Lacking Depth In The Trenches

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- UNC head coach Larry Fedora maintained throughout last year that the only position where the Tar Heels had depth was at tight end. Has his opinion changed?

"I'm thinking, I'm not crying," Fedora said with a bowed head. "No, there's no position where I feel good about the one's and two's."

Nowhere was the lack of depth more evident than in the trenches.

Second-string quarterback Mitch Trubisky, when working with primarily second and third team players, was sacked six times by the first team defense. Trubisky was sacked twice in his unit's first possession. Kanler Coker was sacked twice (in far fewer snaps), and Drew Davis sacked once. That was all the first team defensive line going against the second team offensive line.

In total, there were nine sacks by the first team defense against the second team offense.

Defensive players aren't allowed to tackle quarterbacks, or even hit quarterbacks, in the spring game, for obvious reasons. A "sack" occurs when the referees determine that the quarterback would have been tackled behind the line. Still, the differences in the effectiveness of the first and second team lines – on both sides of the ball – were stark.

Just in the first half alone Kareem Martin had four sacks.

"I was amped up to play," Martin said. "Getting to put on a show for a lot of the fans who didn't get to come to the first two scrimmages. The spring game wraps up spring ball, so I just wanted to show everybody what I've been working on."

Martin wasn't alone shredding the second team pass protection schemes - Travis Hughes and Brandon Ellerbe had two sacks each, all working against the second and third team offensive linemen. Allen Champagne, a walk-on defensive lineman, registered the ninth sack.

One unmistakable interpretation of those numbers is that there is very little depth once you read the second team offensive line.

Conversely, quarterback Bryn Renner, working exclusively behind the first team offensive line, was sacked but once – by Ethan Farmer. Mitch Trubisky had two series with the first team offensive line, during which he wasn't sacked once and had completions of 47 and 20 yards in the first series as he led his team to a touchdown.

That's one sack by the second team defense against the first team offense.

Again, the second and third team defensive lines had an extremely difficult time getting to the quarterback – an indication of depth issues on the defense as well.

The overall lack of line depth is understandable, even if troubling. First, scholarship limitations don't help. The Tar Heels can't have more than 80 players on scholarship when fall camp begins.

In addition, the Tar Heels have had 16 players, by Fedora's count, to miss all or some of spring practice. Those lack of numbers have hurt everywhere, including the lines. One of those players limited this spring, James Hurst, is a three-year starter and second-team All-ACC selection. His return will help, while other tackles, like Nick Appel and John Ferranto gained valuable snaps with the first team offensive line. Darius Lipford is also being counted on to help at "Bandit" on defense when he is able to return. In addition, some true freshmen will be counted on to join the competition in fall camp.

It's a situation Fedora termed "scary."

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