North Carolina has lost starting cornerback Kendrick Williams after he suffered a knee injury in Saturday's game against Virginia Tech. Despite an appeal for additional eligibility for Williams, due to his former status as a walk-on, he may have played in his last game at UNC.
"Kendrick Williams is lost for the season," said head coach Butch Davis on Monday. "He has a torn ACL, and he's going to go through probably a week, to two weeks, to two-and-a-half weeks, of rehabilitation to try to strengthen the knee and stuff, so that's there's not as much deterioration while he's incapacitated (after surgery)."
Williams, who will have surgery after his couple of weeks of rehab, is naturally upset about the situation, and the Tar Heel coaches are also disappointed.
"He was around here (at the UNC football offices) yesterday (Sunday)," said Davis. "His spirits, obviously, were a little down and depressed. He's a good kid, and somebody that was a valuable contributor to this football team, not only defensively but on special teams. We certainly hate to lose him."
Due to the fact that he has already played in five games this season, Williams is most likely not eligible for a medical redshirt. However, UNC has made an appeal to the NCAA to get Williams another year of eligibility based on the fact that he was formerly a walk-on that was low on the defensive depth chart, and did not see game action for much of his time as a Tar Heel player.
Williams did, however, participate in a Junior Varsity game back in 2005, which could cost him an entire season.
"I think after you've already played this many games, I don't know whether or not that would appeal (for a medical redshirt)," said Davis. "At one point, it's my understanding that North Carolina used to play JV games. I think if you played in only one play it still counted (as a year of eligibility), and so when he came as a walk-on into the program, he played (in the JV game). I think they played a lot of the scholarship freshmen kids, and some of the walk-ons."
Davis was unaware that the Tar Heels played J.V. games under former head coach John Bunting until just prior to this season. He originally thought that Williams might have two more years to play at UNC, but now his future as a Tar Heel is very much up in the air.
"It was something I just found out right before the start of the season, because I actually thought he was a junior," he said. "I didn't realize that he was actually a senior until someone said that he'd played in a JV game. Initially they'd sent in that appeal to see if there'd be a chance of him getting an extra year. I don't know. We haven't heard anything back on it."
Williams started at cornerback for each of the team's first five games this fall, recording a grand total of 15.5 tackles.
He will be replaced in the starting lineup by sophomore Jermaine Strong, who Williams overtook in the starting lineup during the spring and training camp, along with freshman Charles Brown, who plays mostly when the Tar Heels employ a fifth defensive back in certain formations.
"We're trying to get as much speed on the field as possible at all areas; linebacker and secondary. Certainly both of those guys have got some speed, and now obviously with Kendrick being gone, they're going to be pressed into more opportunities," Davis said of Strong and Brown. "Jermaine came in (after Williams was injured) and we were encouraged. He did some nice things over the course of the ball game. Now he's got to continue taking that performance and build on it. Charles will continue to accommodate the role that we've kind of created as him as part of our nickel and dime and "sub" packages, and we'll allow him to continue to grow in that area."