CHAPEL HILL — Offensive linemen are usually a solitary, forgotten bunch who are noticed only when something goes wrong. They like it that way.
But for the entire summer, James Hurst was one of the Tar Heels most popular players thanks to one man Jadeveon Clowney. Hurst showed why he is viewed as a potential first-round pick, holding Clowney to no sacks and just three tackles.
Now that Clowney is in the rear view, Hurst discussed what it was like to go against the guy SEC quarterbacks call The Freak.
Q: What was it like to go through the summer, seeing, hearing, reading about Clowney?
Hurst: It was a lot of pressure and it was obviously a lot of media attention and deservedly so. Hes a really good player and really talented. As far as the game was concerned, it was a really tough matchup, but mentally it was the same. I did the exact same things I would leading up to any opponent.
Q: Was there any chirping from Clowney before or during the game?
Hurst: No. He was a class act throughout the game and just played the game like its supposed to be played.
Q: Was that kind of shocking to you?
Hurst: (laughs) Yeah, definitely. Most defensive guys talk a little bit, but he didnt say a word. He didnt really bother me either way, but I did kind of expect him to try to get in my head.
Q: O-linemen tend to be overlooked in favor of skill players and guys who fill the stat sheet. Did you enjoy having that much media attention?
Hurst: If I have to be honest, I didnt enjoy it at all. At first, it was cool and it was different, but then it just started putting a lot of pressure on me and I knew there were a lot of eyes on me.
I think at this point in my career Ive realized that o-linemen dont get the media attention that others do, and I like it that way. I always say that if you dont get your name mentioned thats usually a good thing because the only thing we get mentioned for is sacks or penalties.
Q: As an offensive lineman, you have to block out a lot of crowd noise. Whats the loudest stadium youve ever played in?
Hurst: Clemson was No.1 and Florida State is right behind it. Then South Carolina was right there. It really depends on, and I dont think a lot of people give credit to it, how close the game is. If you have a close game, the fans are going to be up the whole game. Clemson was unbelievable though because they never stopped.
Q: What are some of the ways coach Larry Fedora tries to mimic that in practice?
Hurst: He gets these speakers going (hanging around the practice facility) as loud as he can and we have to hold hands with the guy next to you so that you can feel when the ball is snapped. That gets you ready for what it will be like, but really you never know exactly what its going to be like.
Q: With your final home opener coming up, whats it going to be like to experience it for the last time?
Hurst: Well, I dont really know yet. Its going to be really weird because it feels like just yesterday that I was a freshman going out there and playing for the first time. I know from talking to (Jonathan Cooper) last year that it ends really quickly. Im going to be relishing that moment and probably wishing I had another year to enjoy it.
Smith: 919-829-8941; Twitter: @RCorySmith