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Carolina's Offensive Line Woes Aren't Going Anywhere

I asked myself multiple times this weekend where exactly UNC's offensive line was, and today J.P. Giglio provides and excellent and thorough accounting of where everybody went:

Three reserve players — tackle Zack Handerson, guard Mike Dykes, guard Morgan Randall — went on medical hardship after the 2008 season after a series of injuries ended their respective careers.

Guard Aaron Stahl, a starter in 2008, graduated and opted not to use his final season of eligibility.

Guard Kevin Bryant, listed in the preseason as Stahl's replacement in the starting lineup at left guard, quit the team in August.

Tackle Carl Gaskins tore the ACL in his left knee in training camp and is out for the season.

The personnel losses have put three true freshmen in the two-deep chart. Davis has only signed five offensive linemen in the past two recruiting classes and one, guard Johnnie Farms from the class of 2009, went to prep school.

The other three freshmen — guard Travis Bond, tackle Brennan Williams and guard David Collins — are listed on the depth chart and Cooper, the only 2008 signee, is the starter at left guard after redshirting last season.

With center Lowell] Dyer's injury, left tackle Kyle Jolly is the only senior on the depth chart. Junior right guard Alan Pelc is the only other upperclassmen with starting experience.

Lowell Dyer and tight end Zach Pianalto were both injured last week and are out at least a month, while guard Jonathan Cooper, who missed the UConn game with a bum ankle is hoping to be able to play against ECU. Davis has moved in Tavares Brown from the defense to have some more bodies at guard or center, but the outlook is definitely troubling. Compound that with the fact that East Carolina returns almost all of their defensive line, and expect more offensive frustration and dependence of the Heels' defense to avoid another loss to a hungry in-state opponent.

I've been kicking around the theory that outside of NFL-ready talent at the skill positions, the best predictor of success in the college game is the offensive line. College quarterbacks especially are quick to make mistakes, so a solid front line that can protect them is an easy path to victory. (It also explains why college quarterback success is such poor predictor of their NFL career.) With the current status of Carolina's front line, it could be a much more disappointing season than many of us are expecting.