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2014 Season Preview: Offensive Line

Young and inexperienced, and with not a lot of depth, the 2014 UNC offensive line will have to mature quickly in order for the Tar Heels to have a breakout season.

Jon Heck and Landon Turner will anchor a young and thin Carolina O-line
Jon Heck and Landon Turner will anchor a young and thin Carolina O-line
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Kapilovic has his work cut out for him.

Carolina's offensive line coach once again has to reassemble his unit after losing two starters to the NFL draft and battling both youth and injury. The Tar Heels head into the 2014 season with three returning starters but no seniors, and only three juniors among the two-deep chart.

Junior right guard Landon Turner is the grizzled veteran of the offensive line, amassing 17 starts over the past two seasons. Joining Turner on the right side of the line is the other returning starter, sophomore Jon Heck, who started all 13 games at right tackle last season. Heck in particular has had a solid preseason based on reports out of camp.

At center is Lucas Crowley, who saw action in Carolina's last six games after having to burn his redshirt in November due to depth and injury issues last season. Crowley gained key experience in backing up NFL draftee Russell Bodine, but is still only a sophomore.

Left guard is shored up by sophomore Caleb Peterson, who started 12 games last season but missed spring practice with an injury. Peterson was named a second-team freshman All-American by Athlon and rarely was subbed out last season.

After four years of two-time All-ACC player James Hurst at left tackle, the competition for the position has been interesting to say the least. Three players were expected to be in contention but sophomore John Ferranto has been tabbed as the starter since the spring.

So if you're keeping track, UNC's five starting offensive linemen consist of four sophomores and a junior, but at least the three returning starters essentially started the entire season in 2013. After those five, there is little but question marks as it relates to depth in both quality and experience.

Carolina's most experienced backup is junior left guard Will Dancy, who did appear in 10 games last season but most of those appearances were on special teams. The other junior in contention for time is tackle Kiaro Holts, who was highly regarded when he came to Chapel Hill but has fought injuries and disappointing play in his first two years on the field.  The other players on the two-deep chart are three freshmen and a former walk-on. Not exactly confidence-inspiring once you get past the first five.

Given the Tar Heels' offensive weapons, it will be incumbent on the O-line to open holes for the talented stable of running backs and keep defenders off Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky long enough to make throws. The questionable depth and Larry Fedora's high-octane offense means UNC will not have the luxury of injuries or a lot of 3-and-outs which put pressure on a depleted defensive line. This group will have to grow up fast and jell quickly for the Carolina offense to fire on all cylinders.