With preseason practice under way at North Carolina, much of the talk leading into the season will be about the quarterback competition between junior Marquise Williams and redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky. While Larry Fedora has repeatedly stated that he believes he can win with either of the two signal-callers behind center, there is another position on the offense that should be of greater concern: the offensive line.
All five starting offensive linemen from Fedora’s first year in Chapel Hill are now in the NFL. In all likelihood, junior Landon Turner will be the only starter this season who’s not a freshman or a sophomore, and beyond the relative lack of experience, depth issues are already a problem at the interior spots.
Earlier in the summer, the third-year UNC coach stated that the O-line is “going to determine whether we’re going to be successful or not.”
“It’s a good thing that we’ve had all summer and are going to have all camp,” Fedora said after noting that the unit was not ready at the end of spring. He does, however, believe the staff can get the group where it needs to be by the time the season kicks off.
“I have complete confidence in [offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic] and the job he has done up front.”
The two biggest holes that Kapilovic will have to fill are at left tackle and center. A four-year starter and first-team All-ACC player, James Hurst will be the toughest lineman to replace after protecting the blind side of Williams and Bryn Renner a year ago, and Russell Bodine left a void when he opted to leave for the pros after his junior season.
Barring anything unforeseen, sophomore Lucas Crowley will man the center spot when the Tar Heels play Liberty on August 30, but multiple players are in the running to start at left tackle. Sophomore John Ferranto is one of those players, but highly touted true freshman Bentley Spain will challenge for the position, as well.
Regardless of which five guys end up starting, Williams insists they’ll be in good shape.
“We’re very young, and we have big shoes to fill, but those guys have worked so hard this summer, and I couldn’t ask for a better O-line than we’re going to have,” Williams said.
If North Carolina is going to be successful this season, then those shoes need to be filled sooner rather than later.