Spain Moves Up

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Even with all five starters returning from last season, there has been movement along the North Carolina offensive line as sophomore Bentley Spain has moved ahead of incumbent John Ferranto at the starting left tackle position.

One of the biggest concerns for North Carolina’s offense heading into last season was the inexperience on the offensive line. The unit had its ups and downs (UNC allowed the fifth most sacks in the ACC), and had issues keeping quarterback Marquise Williams upright. For the most part, however, the young group was able to keep their heads above water against some tough competition in the trenches.

Unlike the North Carolina defense, which has seen its world turned upside down with a new staff and scheme, the offense has remained totally intact. All five starting offensive linemen were healthy and accounted for.

Head coach Larry Fedora and offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic have both highlighted a good amount of progress up front, due in part to a major emphasis on fostering a competitive environment.

That approach became apparent when the staff moved Spain up to the first team. At 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, Spain enrolled in January 2014 as a four-star recruit that had the potential to develop into a strong anchor on the left side of the line.

“[Spain] has been more productive and playing better than Ferranto has,” Fedora said this week. “We’re trying to make sure we have competition at every position. A guy knows that if he plays better than somebody in front of him, then he moves ahead of him.”

For Kapilovic, the fact that Spain has really begun to capitalize on that potential was the driving force that pushed him ahead of Ferranto on the depth chart.

“He has been consistently giving better every day,” Kapilovic said. “… I still want to find the guy when I went to his high school games, the guy that was finishing every block. I think the more confidence he gets, that will come, but he’s starting to be that guy that we recruited.”

Even though Spain came in with a lot of promise, he didn’t quite hit the ground running. According to Kapilovic, the four-star recruit had to deal with multiple injuries that really cut into his practice time in both spring and fall camp.

“This has been a true, really good offseason where he has been healthy and he’s made tremendous improvement,” Kapilovic said.

Now, with a full season under his belt, it appears as though the Charlotte, N.C. native has made big strides in his development since UNC’s bowl game in late December.

“I think this offseason has made a world of difference,” Spain said. “Physically I feel that it has really clicked for me the last couple months. The strength and conditioning staff really has done a great job.”

The key now for Spain is to make sure that he doesn’t get complacent atop the depth chart.

“It was a good feeling, but nothing is set in stone yet,” Spain said of his move. “It is still an open competition, so I need to focus on getting better.”

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