But through injury and attrition, this unit has shown the ability to combat any obstacle and looks poised to be a strength of UNC’s offense this season.
The offseason for these Tar Heels was a bright one, kicked off by the emergence of a young stud, Bentley Spain.
Coming out of spring training camp, Spain earned himself the starting left tackle position — a spot that is known as the most important on the entire line.
“Our quarterback’s health depends on it,” said senior offensive guard Landon Turner on the importance of Spain’s position. “I know (the coaches) all trust him wholeheartedly.
“We trust him.”
Coaches and players have praised Spain for his high football IQ and ability to learn and adjust quickly. But the sophomore still looks to his older teammates for guidance.
“When I enrolled early a couple years ago, I was the only O-lineman at the time that was coming in,” Spain said. “They really took me under their wing.”
One of the most impactful mentors has been Turner, a preseason All-American. The four-year starter sets the tone for the line everyday.
“He’s an incredible leader,” Spain said. “He’s very calm, but he gets fired up when he needs to be.”
As these players progressed throughout the offseason, they showed they could bring intellect, ability and depth to the trenches in 2015. But trouble hit as training camp began.
The line took its first loss when backup guard Jared Cohen left the team for personal reasons.
The first day of training camp saw both starting center Lucas Crowley and backup center Will Dancy go down due to injury. While Crowley is expected back for UNC’s season opener against South Carolina on Sept. 3, Dancy will miss the remainder of the season.
Despite a tumultuous training camp, the players have spun a positive outlook and maintained a high level of football.
“There’s no getting around the fact that it’s disheartening to see your brothers going down like that,” Turner said. “But those are things that you can’t control.”
UNC’s injury woes have forced players to shift to different positions and learn new techniques. But this is a task this group was prepared for.
“This is something we have always talked about, cross-training our guys,” said offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic. “It showed that they put the time and effort in.”
While the Tar Heel offensive line has faced many difficulties this offseason, not one has proven too big for this band of brothers. Their presence provides confidence to both coaches and players.
“I tell those guys they’re the best offensive line in the country,” said quarterback Marquise Williams, “And that’s what you need.”
A tough road lies behind this offensive line, but expectations are still high. And with its starting center hoping to return soon, the team believes the future looks bright.
It’s all uphill from here.