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September 15, 2010
Changes Up Front
North Carolina is undertaking a few changes this week heading into Saturday's Atlantic Coast Conference opener against Georgia Tech.
Specifically, along the offensive line the Tar Heels have moved Jonathan Cooper back to left guard, Cam Holland back into the starting role at center, and Alan Pelc over to right guard.
Mike Ingersoll and James Hurst are the projected starters at the two tackle posts.
"Actually I have moved to guard. I moved over to left guard," said Cooper. "(Pelc) was bumped over to right guard and Cam Holland will be playing center, and it will be like a rotation basically at the guard spot with Travis Bond and Pelc and I."
"I'm going back to the right," said Pelc.
"I don't think it's really brought much change to our offensive line at all. It's definitely position changes, but as far as playing-wise, Cooper has played that position (left guard) before and he's seen this defense (of Georgia Tech's) before, too."
Holland came into the LSU game after Cooper got off to a rough start in his first game at center, and his presence helped settle down the Tar Heel offense.
A fourth-year junior, Holland, a brilliant student majoring in Biology and minoring in Chemistry, got plenty of action last fall as a starter.
He'll be looking to avenge last year's tough going against Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
"I'm excited to be out there," said Holland. "I'm real excited to be out there with the rest of the linemen. It's going to be a really big challenge and I'm looking forward to it."
"I'm definitely ready to play them (Georgia Tech) again. I'm definitely looking forward to it," Holland added.
"He leads the line well just being a knowledgeable, big, physical player," said Cooper of Holland. "And I'm working to be just as good as he is at it. He's doing a great job."
"Whatever I put my hand to just do the best I can. That goes to football, it goes to academics, it goes to outside the classroom in my personal life," Holland said. "I think having that fair mind has really helped me along the way."
For Pelc, who has played basically every offensive line position during his career at Carolina, the change is really not a big deal.
"We've practiced every scenario, so it's something we're used to. We played with it last year (this particular grouping of guards and center). It's not that much change," he said.
"I played both sides (at guard) during the LSU game and the last couple of years I've played both sides, so it really hasn't bothered me much. Yeah I did (start at center against Pittsburgh). Three (staring positions) in three games."
Pelc's experience at center makes him the team's top backup at that position now that Cooper has been moved indefinitely back over to left guard.
"For right now I think it will be Pelc (backing up Holland at center), just because it has been so long since I played guard. The coaches want me to get acclimated, so through the whole bye week and practice, I've been playing guard," said Cooper.
"I've played three positions in one game last year, too. If I need to play center, it's not easy but I can do it. I can make that move," Pelc added.
Although Cooper has been playing center since the start of the Spring season, the fact that Greg Elleby moved back over to defense made it essential to get him back to left guard to help with the depth at that position.
"Yes sir (I've been playing center since Spring Football). It was surprising, but with Elleby having to move back over to defense, it was the best way I could have helped," Cooper said.
He's certainly not ruling out the possibility of returning to center at some point in his UNC career, but for now Cooper understands how critical it is that he steps up once again at left guard.
"I would like to get that comfort at center. You know what I mean? Which it didn't come right away at guard---I just had time to gain it," he said. "On the big stage in the middle of the field handling the ball, your mistakes show up a little bit more."
"You always have that feeling in the back of your head like what I could have done and should have done, but right now I am doing pretty good at guard and I feel very comfortable," Cooper added.
The fact that Cooper, Pelc, and Holland all have legitimate game and starting experience should help make this experiment go much smoother than some of the past experiments up front.
"I think with the amount of older guys and the amount experience we have on the offensive line right now, it's definitely going to help us," Holland said.
"We've all worked with each other in previous years and throughout the season, so I think it's definitely going to work out well."
"We definitely have that experience now," said Pelc. "Every guy on the line has played against this look before besides James (Hurst), and I think James has enough experience now."
Although Hurst is the one player heading into Saturday's game who hasn't dealt with Georgia Tech among Carolina's offensive linemen, he's gotten valuable extra time in recent days to prepare for what's to come.
"We've practiced Georgia Tech enough---that 3-4 defense enough---that he has the experience and the knowledge, and he's a smart player too," said Pelc of Hurst.