CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Offensive lineman Jon Heck’s collegiate career began abruptly, thrust into the starting right tackle position as a redshirt freshman.
“The first year he started, he wasn’t ready,” offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic said this week. “But that’s all we had, and you noticed him a lot, and it’s usually not a good thing when you notice an O-lineman a lot.”
Two years and 30 career starts later, Heck finds himself as one of three Tar Heels on ESPN’s midseason All-ACC list.
“He’s improved each year,” Kapilovic said.
Part of Heck’s improvement has come through live game experience.
“When I first got thrown in there, you’re not really used to the speed of the game, you’re not used to the loud stadium, all of that,” Heck said. “But as you get older, it kind of slows down, everything seems more natural. I think experience is the biggest thing.”
In that regard, Heck embodies the narrative that followed the offensive line coming into the season: the group’s experience will make it one of the best in the ACC after a disappointing 2014. So far, he, along with his teammates, has lived up to that billing.
The 6-foot-6, 300-pounder pointed to pass protection as the strength of his skillset. Heck looks to round out his game with better run-blocking prowess. That’s something that comes with added physicality, which Kapilovic presses him for on a daily basis.
“We’re still working on him being more physical in the run game,” Kapilovic said. “He’s a very smart kid, understands the schemes, he gets to the people, but I’d like to see him finish blocks more.”
When asked to self-assess his run blocking, Heck echoed Kapilovic’s comments.
“There’s never a point where you’re physical enough,” Heck said. “You can always be more physical, and I think the point where you become content with your physicality is a bad sign, so we’re always pushing forward with it.”
That resonates with the general approach Kapilovic has with his offensive line
“You can never feel comfortable, or feel good about yourself or what you’re doing,” Kapilovic said. “That relief syndrome sets in, and then you’re going to have problems.”
While Heck is playing the best football of his UNC career, Kapilovic still expects more out of the junior tackle.
“If I gave him a grade, it would probably be in the B, B-minus range,” Kapilovic said. “I’ve been really pleased with his pass protection, but I’d like to see him be more physical at the point of attack and be more of a dominant run-blocker, and that’s the thing that we’re working on.”