North Carolina

UNC O-line controlling the line of scrimmage

Posted October 8, 2012
Updated October 9, 2012

— North Carolina’s offensive line was touted as a strength entering 2012, but we’ve heard those preseason accolades before. The difference this season, however, is that the Tar Heels’ front five is living up to the billing.

Possibly the most shocking statistic to emerge from college football’s national landscape was North Carolina’s 339 rushing yards over Virginia Tech. Factor in the Hokies’ lone sack of Bryn Renner and it becomes clear how UNC scored the most points against Virginia Tech (48) since LSU posted the same number in 2007.

And while senior offensive guard Jonathan Cooper agreed with the notion that Saturday’s performance was a statement game of sorts, it’s not as though UNC’s offensive line showcased anything other than what they’ve been doing all season long – controlling the line of scrimmage.

The Tar Heels rank 32nd nationally in rushing offense (200.3 ypg), although the more impressive stat is UNC’s 5.18 yards-per-rush average. That’s two-hundredths off the school record (5.2), which was set back in 1946.

Not good enough? How about this statistic – UNC’s offensive line has allowed just four sacks in six games, good for 11th nationally (0.67).

“I know I’ve got all day back there,” Renner said. “For a quarterback, that’s all you can ask. You see guys on TV every week escaping from the pocket when they don’t really want to. I’ve got a ton of confidence in the offensive line.”

It helps that UNC’s offensive line is loaded with experience. The starting five of junior left tackle James Hurst, Cooper, sophomore center Russell Bodine, senior right guard Travis Bond and senior right tackle Brennan Williams has combined for 122 career starts.

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“They’ve really done a great job,” Renner said. “The offensive line and [offensive line] Coach Kapilovic have really come together and they’re a close unit. Those guys have been playing together for awhile…

“We all came in together. We all know each other and we really work together as far as getting the protections down. We take pride in not allowing any sacks between both of us and the running backs.”

Cooper offered his explanation for the line’s improved play following the win on Saturday.

“I feel like it’s a combination of things,” Cooper said. “It’s a new system where people can’t just bring everybody because we have them spread out. It’s Bryn being healthy and understanding the protections. And the offensive line – I feel like we’ve done a better job this year. Put all of those together and I feel like it’s turned out as a better year for us as an offensive line.”

On Monday, defensive tackle Sylvester Williams labeled his trench counterparts as “the best offensive line in the country.”

“With some offensive linemen, you may go and get a sack because they bust an assignment, but it’s not like that with our guys,” Williams said. “We’ve got five guys that are going to keep Bryn Renner clean and get Gio [Bernard] down the field.” North Carolina Logo More UNC Stories

Despite new Virginia Tech blitzes that UNC hadn’t seen on film prior to Saturday, Renner was only sacked once and officially hurried twice by Bud Foster’s defense.

North Carolina head coach Fedora told reporters during his weekly press conference on Monday that his offensive line likely graded out better overall against the Hokies than it had in the previous five games.

“We had fewer mistakes up front and guys really gave great effort,” Fedora said. “And the tempo – our guys are now seeing the light come on. Now it’s not the offensive linemen going, ‘Golly, in practice we just get so many reps and I’m tired.’ It’s not that anymore. Now it’s ‘I understand why we’re doing what we’re doing and why we’re going fast each day.’”

As strong as the offensive line play has been thus far, there are no illusions that this is a finished product.

“We’ve also got to build more consistency,” Cooper said. “We’ve made some great plays and there were times where we were consistently driving the ball, but just throughout the game, from beginning to end, we want to be more consistent. Pound it early, pound it often.”

Injuries to Bodine and Hurst have also allowed Kapilovic to build needed depth up front. Red-shirt freshman Kiaro Holts started in Hurst’s spot against Idaho and red-shirt freshman guard Landon Turner played significant snaps against the Hokies. Along with backup center Peyton Jenest, UNC is gradually putting together a solid eight-man rotation to navigate the second half of the season.

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  • TruthBKnown Banned Again01 Oct 10, 2012

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    JG, you're one of the good people that I feel for when Carolina loses. Carolina may have laid an egg against us last year, but our defense was playing well, too. It was Renner's first season as a starter, and we put a lot of heat on him. I think we rang his bell a time or two and he was never really effective after that.

    This year I think Renner comes in with more experience, and he is not as quick to disappear from a game. Plus, you have that Gio Bernard. He is phenomenal. And you have a MAJOR air attack. That does NOT bode well for NC State. All Miami did was throw the long ball against us. If teams are smart, that is what they should do. Throw 10-15 times in a row, then mix in a run or two. If you have a good QB and good receivers, that strategy will beat State.

    I really think this is the year the streak might end. It will stink, but it is going to end eventually. I just hope it's a good game and we aren't the ones laying an egg this time!

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again01 Oct 10, 2012

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    Well, new coaches usually want to hire their own staff. FSU didn't have any problem with Amato because they took him back in as an assistant coach after State kicked him to the curb.

  • StunGunn Oct 10, 2012

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    There's no earthly reason for Carolina's players not getting up to play State, but I do believe that was the case in some games. Most games were close, but that 41-10 thumping - IN KENAN - is inexcusable. Last year Carolina laid a egg in CF. The other games were closer, but still losses for Carolina. The players were very undisciplined, and I think that will change under Fedora. I do remember you making the square pegs in round holes analogy with regards to the players having to adjust to Fedora and his drastically different system.

    Streaks come to an end (and you won't have to remind me of that when Clemson comes to the Smith Center), but I also think streaks can get in players' heads. None of Carolina players have ever beaten State. None of State's players have lost to Carolina. And Kenan hasn't exactly been intimidating to State. I'm not going to lie, and I'm only speaking for myself, more than any other game this season, I hope the Heels beat State. Duke is the runner up on that list. The Heels don't have a post season, so those two games will be bowl games to me.

  • wjuliang Oct 10, 2012

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    I've heard the same about Amato (probation, etc. for recruiting stuff). And I am guessing that is one reason the new administration at fsu wanted nothing to do with him. Although he was entertaining.

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again01 Oct 10, 2012

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    Quite possibly true, but with each mounting loss to State, how could any of Carolina's players NOT have gotten up for that game?

    I agree especially with your last sentence. Carolina's players (at least under Butch) were very undisciplined. I still recall Russell being tackled in the bushes about 10-15 yards out of bounds. And the time a State player got injured and was laying there while Greg Little yelled in his face while standing over him (and maybe spit on him?) And there was an instance where a Carolina player is believed to have spit in the face of our kicker after a made FG or extra point. And there were instances of shoving or punches being thrown by Carolina players in more than one State-UNC game.

    I don't know how many times I've said over the years that watching Carolina's players reminded me a lot of Amato's players. Good talent, but very undisciplined. And when Amato was here, I was quietly scared to death that he was going to end up putting us on probation for something. I was RELIEVED when he was let go, in addition to thinking he was a bad coach that needed to be let go.

  • wjuliang Oct 10, 2012

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    This fan isn't worried. Just responding to a State fan's bringing up attendance.

    Good points TBK.

  • heelsforever Oct 9, 2012

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    I believe the last five years come down to these simple facts; Davis played down the rivalry (his players followed suit), TOB played up the rivalry (and his players follwed suit), and States players have been more disciplined in the games.

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again01 Oct 9, 2012

    ^ Same here, JG. It's a toss-up.

    Wake-Duke is a toss-up fairly often, but for some reason, Wake had beaten Duke 12 straight times on crazy finishes (missed or blocked short field goals, etc.) But that game is still a toss-up.

    State has beaten Carolina five straight and all, but the game is still normally a toss-up. I think somehow TOB teams are just a little better than people realize. It's strange, but a few times I have expected Carolina to stomp us. Then TOB gets them up for the game and we just flat out play well. It's like with FSU last weekend. We had little margin for error in the second half, but we played well. State is inconsistent, which leads people to say State stinks. But the capability is there to play well when they put their minds to it. So on a given day, the State team that you think stinks... does not stink at all.

    I believe State MIGHT be figuring out who they are as a team this year. Really getting to know our strengths and weaknesses. It seems that once we figure that out, we finish strong. I'm hoping we've figured that out EARLIER this season. We're 4-2, and we might just be ready to start rolling. But it has to start with Maryland next week. :)

    All this just to say, the State-Carolina game really is a toss-up, never mind what is supposed to happen, or what has happened in the last five meetings.

  • StunGunn Oct 9, 2012

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    I agree that it usually does take TOB a few games to get things going, which is why I wish the State/Carolina game was earlier in the season. Kidding. Kind of. I can think of reasons Carolina should win as well as reasons State should win. Carolina has to play Miami and Duke first; State has a bye this week, then play a bad Maryland team that for some head scratching reason seems to give State fits. I'd say the results of those games could be telling, but I think barring injuries to key players, we won't know who is going to win that game until game day.

  • shakennotstirred Oct 9, 2012

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    UNC fan is the only ones obsessed so much with NCSU that they over-hype the Wolfpack. I haven't seen a single report or fan say anything about state winning a National title. Is it possible? Well they prolly have as good a chance as anyone in the ACC this year. Interesting that a unc "fan" would be on a unc football article claiming state is guaranteed to win the national title in basketball. We are not your rivals, but glad we keep you up at night worrying...

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