Tar Heels lose CB Patrice Rene for season; C Nick Polino out indefinitely
One starter is out for the season and another will be out for the foreseeable future as North Carolina announced on Monday morning that its top cornerback, Patrice Rene, will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL in his right knee while center Nick Polino will be out indefinitely with a lower body injury.
The loss of Rene is a major blow to the Carolina secondary, which is short on experience beyond Rene and fellow starter Trey Morrison.
The injury happened in the second quarter when, attempting to break up a touchdown pass from Miami's Jarren Williams to KJ Osborn, Rene's right knee banged into safety Myles Wolfolk's helmet.
Having not used a redshirt season at Carolina, Rene will have the option to return for a fifth season if the senior from Canada chooses to do so, and Mack Brown said the Tar Heels would gladly welcome him back.
"It sucks for Patrice," defensive coordinator Jay Bateman said. "He’s a great kid; really, really great kid. He was over at my house last week and my wife was like, ‘Man, he’s such a nice boy.’ I’m rooting for him to have a chance to keep playing football."
In his absence, Greg Ross and freshman Storm Duck will move up the depth chart.
"Greg Ross played really well, he’s played a lot of games," Bateman said. "I think Storm Duck is a really talented young kid who got thrown in the fire that first game and did well."
On offense, the Tar Heels will be without one of their leaders for the foreseeable future as Polino, a fifth-year senior, recovers from an injury he suffered in the first quarter.
Currently, there is no timetable for his return.
Brian Anderson takes over at center with freshman Ty Murray serving as the backup.
Luckily for the Carolina offense, all three players saw significant reps during training camp as the Tar Heels looked for the right combination along the offensive line before ultimately deciding to move Polino from right guard to center.
In the win over South Carolina, Anderson had actually come into the game for Polino on both fourth-quarter scoring drives.
"The good thing is we didn’t have an answer at center yet from the spring, then we went into August camp looking for a center, so we had two or three guys that were snapping a lot, that got a lot of reps at center," offensive coordinator Phil Longo said. "When you’re working three guys in with the Blue and the Whites or the ones and the twos, you have to share more reps than maybe you wanted to; kind of like we did at quarterback when we had three of them."
Longo is hopeful to have Polino back at some point later this season.
"He did a phenomenal job and he’s a leader for a football team, so we’ll miss him, but in the meantime we’ve got to move on to the next guy," he said.
One bit of good news, however, came as receiver Antoine Green seemingly avoided significant injury after leaving Saturday night's game in the second quarter with a lower-body injury.