Draughn was among six players withheld from the Sept. 4 season opener, a 30-24 loss to LSU in Atlanta, about concerns about his eligibility while the NCAA investigated possible improper contact with a sports agent and the school investigated possible academic impropriety. Another six were declared ineligible by school officials, and a seventh was not identified for being declared ineligible or being withheld.
Coach Butch Davis of UNC said that Draughn’s practice time will increase this week to get him ready to play in the ACC and home opener.
“As far as Shaun’s role, certainly we’ll try to get him back into the flow of things,” Davis said. “The period of time over the last couple of weeks, because of the question of whether or not he would be available, some of his roles in practice have been minimized.”
Draughn was one of two offensive starters to miss the LSU game. The other was Greg Little, a senior receiver. Draughn has rushed for 1,433 yards and averaged 4.5 yards a carry since moving into the tailback job from the secondary in the 2008 season.
Johnny White started at tailback against LSU in Draughn’s absence and rushed for 29 yards in eight carries. UNC generated 24 yards rushing in 33 carries.
The other players ruled ineligible or withheld from play are still awaiting clearance, but Draughn’s return lifted the spirits of Bruce Carter, a linebacker, and T.J. Yates, the quarterback, late yesterday morning.
“I’m excited for him, and it’s great for our team,” Carter said. “We’re just happy to get anybody back at this point. Anybody helps.”
Davis could not say yesterday if other players could be cleared during the rest of the week. UNC school and athletics officials are still working with the NCAA on the agents’ investigation and are still conducting the investigation into the academic fraud.
Little is the last offensive starter still out. The defense, expected to be among the nation’s best, is still missing Robert Quinn and Marvin Austin, both linemen, and the entire secondary of Charles Brown, Kendrick Burney, Deunta Williams and Da’Norris Searcy.
“We’ve kind of taken the mind-set that the guys who played against LSU, that’s who we’re going to play with,” Davis said. “If we’re fortunate enough to get guys back at any particular time, that’s good for us.
“But right now, we’re practicing and preparing to play our game with the exact same football team. We’ve got one player back today and that’s positive. That’s a good thing.”
Davis said that the playing time for any additional players cleared this week would be determined by when they could return to full practice with their respective units.
Austin is still under suspension by Davis for matters not related to either investigation. Austin is barred from all football activity for what Davis said was breaking team rules.
“He is still in the process of earning his way back on the practice field,” Davis said.