Alan Pelc’s understanding of Cam Holland’s position didn’t begin by walking a mile in his shoes — just stepping in when Holland lost one.
“I played one snap at center against UConn,” Pelc, a left guard, said. “My first snap at center.”
But Pelc’s education has only accelerated since injuries forced him to fill in at center.
In UNC’s 19-6 win against Duke, Pelc took 40 snaps at right and left guard and 40 at center.
Freshmen Travis Bond and Brennan Williams took 40 snaps at right guard and 26 at right tackle, respectively.
“It really is unique to see a bunch of guys all over the place,” Pelc said. “Especially to look over and see freshmen next to me.”
Coach Butch Davis had a slightly different choice description.
“It truly was musical chairs,” he said. “At week nine or 10, it’s not as tough … We’d like five guys who play the whole game, but you’ve got to play the cards you’re dealt.”
And the linemen have heard enough grievances to accompany their injury reports this year.
In the last drive of UNC’s loss to Florida State, quarterback T.J. Yates was almost immediately sacked by a three-man front.
“We’ve definitely heard the feedback,” lineman Kyle Jolly said. “It was tough. You are trying to keep all the linemen’s heads up.”
Coming into the season, the unit already posed questions with just three returning starters.
Then injuries left just two players with experience prior to this year — who quickly assumed mentoring roles.
“Definitely having a couple freshman next to you, you have to be more vocal,” Pelc said. “You step them through it, point out linebackers. Help them read the defense.”
Davis has also sought to alleviate any problems of inexperience by allotting 75 percent of snaps in practice for starters and the remaining for backups.
Come gameday, everyone is expected to be ready to play.
“The past three weeks have shown a lot of improvement,” Pelc said. “People were doubting us for a bit, but adversity has helped us.”
Even despite injuries, the line has allowed just 21 sacks in nine games, which makes for the fifth best protection in the ACC.
In UNC’s win against Virginia Tech boasted the original starting line for the first time since the season opener.
The front five helped UNC gain 181 rushing yards and gave up just two sacks.
The reunion was characteristically short-lived due to illnesses and ailments. But Bond said the offensive line remains confident.
That’s because blocking techniques are not all that the freshman has learned from Pelc.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” Bond said. “You just have to be ready to step in.”
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