UNC senior tight end Zack Pianalto fractured his right fibula at the ankle joint in Saturday’s 44-10 victory at Virginia and will miss the remainder of the regular season. He will undergo additional evaluation this week to determine if surgery is required. Pianalto currently leads the Tar Heels with 30 receptions for 311 yards and one touchdown. Last season, Pianalto set the school record for most receptions by a tight end with 33. He also holds the school record for most career receptions by a tight end with 94.
This is so unfortunate for Pianalto, who just could not stay healthy during his career at UNC. Last year he suffered a subtalar dislocation of his right foot at Connecticut and missed five straight games. Not before he had a career-high seven catches and 87 yards that day, though. And in 2008, he missed the Virginia and Boston College games with a right ankle injury.
You wonder why T.J. Yates suddenly looks so much better? It helps when the players around him are healthy. Pianalto is a complete tight end who helped the Tar Heels in both the running and passing games. He's a good blocker and should get a shot at the next level if his durability isn't an issue (which it obviously is).
The Tar Heels will now turn to senior Ed Barham and backup Nelson Hurst. Barham started six games last year and finished with six catches for 57 yards. Hurst transferred from Mississippi State, where he started 10 games as a freshman, prior to the start of the 2009 season and sat out under NCAA transfer rules. His younger brother, James, is an offensive lineman for the Heels.
The bottom line is that neither of them have the experience or production of Pianalto.
North Carolina lost its leading receiver, Greg Little, to the NCAA investigation before the season ever started. Now they lost their leading pass-catcher again. So far, UNC has been able to overcome almost every blow it's been dealt, but this one should leave a noticeable bruise on Carolina's offense.