CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Chris Kapilovic knows that North Carolina’s offense has to retool in 2017. Though “Coach Kap” is the offensive coordinator, he’s also the offensive line coach, and he knows that position will have to account for attrition.
Gone are center Lucas Crowley and right tackle Jon Heck, and also Caleb Peterson, though he was lost mid-way through last season.
What will the starting five look like when spring ball opens next Tuesday?
“First, I tell those guys that how we line up on the first day of spring isn’t written in stone for the rest of the season,” Kapilovic said.
But for now?
“Tommy Hatton will begin at center, Nick Polino at left guard, and Bentley Spain at left tackle. R.J. Prince will be back at right guard, and William Sweet at right tackle.”
In nearly every interview Kapilovic has ever given, he has always emphasized that he wants “eight guys, preferably nine, but at least eight,” offensive lineman that he believes can come in and get the job done. At this stage, Kapilovic could only name six.
“Charlie Heck has really come on, gotten bigger and stronger, so I’d add him to that group,” Kapilovic said.
While younger players will have an opportunity to make moves during the spring and fall, one of the means Kapilovic has used to build depth is to cross-train players at different positions. This year will be no different.
His plans for Heck and Sweet include getting them some snaps at both left and right tackle. Creating comfort and familiarity for them at each of the tackle spots will give Kapilovic more options when it comes to the inside of the line.
“We’re going to get Bentley Spain some snaps inside this spring,” Kapilovic said. “Probably at left guard because that’s the side of the ball he’s used to playing.”
Kapilovic noted that the Tar Heels need to build more depth at center. Though he did not comment on it, North Carolina is one of the teams in the running for Florida graduate transfer Cameron Dillard, a 6-foot-4, 313-pound lineman that started 11 games at center in 2015, and started eight games there in 2016 before suffering a knee injury.
If Dillard decides on UNC, that would give Kapilovic seven of his desired eight players, and some options on the inside. Dillard could play either guard or center, allowing for more depth on the inside of the line as well as an experienced player.
Even if UNC lands Dillard, Kapilovic will still be searching for that eighth, and ideally, ninth player through spring practice.
Stay tuned for more of Inside Carolina’s pre-spring interview series with the Tar Heel coordinators.