The Tabor City, N.C. native is the only returning starter along UNC’s defensive line. Farmer started all 13 games in 2013, totaling 30 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble from his nose tackle position.
Fedora said it was “definitely a concern” that a leader on the defense may not be able to play this season.
“It’s a concern for me if any of our guys aren’t on the field for whatever reason,” Fedora said. “But yeah, especially when it’s a senior and you only have six scholarship seniors.”
UNC has already suffered two academic casualties at nose tackle this preseason in senior Shawn Underwood and red-shirt freshman Greg Webb. Those losses, combined with Farmer’s status, have forced various shifts along the defensive line.
Defensive end Jessie Rogers moved to the three-technique tackle position, while three-technique Justin Thomason slid over to nose. Bandit Mikey Bart is also now working solely with the defensive ends.
“It didn’t help losing Underwood and Webb, and then if you lose Ethan, that’s three guys basically at the same position, so it’s going to be a little hard to go three-deep out of it,” associate head coach for defense Vic Koenning said.
The defensive coaching staff had discussions about the preferred method to split up practice reps given Farmer’s situation, according to Fedora.
“He’s a senior, he has experience, so it’s not critical that he gets all of the reps,” the third-year UNC head coach said. “It’s more critical that those younger guys, that we’re trying to create some depth [with] there, that they’re getting the reps because there’s a chance they may be thrown in there right away and they have to perform. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. We can’t wait on them. They just may have to go.”
Koenning took the opportunity to praise Farmer when asked about divvying up reps between the tackles.
“There isn’t a better person in the world than Ethan Farmer and I’m saddened that the situation is like it is for him,” Koenning said. “I know he’s worked his complete tail off to get within one semester of graduating. We’ll see if the system works for the benefit of the player. That remains to be seen.”