COLLEGE PARK -- North Carolina junior tailback Natrone Means has a number of nicknames, including "Nitro," "Neutron Bomb," "Na-Na" and "Piggy."
Wake Forest coach Bill Dooley once described Means as "a whole side of a mountain," and Duke coach Barry Wilson described him as "a load." Maryland coach Mark Duffner simply calls Means "one of the best runners in college football."
"We've faced Terry Kirby [Virginia], and we've faced Richie Anderson [Penn State]," Duffner said. "I couldn't say who is the best, but that's pretty good company to be compared to."
But of the three, none has the combination of power and speed of Means, 5 feet 10, 228 pounds. He is second in the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing, averaging 109.9 yards per game, and first in scoring, with 10 touchdowns.
When Maryland meets No. 22 North Carolina tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. at Byrd Stadium, stopping Means will the Terps' top priority.
"He's big-time all the way," Duffner said. "He's got the quickness of a scatback, but can run over you in a heartbeat. There have been times when I've seen him lower his shoulder and run over a player instead of going out of bounds."
How do the Terps prepare to stop him? "We're going to try a number of things because they present us with several different looks," Duffner said.
Basically, North Carolina will use the option (freeze, trap and fast) attack. And, of course, Means is the feature back.
"I don't like to look at myself as the go-to guy, but as someone the team trusts, that the coaches have faith in to get the job done," said Means, who is sixth on the Tar Heels career rushing list. "I try to play the pressures down and concentrate on doing my job on the field."
Means doesn't look like a tailback. Or a fullback. He could be mistaken for a short lineman, especially his legs. Means has a 32-inch waist, 18-inch calves and 30-inch thighs.
"I was glad when baggy clothes came back in style because that's always been my style with these thighs," said Means, who leg-presses 750 pounds. "But I think my legs are the key to my success. As the game goes on, I think I can wear people down."
It has been that way for three years. Means rushed for 849 yards on 168 carries as a true freshman and had 1,030 yards on 201 attempts to lead the ACC a year ago. Means is No. 17 on the ACC's all-time rushing list with 2,758 yards.
Means had 101 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries in a 24-0 win over Maryland last year and had 111 yards on 25 !B attempts in a 34-10 rout of the Terps in 1990.
"Maryland has momentum going into the game because of their win over Duke, but we have momentum, too, because we have beaten two Top 20 teams, Virginia and Georgia Tech, in the last two weeks," Means said. "This game against Maryland probably means a major bowl bid for us. We have a lot at stake."
In his third season, Natrone Means already ranks sixth in
career rushing at North Carolina. The leaders:
Player, Years. .. . .. . .. ... ..... Yards
Amos Lawrence '77-80... ............. 4,391
Mike Voigt, '73-76. . .. ............ 3,971
Kelvin Bryant, '79-82.. ... .. ... .. 3,267
Don McCauley, '68-70.. ..... ........ 3,172
Ethan Horton, '81-84................. 3,074
Natrone Means, '90-92*............... 2,758
Charlie Justice, '46-49.............. 2,634