl berth.
"My biggest setback was my suspension, but it taught me a lesson ... not to take anything for granted,'' said Arnold, who is from Mocksvile. "So I made it a point when I did get suspended to do everything I could to get back on.
"... I had it decided in my mind that I was going to come back harder than ever, and I was going to bust my tail to get everything done to prove myself."
At first, Arnold said, he talked to Davis about returning at tailback, where he started his first game as a Tar Heel in 2005 and finished the season with 187 yards on 48 carries. But the coaches instead tried him out as a scout team wide receiver, liked what they saw, and made the switch during spring practice.
Playing in the secondary for two seasons has actually made the change more seamless, Arnold said, "because it's a little bit easier to know what the defense might be in, or makes the coverage easier to read."
And although the Tar Heels already boast a star corps of wide receivers in Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate and Brooks Foster, Arnold is hoping to get the chance to make a catch or two, while also likely playing on special teams.
Anything to get his hands on the ball again.
"I just want to be the best I can be, help my team out ... help bring the ACC Championship home,'' he said.