The past two seasons the Tar Heels have been building an offensive line. In 2001, Jeb Terry, Jupiter Wilson, Willie McNeil, Skip Seagraves, and Jason Brown all saw their first starting action on the offensive line. Wilson had 11 starts that year, while Terry and McNeil had 10 starts each. Brown had three starts and Seagraves had one. In 2002, Kyle Ralph started the final five games of the season, while Steven Bell had two starts.
The 2003 offensive line may only have one senior, Jeb Terry, among the starters, but the offensive linemen on the roster count 95 starts among them. The experience and continuity along the offensive line is a far cry from the unit that lined up against Oklahoma in August of 2001. For the first time since John Bunting became head coach of the Tar Heels, the offensive line appears to be a team strength.
"Our offensive line--particularly the first group is blocking things up good. Hal [Hunter] has done a great job with them," Bunting said. "Our offensive line looks better, and that helps."
It appears that all but one of the starting positions are set at this point. Senior Jupiter Wilson and sophomore Kyle Ralph appear locked in a battle for a starting spot at guard. Though the depth at offensive line may still not be at the level the Tar Heels would want it, it has improved.
"We have Brian Chacos jumping in and playing offensive tackle, gives us a little bit of depth," Bunting said, "I think we have three guards that can go in there and play any time now. I think Steven Bell can go and play guard or center, which once again, creates a little bit of depth. Not much, but we have some depth."
The progress along the offensive line should be obvious in the spring game. There have been fewer "miscues" this spring in terms of pre-snap penalties, and the center snap exchange has gone smoothly with few exceptions. The key for a successful offensive line next fall is to avoid injuries.
Coach Bunting sums it up nicely:
"Our offensive line should be the best it's been since I've been here because they are a year older and they're a year more experienced."