CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- North Carolina's offensive line made significant progress in 2015. Will it continue minus All-American Landon Turner? Chris Kapilovic breaks down where the unit stands heading into spring practice.
Landon Turner - how do you replace him?
I’d like to plug two players in to play right guard simultaneously to replace Landon Turner, though I don’t think they’ll allow me to have 12 players on offense (laughing).
That position is wide open going into spring. We have a depth chart for spring that doesn’t necessarily mean anything, right now Brad Henson will get the first shot. You’ve got (Nick) Polino that is on the left side that is competing, you’ve got Will Dancy, maybe one of your centers can slide over there, and Ferranto trained at guard and tackle all season and actually got reps at guard.
There is a good chance that Will Dancy will get reps this spring. Right now in the “Blue Dawn” phase he is kind of in a transition group, so he’s doing everything everyone else is, just not the same intensity or quantity. So there is a good chance after spring break he can be full go.
Bottom line, I want to come out of spring and decide who are my best five guys. Whoever are the five best guys, we’ll figure out a way to get them on the field. It’s more about ‘Who are the best guys? Who can we plug in?’ to give us the best line possible, so there are a lot of scenarios that could work.
What about the leadership aspect of Turner? Who do you see stepping up there?
I hope a lot of guys will take charge of that role, but I know that Caleb Peterson has really stepped up and kind of taken over some of the things that Landon did in the off-season. Jon Heck is strong in there, Lucas (Crowley) and Ferranto are hard workers, and they are doing their part also, but right now I am hoping to get a little be more from all of those guys, but I really see Caleb Peterson and Jon Heck stepping up and taking on that role.
How do you feel about depth this year?
The best thing that happened to us last year is that we were able to redshirt all of the freshmen. I kept some of them up with us so they could take reps with the twos, and even travel with us, so I could get them close to having experience without having to put them out there.
The couple of years before that we had to play freshmen, whether they were ready or not just because we didn’t have the numbers. The other thing that saved us is that outside of losing Bentley Spain for a period of time, those other guys stayed healthy, which was huge.
It is really important, especially when we lack depth - like we did the last couple of years, and we’re starting to catch up - is for guys to cross train. They’ve got to know multiple positions, be able to play both sides, and we’re continuing that trend.
I feel like we are getting closer to where we want to be. The thing that really hurt us is with Bentley Spain’s class, losing Jared Cohen and Caleb Samuel, so we lose two-thirds of that class - that was a hit. I feel like if those two guys were still with us we’d be in really good shape.
Right now, we really should be able to put out eight guys and feel good about it, maybe more, we’ll see how they develop. The other thing we have to be conscious of is that we’re going to be losing all those seniors, so those young kids have got to get reps, so that when it's their time - it may be a year from now - they’ll have some experience. It is going to be important to those young guys, even though they aren’t going to be starters, they are going to have to play some to get them some experience so they’ll be ready to go the following year.
First and foremost, we’ve got to win this year. That’s the most important thing. I am not going to sacrifice success just to get them some experience. So it is important that they come along enough so that if I need to give a guy a series or two off, they can come in, do the job, and get that valuable experience.
Check back tomorrow for the final installment of Inside Carolina's interview series with Chris Kapilovic...