CARY, N.C. – North Carolina’s offensive line, considered by many to be one of the ACC’s best, was dealt a preseason blow last week with the news that likely starting right guard John Ferranto would miss the 2016 season after suffering a torn left pectoral muscle.
Ferranto, who has started 17 games and played in 37 during his career, appeared to secure the lone vacant spot along the offensive line during the spring ball. Instead of having a starting lineup consisting of five linemen all boasting double-digit career starts, Larry Fedora and offensive coordinator/OL coach Chris Kapilovic are now tasked with filling the void with a backup lacking any starting experience.
“Kap and I have talked about it, but we don’t have a definitive answer right now,” Fedora said after the Pigskin Preview at the RTP Embassy Suites on Monday.
Junior Brad Henson and redshirt freshman Nick Polino were listed on UNC’s preseason depth chart as the backups at the guard positions behind All-ACC left guard Caleb Peterson and Ferranto, although the scope of the replacement search will extend beyond the position of need.
“All of the guys that have been backing up at the guards and possibly some of the tackles that we think might be able to move inside, we’ll give all of them a shot,” Fedora said. “We’re going to put the best five guys up there. That’s the main thing…
“In fall camp we’ll do a lot of mixing and matching and see if we can come up with the best five.”
Junior right tackle R.J. Prince, junior center Mark Uptegraff and redshirt freshman guard Mason Veal all figure to compete for the open position, as well as highly-touted redshirt freshman William Sweet, who has been penciled in by many as the heir apparent to Bentley Spain at left tackle.
“[Sweet’s] a long guy, but he’s gotten much bigger than he was when he got here,” Fedora said. “He’s a guy that came in weighing about 260 and he’s 310 now, so he’s got enough girth to be able to do that.”
Redshirt freshman center Tommy Hatton has also added a significant amount of weight since enrolling, currently tipping the scales at 295. Fedora said the Glen Rock, N.J. product had the mentality for the guard spot and “could definitely do it.”
What UNC may lack in experience behind the starting line, it counters with plenty of depth to provide options.
“We’ve really got multiple ways we can go, and we just don’t know which way we’re going yet,” Fedora said.