I wonder how how North Carolina guard Caleb Peterson feels right about now.
Peterson, a redshirt freshman, is slated to make his first career start at left guard against Clowney and South Carolina to open the season Aug. 29. Peterson already had big enough shoes to fill replacing All-America left guard Jonathan Cooper. That's pressure.
But opening against the best defensive player in college football? Pressure times 10.
Coach Larry Fedora knows it. When I started asking him about Peterson in a recent interview, he said, "We're getting to Clowney here?"
Uh. Yeah. The biggest matchup in the game will continue to be a storyline until Aug. 29.
"Yes, no doubt he’s a great, great football player and I know everybody says he’ll be the first guy drafted and would have been this year, and he is, he’s a great player," Fedora said. "We’ll have to do some things scheme wise but we do have James Hurst, who we think is a pretty good player and James will be up and he’ll work hard for that challenge, and we’ll have to see what happens. We just hope we can keep him at bay a little bit. We understand he’s going to make some plays. That’s what great players do."
Hurst, one of the best offensive linemen in college football, started 36 games in his career and will line up at left tackle next to Peterson. The Tar Heels will be counting on him to help out Peterson and the rest of the offensive line. Hurst falls into the same category as Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan, who faced Clowney in the Outback Bowl.
Lewan, also regarded as one of the best linemen in the game, did a nice job on Clowney, giving up no sacks and allowing four total tackles (two for loss). Clowney praised Lewan for doing a nice job on him. Unfortunately, nobody remembers what Lewan did 90 percent of the afternoon. Everybody remembers the way Clowney speared running back Vincent Smith into the ground.
As Fedora said, Clowney will make some plays. The key is limiting them.
Does it at least make Fedora feel better knowing he has a veteran in Hurst to line up next to a freshman?
"It makes me feel better," Fedora said. "It doesn’t make me feel good."