North Carolina enters the season with questions everywhere on offense – at quarterback, running back and wide receiver, especially – and now the Tar Heels have grown thinner on the offensive line, as well.
Jared Cohen, a potential starting lineman, left the program on Friday, coach Larry Fedora said Monday during his first press conference of the regular season. Cohen, a 6-3, 275-pound offensive guard, has now left the UNC football team for the second time.
He took a leave from the program in 2015, when he didn’t appear at the start of the preseason, and he decided not to return. Then, after deciding to transfer to Virginia, Cohen changed course and returned to UNC over the summer.
During his recent return, Cohen was a non-scholarship player. He likely would have earned a scholarship had he remained on the team, and until recently, it appeared he would. Cohen worked with the first team offense last week before deciding, again, to leave the team on Friday.
“I hate it for the kid and I hope he gets his personal issues worked out,” Fedora said on Monday, “and I wish him the best for the real world, because that’s what he’s going to be doing.”
Cohen had two years of eligibility remaining. He likely would have played a significant role this season, either as a starter or as primary reserve. Nick Polino, a sophomore, is listed on UNC’s public depth chart as the starter at left guard and R.J. Prince, a senior, the starter at right guard.
The Tar Heels have also been without another offensive lineman throughout most of the preseason. Tommy Hatton, an offensive guard and center who started at times during his freshman season last year, hasn’t practiced since the first week of preseason practice because of personal reasons.
Hatton also would have been a strong contender to enter the season as a starter. Fedora on Monday implied that Hatton could still rejoin the team at some point, though for weeks his status has been unclear.
“Tommy is still with us,” Fedora said, “and battling to get out there.”