"It is frustrating right now."
Those words spoken by Adam Metts after the loss at Maryland sum up the feeling of, and about, the UNC offensive line after two games. The same could be said for the whole team, but this unit is under special scrutiny these days.
Without solid run-blocking, the offense is faced with poor down and distance combinations, as in third-and-long. Without adequate pass protection, there are hurried throws, interceptions, and sacks. With all of the above comes a flood of three-and-outs by the offense. That leads to poor field position and a short field for the opposing offense. That is pretty much the story of the Maryland game.
So much seems to be on the shoulders of an offensive line that is experiencing growing pains. Three sophomores and a red-shirt freshman have started in four of the five offensive line positions. The strategy of opposing defenses is to bring a lot of numbers, confuse the inexperienced line, and pressure the UNC quarterbacks into bad decisions.
It has worked well so far.
Both Oklahoma and Maryland have taken advantage of the youth of the Tar Heel line, and more of the same can be expected of Texas and everyone else on the schedule.
"We know it is going to be coming at us," says Metts, "They are going to be a lot of blitzes. We got to stop it up."
The players and the coaches understand that patience is required.
Coach Ken Browning, who has been assisting Robbie Caldwell with the offensive line this season, understands the importance of not losing patience with the young offensive line.
"[Having patience with the offensive line] is of the utmost importance right now," says Coach Browning.
"You have to be patient with them, says Coach Bunting, "It is long season. You have to be patient, but we have to make progress."
How can progress on the offensive line be made during the season?
"Continue to work, continue to work the blitzes, continue to work the protection schemes, trying to get a better understanding of them so they can play under pressure," says Coach Bunting.
It takes time for an offensive lineman to get adjusted to the college game. "Learning the assignment of a play is one thing, says Coach Browning, "Learning how to adjust to all the different looks, different twists, different tempos that the defenses gives you changes it."
Does there come a point when it all comes together for an offensive line? According to Coach Bunting, it can:
"It happens as a unit, it happens individually. It all starts with the center making the right call, the quarterback making the right call, so that they are on the same page, and then get that information passed along, and knowing what to do."
Coach Browning concurs, "I think if we can stay positive and have some patience with this group they will keep getting better all the way through the season because they are so young."
There are no easy answers or quick fixes, nor is it something the staff wants to place solely on the shoulders of the young line.
"We as a coaching staff are responsible to," says Bunting, "It is not just them, it's us." "We got to get it done."
Coach Bunting concludes, "It's been frustrating."