We are now 9 days away from the season opening showdown with South Carolina and as the Heels get ready to start game week preparations one huge question still lingers, who will be starting at right tackle? It’s a question that the coaching staff must find an answer for soon as they prepare to face one of the nation’s best defensive lines and the country’s best player…Jadeveon Clowney.
The line will be anchored by preseason All-American and future NFL pick James Hurst and will also feature Russell Bodine returning at center which should help projected new starters at guard Caleb Peterson and Landon Turner. The right tackle spot is the only spot that has been left unclaimed and if you listen to the coaching staff it may stay that way until the opener.
“Right tackle is a real big question mark right now, trying to find somebody who can play that spot with some consistency. We’re looking for consistency. We just can’t get consistency right now,” said UNC offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic recently in a interview with Tar Heel Illustrated.
There are four players vying for the position: red-shirt freshmen Jon Heck, John Ferranto, Nick Appel, and Kiaro Holts. Appel has the most experience of the four, playing in 11 games last season. However, he has spent most of the off-season practicing on the left side as Hurst’s backup. Holts was considered the favorite entering spring practice but did not play well enough to claim the job and has struggled staying healthy during his time in Chapel Hill. The favorite is perhaps Heck who has made the biggest improvement from spring ball until now according to some reports.
“Heck, going in I kind of felt he was going to be the odd man out, but he really rose above too,” Kapilovic said in the same interview.
Whoever wins the position will be in for a baptism under fire against the Gamecocks. A lot has been made about the potential Hurst vs. Clowney match up; however with an inexperience starter on the right side expect the Gamecock megastar to spend plenty of time on that side exposing the Tar Heels weakness. Who ever starts will benefit from playing opposite Hurst and learning from one of the best offensive lineman in the country. Right now today if a starter had to be chosen it appears that Heck would likely be in the lineup opening night in Columbia.