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Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Offseason spotlight: North Carolina

By Heather Dinich

The quarterback competition is open in Chapel Hill, N.C., but there could be some young faces on the offensive line this fall with even more to prove than quarterback Marquise Williams. For North Carolina, all eyes should be on the offensive line this spring, which could have a true freshman in the starting lineup for the season opener against Liberty.

Spotlight: The offensive line

2013 summary: This group improved as the season went on, and its blend of youth and experience ranked No. 39 in the country in sacks allowed at 1.62 per game. Left tackle James Hurst was the anchor and most accomplished player in the group as an all-conference selection by both the coaches and the media. Center Russell Bodine played in all 12 games and was an honorable mention for the league’s all-conference team. He also spent some time at left guard, opening the door for Lucas Crowley to earn some valuable experience at center. Right guard Landon Turner grew into his role as a full-time starter, and had some of the line’s best performances against Miami and Georgia Tech. Both Hurst and Bodine have left to pursue careers in the NFL.

The skinny: Bodine’s decision to leave school early and enter the NFL draft came as somewhat of a surprise, so it could be another young lineup up as the Tar Heels look for a new starting left tackle and center. Freshman Bentley Spain, who enrolled in January, is already in the hunt for a starting job at left tackle. Caleb Peterson, who was a redshirt freshman last season, played in 11 games at left guard, but Turner will be the veteran of the group at right guard. Jon Heck started at right tackle last season as a redshirt freshman. If Spain earns the start at left tackle, the Tar Heels will have a starting lineup that includes a freshman, three sophomores and a junior. UNC added three more offensive linemen in the 2014 class (Josh Allen, Jared Cohen and Caleb Samuel).