North Carolina NFL Draft Preview: James Hurst


September 15, 2012; Louisville, KY USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard

Jonathan Cooper

(64) and offensive tackle James Hurst (68) line up against the Louisville Cardinals during the second half of play at Papa John

In order to prepare you for the NFL Draft, and when and to where some former Tar Heel football players could go, Keeping It Heel has put together a North Carolina Draft Preview series. Leading up to draft day, we will feature different Tar Heels and their chances for the draft. Today, we continue with James Hurst. Make sure you check back every day until the NFL Draft for more player previews!

James Hurst: Vitals

Height: 6’5”
Weight: 296 lbs.
Position: Offensive Tackle
Arm Length: 33 3/4”
Hand Length: 10 1/8”
High School: Plainfield High School

Vs. South Carolina and Clowney

Carolina Stats and Overview

James Hurst came into Chapel Hill in 2010 as a bright eyed youngster from Plainfield High School in Indiana. He was ranked the 10th overall player in the country by Rivals and was highly recruited, picking the Tar Heels over the likes of Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Notre Dame.

His freshman season, he assumed the duties of left tackle, arguably the most important position on a football team besides the quarterback. Hurst did not concede the left tackle position until an injury ended his career in the Belk Bowl. Throughout 2010 until 2013, Hurst was a constant on UNC’s offensive line, holding down the left side after the departure of left guard Jonathan Cooper in 2012. Hurst earned second team All-ACC honors in 2011 and first team All-ACC honors in 2012 and 2013.

Did not participate in NFL Combine due to leg injury suffered in Belk Bowl.

Strengths and Weaknesses

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on offensive line fundamentals or technique, but here is what I can tell you from a fan’s perspective regarding Hurst. James was as solid as I have seen at left tackle and I never saw him get called for a stupid penalty or completely miss a block- something I can’t saw about Russell Bodine, Hurst’s teammate from last year and a fellow NFL Draft prospect. I will let an expert handle the more technical strengths and weaknesses.

From’s Nolan Nawrocki:
Strengths- Very good size. Smart and instinctive — understands angles. Good leg drive as a run blocker — is tough and aggressive. Competes hard and flashes some nastiness.
Weaknesses- Average athletic ability and agility. Tends to lunge, bend at the waist and get overextended. Is heavy-footed and struggles to adjust to quick, inside counters. Gets jarred, knocked off balance and at times collapsed and lifted off the ground by power-leverage rushers.

Draft Projections

The jury is still out Hurst’s true draft projection or even position. Some see Hurst as more of a guard in the pros, despite the fact that Hurst played tackle his entire career at UNC. As far as projections, I have seen as high as three and as low as seven for Hurst. He was probably closer to the three before his injury at the Belk Bowl, and trended closer to the seven after a rough pro day. I predict a 5th round selection for Hurst.

Bottom Line

James Hurst was an excellent offensive lineman for UNC, and his presence will be missed on UNC’s young offensive line next season. As far as his pro prospects go, James Hurst will stick in the league if he can develop the techniques for playing both the guard and tackle positions and if he finds the right team where he can develop and unleash the potential he alluded to as the 10th rated high schooler in the nation in 2009.