UNC offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic, known around the Tar Heel program as 'Coach Kap,' spoke with Tar Heel Illustrated following practice earlier this week.
North Carolina had Tuesday off from practice---its first day off after 12 straight days of training camp workouts---before coming back with a series of two-a-day workouts on Wednesday.
Kapilovic has had the benefit in his first months in Chapel Hill of inheriting a veteran Tar Heel offensive line that is arguably one of the biggest strengths on the entire football team.
Although the unit hasn't been fully healthy since the spring, Coach Kap has had the benefit of working with multiple third, fourth and fifth-year players who are familiar with the speed of the college game if not fully understanding of the new UNC spread offense just yet.
"It's invaluable. It's the 'been there, done that.' They have instant credibility," Kapilovic said of returning Tar Heel veterans like James Hurst, Jonathan Cooper, Brennan Williams, and Travis Bond, all returning starters who have nearly a decade of combined starting experience between them heading into this fall."
"I'm running the meetings and practice, but they're around them when they're not with me," Kapilovic added. "It's big to have that experience there, and those guys have to have the confidence be able to to show on the field, and be able to talk to those young guys about it."
Kapilovic has been impressed with the way the UNC veterans have been inclined to help bring along their younger teammates, a solid group of prospects thanks to good recruiting in the offensive trenches in the last couple recruiting classes.
"The thing I like when they're in there watching film, when one of those young kids does something well, those guys (the upperclassmen) take pride in knowing they had a hand in that. And that's huge. That's huge for camaraderie also," he said.
The Tar Heels have seen multiple players limited or out of certain practices this summer, including Williams for the first week and Hurst for a practice session last week.
In addition, UNC missed starting center Russell Bodine in Monday's workout.
"Our first projected five have not been together since probably the second practice of the spring, and I wish that's something we could get to," he said.
As a result of the missing players, Coach Kap has been moving some people around to get them work in case they have to play more than one position over the course of the year.
Some of the UNC veterans who have gotten work at multiple positions this summer include senior Travis Bond, heading into his third year as a starter and working at both right guard and right tackle, as well as fellow senior Peyton Jenest, who has practiced with the starters at center and the second team offense at left guard.
"He (Jenest) has had a tremendous camp. He's a senior. He's going to be in the mix, there's no doubt. Whether he's starting or rotating in, he's proven that so far. Now, he's got to finish," Kapilovic said. "When Russ (Bodine) isn't taking snaps Peyton has stepped up, and I know Peyton was solid at guard all spring. He's very valuable to us."
"Sometimes you've got to have one or two guys that have been through the fire that can play a couple of positions," he added. "And you know if somebody goes down I can slide him in there and he's not going to panic and he knows what's expected."
Having guys like Bond and Jenest capable of playing more than one position helps offset UNC not having a full two-deep that Coach Kap is completely confident about putting out on the field on gamedays.
"It's huge (having guys capable of playing two positions), because you know, if we had a solid 10 then you wouldn't have to worry about that, but we're not there right now," he said.
One player who isn't moving around right now is Cooper, who has spent time at both center and left guard in his UNC tenure, but is now focusing specifically at left guard.
"I like him (Cooper) where he's at (left guard)," Coach Kap said. "That's an emergency situation (putting Cooper at center), but we're trying to groom three, four of those guys (to play center)."
"I want Cooper to be that guy at guard and be able to help those centers and tackles when they need to, and just lock in that position."
Williams wore a red 'limited contact' jersey through the first 10 or so practice sessions, but on Monday the senior right tackle was seen working out full-go.
His re-insertion in the starting lineup allows Bond to move back to right guard.
"It's going to be nice when he (Williams) is 100 percent," Kapilovic said. "Since the second practice spring we haven't had the projected five together."
The one positive for the Tar Heels having veterans out of the lineup is it has allowed talented redshirt freshmen like Kiaro Holts at left tackle and Landon Turner at right guard to get repetitions in practice with the starters.
Both Holts and Turner, as well as multiple other young players, have a world of potential, and they're getting key practice plays that may not have been available before.
"The thing we're getting out of that is great experience for everybody," Kapilovic said.
"The great thing is some guys are getting those reps, and that's the opportunity to take that job. Nothing is guaranteed. Previous experience is previous experience, but they've got to show they can do it. But I would be nice to have him out there."
With guys like Holts and Turner, it's all about developing to the point where they can be productive and effective play after play after play.
While both of those players as well as other young offensive linemen are doing nice things in camp, they've also had some rough patches that make Kapilovic hesitant to just blindly throw them into the ball game.
So while some of the youngsters might have a chance to become impact players for the Tar Heels in the not-too-distant future, the next few weeks are huge for them to continue coming along and progress so they can be called upon to perform consistently if needed during the upcoming season.
"Consistency, that's what we're lacking (with some of the younger players)," Coach Kap said.
"They'll do a couple of things and you're like, 'Okay, I feel good about them,' and then they'll do some things and you're like, 'Well, wait a minute,' and that's the thing. If we could just get them consistent and get some confidence."
"They've got to get reps in practice, which they are. They have to show they can do it here (in practice) before we can put them out there on a Saturday."