Stahl Settling in at Center

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Butch Davis termed Aaron Stahl's move to center in the spring as an "experiment," but the Venice, Fla. product has adjusted quickly to the position change and has emerged as the front-runner in the middle for offensive line coach Sam Pittman's unit.

Lowell Dyer started six games at center in 2007 as Scott Lenahan battled injuries for most of his senior season. Davis expected Dyer and Stahl – both red-shirt juniors – to compete for the starting role in the middle during training camp, but less than two weeks in, Stahl is running with the first-team offensive line.

"I think that right now, Aaron Stahl – he's missed the last couple of days with a little bit of a dehydration deal – but he's playing outstanding," Davis said on Saturday. "The first five or six practices… We love what he can do. He's fast, he's athletic, he can pull, he's smart, he's aggressive and he's a good communicator inside."

Despite starting all 12 games at left guard last season, Stahl believes the move to center has been a natural transition.

"It's a pretty good fit for me, because I'm a pretty quick guy and that's really what we need for our schemes – a guy that pull around the edge and pick up the linebackers that are really fast," Stahl said. "So far it's gone really well."

The 6-foot-2, 290-pounder, who graded out at 76 percent with 47 knockdowns last fall, expects to return to practice on Monday after regaining the necessary weight to get back on the field.

"I'm a sweater, so when you lose a lot of weight, you have to put the weight back on before you can practice again," Stahl said.

Davis indicated during UNC's Media Day that his team needed to improve its team depth across the board, and Dyer's invaluable experience as a veteran backup was put on display once again during Saturday's scrimmage.

"Lowell Dyer is a very good player," Davis said. "He started some for us last year, and there's good position competition… And as the case [was on Saturday] with Aaron being out, Lowell stepped in and did just an outstanding job and that's what you want."

Dyer's quality performance in the scrimmage was not a surprise to Stahl.

"He's right there with me," Stahl said. "We're on about the same level as far as speed, talent and knowledge of the game. So if anything were to happen and I moved back to guard, we wouldn't skip a beat on offense. That really takes a lot of pressure off me."

With Stahl remaining at center, red-shirt senior Bryon Bishop has moved into the left guard vacancy, providing the Tar Heels with something they haven't had in years – a veteran offensive line, consisting of three fourth-year and two fifth-year players. Add that to the fact that this group is playing in the same offense and working under Pittman for the second consecutive season, and the optimism surrounding this unit makes sense.

"This is the first year that we've had the same style of offense," Stahl said. "We went from [former offensive line coach] Hal Hunter to [former offensive coordinator Frank] Cignetti, and now we've got [offensive coordinator John] Shoop, so for the first time, we're in the second year of this type of offense. And now that we have a group of guys that are experienced, it's a great mesh. So we know what's going on, and we can make our calls and our reads much faster."

In a fashion similar to his teammates, Stahl downplayed the significance of his individual goals – to earn All-ACC honors – and instead placed an emphasis on the team's goals to make some noise in the conference this fall.

"We just want to win and go to a big bowl game," Stahl said. "We're tired of falling short – we were just that close so many games last year."

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