Pittman, Part III: Gamers

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- When offensive linemen enter the two-deep, usually they are upperclassmen who've been waiting in the wings, getting bigger, getting stronger and working their way onto the line.

However, the state of UNC's offensive line in 2009 forced OL coach Sam Pittman to play two true freshmen - the second and third who've done so in his 16 years of coaching at the FBS level of college football.

Brennan Williams and Travis Bond, both of whom began their first collegiate practices last fall, played extensively last year and both started a game. Obviously need played a role in getting both players on the field, but what was it about them that allowed them to contribute so early?

With one player, the answer was pretty simple. He's huge.

"With Travis, he's 6-7, whatever - 330, 340 - so he was so big," Pittman said.

Williams wasn't blessed with that type of size, but had other attributes that allowed him to play right away for the Heels.

"With Brennan, he is so skilled with his hands, he's a black belt in Taekwando," Pittman said. "He's not weight-room-strong, certainly not when he came in, as he is just man-strong. You could see very early he could play. His dad was an NFL player, he's football knowledgeable.

"Those two kids are very talented with their feet and they were big enough to play - they are certainly getting bigger now. Part of it was out of necessity, too."

What Williams and Bond also have in common is that they are both gamers.

"Honestly, and Butch (Davis) has done this his entire career, if you put a guy in sometimes he plays better under the lights, sometimes he plays worse, and these two guys played better on Saturday than they practiced even," Pittman said. "Usually it is the opposite or it stays the same. But a lot of times if you turn the lights on a guy and he plays better, which these two do, that's a great situation."

One player that hasn't had the chance to play early has developed a behind-the-scenes reputation as a possible future force – Carl Gaskins. The Tar Heel offensive line coach confirmed that Gaskins has a ton of potential.

"He is unbelievably athletic, you know he ran a 4.87 (40-yard dash)," Pittman said. "He came in here and he weighed about 255 pounds, and now he's about 305. He's a lot stronger than he was, he still has those athletic feet - he's a typical left tackle that you'd like to have.

"The thing with Carl is that he red-shirted the first year, he was too small his freshman year. He played limited snaps because of Kyle Jolly, and certainly he was going to battle it out between him and Mike (Ingersoll last year) on who was going to be the second tackle; we knew Jolly could play either side. He was having great two-a-days, and then he got hurt. He hasn't had that much of a chance to play a lot of football here - with that said that doesn't mean he's not going to be an outstanding player because, in my opinion, he's going to be.

"He's got long arms, he's very, very smart as far a football player, and he's athletic as heck. I mean, he broke our record in the ‘40' for offensive linemen. We'll see how he does - I mean I don't want to put a lot of pressure on him or anything, he's just a kid - but he's very talented."

Gaskins is out this spring as he continues to rehabilitate his ACL. Alan Pelc, who underwent off-season shoulder surgery, will miss spring practice as well. Both are expected back to be ready for fall camp.

Check back tomorrow for Part IV from Inside Carolina's one-on-one interview with Sam Pittman …

Inside Carolina Top Stories