North Carolina senior tight end Zack Pianalto, the Tar Heels' leading receiver, 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 (4-2, 2-1 ACC) 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.
It's another significant blow to a program mired in two ongoing NCAA investigations into allegations of athletes receiving improper benefits and academic misconduct. North Carolina has already lost its top wide receiver, Greg Little, for the season because of NCAA violations.
The injury is the third in three seasons for Pianalto, who suffered a subtalar dislocation of his right foot at Connecticut last year and missed five straight games. In 2008, he missed the Virginia and Boston College games with a right ankle injury.
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.
Despite the numerous off-field distractions, Carolina is on a four-game winning streak and contending for the Coastal Division title heading into Saturday's game at Miami.
Heather Dinich writes about ACC football for ESPN.com.