Tar Heels looking for starting right guard on veteran line
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Behind all the big scores and impressive yardage totals for North Carolina last season was an offensive line that stayed healthy and built plenty of chemistry.
The Tar Heels are in position to do it again, providing they can compensate for the loss of a veteran projected starter due to injury.
Senior right guard John Ferranto suffered a torn left pectoral muscle during a workout in July, an injury set to sideline him all season. That's left a big hole as the Tar Heels work through preseason camp ahead of the Sept. 3 opener against Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game.
UNC has looked at juniors Brad Henson and R.J. Prince, and redshirt freshman Tommy Hatton at the position so far.
''It's a fluid situation,'' line coach Chris Kapilovic said. ''Haven't seen anybody really just be the guy yet. You're seeing some up-and-down movements from all three of them.''
About a month ago, the line looked set. Ferranto was slated to replace Associated Press first-team All-American Landon Turner, giving UNC a versatile player who had taken snaps at multiple positions. And Ferranto was joining four other linemen with at least 10 starts last season.
Three of those are now seniors - center Lucas Crowley, left guard Caleb Peterson and right tackle Jon Heck - who started all 14 games in an 11-win season. The other is junior Bentley Spain, who started 10 games at left tackle.
On the preseason depth chart, Henson was listed as a backup right guard after playing in every game and getting 173 snaps. Prince was the backup right tackle after playing about 200 snaps. Hatton was the backup center.
Kapilovic said he has rotated Henson and Hatton to develop center depth even while they get looks at right guard, too.
''I don't know if it necessarily throws things completely off with (Ferranto) being out because in the spring, we never had one guy in there that all of a sudden is taken out,'' Heck said. ''It's been a rotation at right guard since the end of last season. It hasn't necessarily thrown things off, but it was a huge loss.''
Finding the right mix is critical for the Tar Heels. Last year's line was part of an offense that put up program records of 40.7 points and 486.9 yards per game - including a dominating two-game November stretch of 125 points against Atlantic Coast Conference division opponents Duke and Miami.
The Tar Heels have a new full-time starting quarterback in Mitch Trubisky along with big-play returnees in tailback Elijah Hood, and receivers Ryan Switzer and Mack Hollins.
''They're looking great so far this camp and we've got to keep getting better every day,'' Trubisky said. ''But it is reassuring to know the chemistry we have on the O-line as well as in the offensive room. We're just going to push each other no matter who it is in there.''
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