Front and Center

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – After battling injuries throughout his career, junior Scott Lenahan is back kicking up dirt and gnashing teeth at full speed. Knee surgery and a wrist injury have limited his progress over the past two years, but he's back in the mix at center this spring along with several others.

A rugged bulldog in the trenches, Lenahan is vying with sophomore Calvin Darity, and redshirt freshmen Aaron Stahl and Lowell Dyer; while Ben Lemming – currently atop the depth chart – sits out this spring due to injury.

They were all taking turns at center during physical practices this week at Kenan Stadium.

"I had no doubt my mind that I would be able come back," Lenahan said. "I wasn't going to let the injury stop me. I had in mind what I wanted to do. I had a vision ever since I was a freshman in high school to come here and play football. I wasn't going to let anything stop me.

"A lot of people told me it couldn't be done, but look at me; I'm back. I have all the coaches, the players and my parents to thank for staying in there and supporting me."

Following each practice, Lenahan retires to an ice pack on his knee and a soak in a cold tub for about ten minutes, then after a shower, does some stretching before packing it in for the night.

A micro-fracture in Lenahan's knee led to an operation during his freshman season. But as he describes it, the surgery "didn't really take." And it wasn't until he tried to play against Virginia and Florida State in 2004 that he realized it.

Then Lenahan sat out last spring following another surgical procedure to repair his knee. He was given the option to try and come back for the 2005 season, but under doctor's advice he decided to sit out.

"I haven't even noticed," said new UNC offensive line coach Mark Weber [pictured, right]. "As a matter of fact, I knew he was injured, but I didn't know to what extent. We had a talk the other day and he told me the extent of it, but I hadn't noticed it up until that point. So I think it's quite a bit better."

The rest and recovery to the cartilage in his knee has helped him get his speed down to 4.9 seconds over 40 yards, he said. Lenahan also saw some scout team action late last season, so this is not exactly his first time back on the field.

This past winter he spent time running and working out to get his squat back up over 500 pounds.

"Squatting in general is just huge for me," Lenahan said. "It's just been so long – two years."

"Scott is smart and has a lot of experience," Weber said. "With his build, he's got good leverage. He's just got to learn the techniques and terminologies we're teaching now as opposed to what he knew before. He is a good effort guy."

Darity, 6-3, 297, is also working his way back after injuring his foot last spring.

"He did a nice job today," Weber said after practice. "Darity is a good athlete and a very smart kid. He's got good size for a center. He can bend his knees and he has really good quickness. He seems to be a fast learner."

Stahl [pictured, right], 6-3, 300, is getting reps at both center and guard after moving over from the defense this spring.

"That's a tough transition, because Stahl's a young player," Weber said. "It's tough because you move him over to center and he's playing with a guy that's about one inch off of him. We want to give him a chance to succeed, so I'm going to rep him at guard as well. He's got a good work ethic and I think he's a real tough kid."

Dyer, 6-3, 280, is a walk-on from Durham.

"Lowell is young, but seems to be a pretty smooth athlete. He's got to get a bigger and stronger, but he's smart and athletic," Weber said.

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