Fall Preview: Offensive Line

The offensive line has been considered one of the weak spots on the Hurricanes football team over the past few years. Now playing for their third coach in as many years, the offensive line brings back plenty of experience.

It's tough to beat experience along the offensive line in college football and the Hurricanes will have plenty of it entering into the 2007 season. Four starters return from the 2006 season.

Heading into fall camp, it appears four players have the upperhand as far as nailing down starting spots. Jason Fox and Reggie Youngblood will enter fall camp as the projected starters at tackle while Andrew Bain and Derrick Morse look to start at the two guard spots. The center position is still up in the air.

Fox started 12 games as a true freshman last season and after grading out at 83-percent on the season and not allowing a single sack he was named the team's Offensive Rookie of the Year. A member of the All-ACC Academic Team, Fox saw action at both right and left tackle and most project him to be the team's starting left tackle this season.

Youngblood, a rising junior, has played in 17 games as a Hurricane with seven starts coming in 2006. He battled injuries most of the season, causing him to miss a few games. He still graded out at 83-percent on the season and only allowed two sacks.

Bain has played in 32 games, starting 14 of them. He graded out at 73-percent last season with two sacks allowed. An All-ACC Academic Team member, Bain will likely win the starting left guard job again.

Morse is the most experienced of the offensive linemen. With 18 career starts under his belt, Morse graded out at 84-percent last season with just one sack given up. He was an Honorable Mention All-ACC pick after the season. After playing some at center in the spring, Morse says he will likely be playing guard again this fall.

The center spot is still open with sophomore A.J. Trump likely to have the first chance of winning the job. Trump played in six games last season before a knee injury ended his season. He has bounced back and forth between center and guard during his young career and hopes to win the starting spot at center.

If Trump is unable to win the job, look for Morse to perhaps get a crack, which means the Hurricanes would have to find another guard. The leading candidate would probably be Chris Rutledge, since he seems like the top reserve lineman heading into fall camp. He's played in 16 games and the junior started six games a year ago -- all at tackle. He's coming off a strong spring.

Junior Tyron Byrd (nine games, 0 starts), sophomore Chris Barney (six games, 1 start), sophomore Matt Pipho (12 games, 0 starts), senior Cyrim Wimbs (26 games, 0 starts), and redshirt freshman Ian Symonette (2 games, 0 starts) also have experience playing along the offensive line.

Byrd was in the running for the starting center job two years ago before playing right tackle on occasion last year. Injuries have slowed him down throughout his college career so far. Barney's one start came at right tackle against Boston College in the regular season finale. Wimbs has been a career reserve at right tackle. Pipho's playing time came at guard. Symonette was able to use a redshirt last season after a knee injury ended his season early.

Joel Figueroa is a redshirt freshman who is looking to see his first action as a Hurricane. Senior John Rochford has played in 32 games as a Hurricane but his primary role will be as a long snapper, something he's done for the past two seasons.

Incoming freshmen Tyler Horn, Orlando Franklin, and Harland Gunn will all be given an opportunity to make an impact. Franklin is probably in the best shape to play right away since he was a 2006 graduate.

New coach Jeff Stoutland has his hands full. His toughest task will not only be trying to find a center but to find the right mix by moving guys around to see what works best. It won't be easy but whenever your five projected starters have played in a total of 96 games with 51 starters it makes things a little easier.

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