There are many great battles that have begun to work themselves out over the first eight days of fall camp, but there is one that we at the Heel Tough Blog may have overlooked a bit prior to camp that has developed into the most competitive.
Last year, Brian Anderson took over the starting center job in the middle of the Week 2 game against Miami when then-starter Nick Polino went down with an injury. Anderson looked solid in the middle of the Tar Heel offensive line a year ago, playing 903 snaps for an offensive line that had its ebbs and flows early in the season before settling into a groove late in the year, though. Anderson graded out above a 75 three times a season, including in the game against the then defending national champion Clemson Tigers. However, some inconsistencies late in the season left the door open for someone to challenge for that starting job this offseason and that challenger is Ty Murray.
When talking about Murray back on National Signing Day 2019, Mack Brown did not beat around the bush with the Carrollton, GA native. He called Murray the future of the center position and was thrilled by the physicality that he saw in the middle from Murray in his high school game film. What Brown liked so much about his game translated well onto the college gridiron in the limited reps he saw a season ago behind Anderson when he was elevated to the backup job following Polino’s injury. While he only played 20 snaps, a bulk of them coming in garbage time of the games against Mercer and NC State, Murray’s physicality shined and clearly made a strong impression on the staff heading into the offseason. Now, he looks to earn that starting role for an offensive that will be looking to build on what he did a season ago.
While this was not one of the battles that was on our top battles to watch list heading into camp, it has easily turned into one of the fiercest preseason competitions in a short period of time. Anderson’s experience is helpful towards his case to start, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that Murray might be better fit in the middle for the Tar Heels. Brown has said that he wants both guys to be capable of playing meaningful reps, as he hopes to prevent the starting center, whoever it may be, from having to play as many reps as Anderson did a year ago. As Brown has said before, “as an offensive line, you’re only as good as your center.”