North Carolina could get a major boost for Saturday night's game vs. Virginia.
"The injured players are practicing," Coach Mack Brown said. "They’re doing a good job; we’ll have to watch this video today to see if they’re well enough to play, we’ll have to let the trainers check them tonight to see if they’ve got soreness. Jace Ruder probably will not play, but the other guys have a chance to play because they're doing a good job."
The group of players that could return this week — all starters — are center Nick Polino, safety Myles Wolfolk and cornerbacks Storm Duck and Trey Morrison.
Polino's return could be particularly well-timed as Carolina prepares to meet a Virginia defense that ranks 11th nationally in total defense and fourth in sacks with 32.
"Their defense is second in the league (in sacks) and we haven’t done a great job protecting," Brown said. "They bring a lot of different people and they do a really good job with their schemes, so this ought to be a great challenge for us and a fun contest."
Sacks have been an issue all season long for the Tar Heels, which rank 122nd nationally, having allowed 27 sacks.
Previously a starter at guard, Polino moved to center this season before going down with a lower-body injury, with Brian Anderson taking over in his absence.
Left guard has been a trouble spot in recent weeks with Ed Montilus and Josh Ezeudu splitting time, and with Polino getting healthy, his return might be in that slot rather than center after he practiced in both positions on Wednesday.
"He actually practiced inside today and he did a lot of different things, so we’ll watch that today," Brown said.
Meanwhile, Carolina's secondary is desperate for good news after being forced to move DeAndre Hollins from nickelback to cornerback on the fly vs. Duke due to Duck's injury.
Duck and Morrison practiced Wednesday, and with Hollins emerging as a capable option at corner, the Tar Heels could have options at corner unlike they've seen since Patrice Rene was injured vs. Miami.
"I think the biggest thing is depth," Brown said. "It gives us some depth to let them play and what people are trying to do because we blitz a whole lot is hit the fade ball … that’s really hurt us and we’ve got to play it better. The guys that can play that play better are going to play."