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January 12, 2009A UNC official confirmed to TarHeelIllustrated.com Monday afternoon that UNC fourth-year juniors Richie Rich and Kenton Thornton will graduate this May and forgo their respective final years of collegiate eligibility.
Rich, a 5-9, 195-pounder from Marietta (GA) Wheeler, came to North Carolina as a highly-touted four-star running back prospect, but wound up playing on both sides of the ball during his UNC career.
Thornton, a 6-4, 230-pounder from Dallas, spent his entire time in Chapel Hill as a backup wide receiver.
Both Rich and Thornton redshirted their first seasons at UNC in 2005, and saw their first game action as redshirt freshmen in 2006.
That season, Thornton contributed five catches for 47 yards in eight games of action, while Rich played in five games, making two catches for 24 yards at Miami and taking one carry against Duke.
In 2007, Rich was in the mix for the starting job at tailback during training camp, and wound up playing heavily in the offensive backfield in early-season contests against James Madison and East Carolina.
In all, Rich played in four games at tailback for UNC in '07, rushing for 32 yards on 13 carries, and adding four receptions for 30 yards. By midseason, however, the UNC coaches elected to move Rich to cornerback, where he wound up playing in five games.
Rich contributed 13 tackles (10 solo) and provided respectable pass coverage for the Tar Heels as they improved down the stretch defensively that fall.
Thornton saw action in nine games in 2007, making three catches for 40 yards, including a career-best 20-yarder at Virginia Tech.
Rich played exclusively on the defense during the 2008 season, contributing nine tackles (seven solo), while Thornton played in six games and made one catch for five yards.
Rich and Thornton's graduations will open up two additional scholarships for the UNC program as it prepares for the upcoming 2009 season.