Takeaways from R.J. Prince’s Move to Defensive Tackle


Here are a few quick takeaways from the news that UNC would be moving R.J. Prince from offensive tackle to defensive tackle.

Earlier this week, North Carolina confirmed via Twitter that R.J. Prince, a top offensive line recruit from Albermarle, North Carolina, would be switching to defensive tackle. The move was confirmed on Prince’s bio and on his own personal Twitter account (@rprince76heel).

This could seem like a small, forgettable move of spring practice, but there are a few key takeaways from this move.

#1: UNC must feel pretty good at the tackle positions

Last season, UNC’s starting offensive tackles were John Ferranto on the left side and Jon Heck on the right. Neither was really a standout tackle. However, Prince’s move signals that Coach Fedora must feel pretty comfortable with where he is at on the offensive line. R.J. Prince was never going to be an all-star offensive lineman at the college level. He played a meaningful snap against Virginia and he absolutely whiffed on a block that could have cost his team the game.

Luckily, Trubisky let go of the ball a half second before the defensive end was able to crush him. Still, Prince was a highly decorated recruit and had ideal physical attributes for the offensive tackle position.

It signals a vote of confidence in Ferranto, Heck and their backups, Bentley Spain and the younger kids like Williams Sweet and other recruits.

Again, this might not seem like much, but it is really important. Fedora believes enough in the tackle positions to take away depth and add it at another weak position. Fedora must have seen a lot of good things in spring practice to make him believe this. As a result of this move, this is a good sign for the Tar Heel offensive line and for the offense as a whole.

#2 Fedora must be worried about the D-Line

Last season, the Tar Heels really struggled to generate a consistent pass rush from the defensive ends and generate a consistent push up front to stop interior runs. And that was with Norkeithus Otis, Devonte Brown and Ethan Farmer up front. Those guys are gone now, and UNC is left feeling thin even after the addition of Prince.

I haven’t seen a depth chart all spring season, and this is purely speculation, but I imagine the depth chart would look something like this…

North Carolina Tar Heels
North Carolina Tar Heels /

North Carolina Tar Heels

First DT
1) Naz Jones (Going to be a really good player. Can get after the passer but has to be more consistent this season)
2) Tyler Powell (Forced into action early last year, playing a lot of snaps maybe before he was ready. Good football player.)
3) Prince maybe? or one of the redshirt freshman Johnathon Suggs and Robert Dinkins?

DT 2
1) Justin Thomason (More of a run stopper than pass rusher. Needs to have a big senior season.)
2) Maybe Prince here?
3) Freshman Aaron Crawford most likely

That’s just my best guess, and you can see right off the bat that their isn’t a lot of depth in the middle of the defense. Naz Jones, Thomason and Tyler Powell are a good base to build off of, but some of the young kids like Suggs, Dinkins and Crawford are going to have to step up, and Prince can help fill in the gaps as a big body in the middle.


Chizik and Fedora probably took a look at the depth charts on both lines and realized Prince was needed more as a defensive guy than as an offensive guy. This is a clear vote of confidence for the offense, especially the incumbent tackles Heck and Ferranto, but a bit of a sign of worries on the inside of the line.

I like the move. Prince could end up being a good rotation player for the Tar Heels. It will take him awhile to learn the position, but at the very least he will be a big body right away that the Heels can use to stop the run.