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Injury woes continue for UNC offensive line

UNC left tackle Bentley Spain is one of two starting offensive linemen who were expected to start approaching the beginning of preseason practice.
UNC left tackle Bentley Spain is one of two starting offensive linemen who were expected to start approaching the beginning of preseason practice. rwillett@newsobserver.com

A streak of injury-related misfortune on the North Carolina offensive line continued on Thursday when the school announced that Caleb Peterson, the starting left guard, would miss the rest of the season after suffering a back injury.

The injury means that Peterson, a senior, has played his final college game. He entered the season as one of UNC’s most experienced offensive lineman, and before his injury forced him to miss UNC’s defeat against Virginia Tech on Oct. 8, Peterson had started 30 consecutive games.

He is scheduled to undergo surgery on Friday at The Carrell Clinic in Dallas, Texas. UNC also announced on Thursday that Jonathan Smith, a freshman linebacker, would miss the rest of the season after he underwent surgery on his right foot on Thursday. Smith played in six games.

Peterson’s impending season-ending injury represents more bad injury luck for the Tar Heels’ offensive line. Before preseason practice began, John Ferranto, who had been projected as the starter at right guard, suffered a season-ending torn pectoral muscle.

Peterson’s injury, meanwhile, forced him to miss the past two games. And Jon Heck, the starting right tackle, left the Tar Heels’ victory at Miami last Saturday with what appeared to be a head injury. He is listed as questionable on the injury report but appears unlikely to play on Saturday at Virginia.

If Heck doesn’t start on Saturday, then left tackle Bentley Spain and center Lucas Crowley will be UNC’s only starting linemen who were expected to be in their positions entering the season. The Tar Heels’ offensive line depth has grown especially thin on the interior.

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