The key to a great football team is a good offensive line. The line is an inglorious yet difficult job, as the big boys run around banging heads with players on the opposite side of the ball play after play. The bigger, faster, and stronger you are, the better you are at the task of guarding the backfield. One of the biggest, fastest, and strongest players plays for UNC and goes by the name James Hurst.
Hurst grew up in Indiana and played high school football at Plainview High School. He was a big time recruit and mulled over offers from big time schools like Notre Dame, Ohio State and Florida. However, the 6’5″ guard fell in love with Chapel Hill and signed on to play for UNC. This came as a surprise to many, but Butch Davis was pleased with his commitment to add to an already solid class. Through the thick and thin of the program’s struggles and successes, Hurst has been an anchor, starting 58 games for the Heels over the past three seasons. He has been named a Freshman All-American, a Second-team All-ACC tackle in 2011 and received All-ACC honors in his junior year. Now heading into his senior year for the Tar Heels, Hurst will be expected to build on all that success.
After losing 3 senior lineman, including top NFL prospect Jonathan Cooper, Head Coach Larry Fedora will be looking at a young group that lost a combined 98 starts after last season. Hurst is projected to be the only senior for the Heels on the line, playing with only one returning starter in center Russell Bodine. Freshman Caleb Peterson and Sophomore Landon Turner could end up playing big roles for the Heels this season. It helps that the group will be led from the backfield by senior quarterback Bryn Renner, who will be hoping that his line can protect him and give him time to operate UNC’s fast paced offense. Hurst and the line will have a big challenge but this group is ready and talented, and could come together under the leadership of Hurst.
UNC will face some one of its toughest tests ever in the trenches this fall, when the Tar Heels will travel into SEC country to face South Carolina and uber-talented defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney is the consensus Number 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, and the man tasked to keeping him in check will be Hurst. This assignment and the expectations of him will be a challenge in 2013 for Hurst, but its nothing that the senior tackle can’t take down.