Photo by Turner Walston
Although Carolina’s offensive line has featured solid performers in the Fedora era, including an All-American in Landon Turner, injuries have caused the Tar Heels to rely on talent rather than depth. The 2017 roster might prove otherwise.
“There are definitely more bodies than there have been, which is always a plus,” said Bentley Spain, a senior and projected starter at left tackle.
The group consists of 20 members, a growth from both the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The 2016 Tar Heels, whose offensive line comprised of 18 players, found often themselves playing with a piecemeal lineup. John Ferranto, Caleb Peterson and Jon Heck missed various amounts of playing time, leaving former center Lucas Crowley and Spain as the anchors.
This year, the line hopes to provide UNC’s offense with consistent depth, though the starters remain uncertain. In his Monday press conference, Fedora hesitated to name starters, only mentioning Spain and center Cam Dilliard, a graduate transfer from Florida. Still, Spain seemed optimistic about the line’s ability to overcome any injuries or other circumstances it
might face this season. The group has already been dealt a blow, as graduate transfer Khaliel Rodgers announced his retirement last week.
“It’s good we’ve been able to get more reps with different guys at different spots,” Spain said. “If
something does happen, it’s not like that’s the first time that group has ever been together.”
A Charlotte native, Spain complimented the coaching staff’s ability to spread time among the large group, potentially a result of an overall increase in reps due to UNC’s four-way battle at quarterback.
“When you have that many people, five or six guys end up not getting many reps at all,” he said. “But the coaches have done a really great job of making that happen.”
Spain made sure to emphasize the importance of guiding newer players along.
“We’ve been able to get a lot of young guys reps,” he said. “The defenses are more complex than what they’re used to facing in high school,” he said. “[There are] techniques that are very important at this level that you could probably get away with not quite having . . . at the high school level.”
The line spends time together watching film and doing drills, but also during assigned bonding activities, including an outing to a Durham Bulls game. “We really try to bring those freshman into the group and move guys along when they get to campus,” Spain told reporters.
If the Tar Heel offensive line can find chemistry in different combinations, Spain expects the depth of his group to be a strength of UNC’s offense. "We might have more than five guys playing," he said.