No. 5. James Hurst, OT, North Carolina
Previous ranking: Not ranked.
Making the case for Hurst: Hurst is going to be the anchor of the line this fall, as he’s the senior leader and one of the nation’s top left tackles. He has started 36 career games since earning the starting job in the second week of his true freshman season. Last year, he helped pave the way for UNC to set school records in total offense, scoring and passing yards. UNC allowed just 11 total sacks last year, and led the ACC in sacks allowed per game (.92). He started 11 games last fall and graded out close to 90 percent.
He has been at his best against the most meaningful competition, as last year Hurst graded out at 90 percent with 12 knockdowns and played all 85 snaps in the win at Miami. One of the biggest questions facing UNC this fall is how the Tar Heels will replace OG Jonathan Cooper, as he was the lead blocker for Giovani Bernard last year. There is so much confidence within the program in the leadership and abilities of Hurst, that with three starters returning, it could be a smoother transition than expected.
No. 6 Stephen Morris, QB, Miami