UNC lineman to forego final year of eligibility

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

This came in Thursday from the UNC sports information department:

University of North Carolina offensive lineman Aaron Stahl has decided to forego his final year of eligibility in 2009 and will no longer play football. Stahl, who has been a member of the team for four years, graduated in May with a bachelor's degree in exercise and sports science.

"I appreciate everything Coach Davis and his staff have done for me over the last two and a half years," said Stahl. "I earned my degree from a great University, enjoyed living in Chapel Hill, and now it's time for me to move forward with the next phase of my life."

Stahl played in all 13 games last season and started six at either center or guard. He broke his thumb in the Miami game and switched to guard for the remainder of the year. He had offseason shoulder surgery in January and missed all of Carolina's spring practices.

"I understand Aaron's decision and appreciate all of his hard work and effort to make us a better football program," said head coach Butch Davis. "He was a versatile player, and when he was injured last year, he helped the team by moving to another position. I will support him in the future and wish him nothing but success."

Anytime you lose a player with starting experience, it's going to hurt. Stahl returned to the starting lineup against West Virginia in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. That kind of experience is tough to replace, but while he was out this spring, it opened up some competition between a few players. Redshirt freshman Jonathan Cooper impressed the staff on the scout team last year and has good quickness. Kevin Bryant battled injuries last year, but are back in the mix, and Cam Holland is another player who can provide depth at center. Greg Elleby is another player who can benefit from Stahl's departure. He moved to offensive guard from the defensive line during spring practices and impressed teh coaching staff, Kyle Jolly, Alan Pelc and Lowell Dyer will be the leaders of the line.