Last year was a desperate time for linebackers at North Carolina, as the unit has lacked talent and depth as of late.
Seeing the predicament he was in, Head Coach Butch Davis threw two of his most athletic freshmen, Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter, into the lion’s den. He asking them to play substantial minutes in the 2007 campaign.
The linebacker questions still may not be solved, but Butch is bringing some talented players to Chapel Hill at the linebacker position for the future. This still may be the weakest area for an improving Tar Heel team.
WLB Quan Sturdivant
47 Total Tackles
1.5 Tackles for Loss
1 Sacks, 1 Int, 0 Forced Fumbles
Sturdivant started last year as a true freshman, racking up 47 total tackles and a sack.
Having to learn on the run as a freshman is tough, but with a full year of experience and with the absence of former linebacker Durell Mapp, Quan could shine. He has all the athletic gifts needed to become a great linebacker.
It will still be a learning experience for Sturdivant this year, but he’s already ahead of the curve as far as playing time is concerned.
MLB Mark Paschal
53 Total Tackles
6.5 Tackles for Loss
0 Sacks, 1 Int, 0 Forced Fumbles
With the dismissal of linebacker Wesley Flagg early in the summer, senior Mark Paschal looks to take over the middle linebacker position for the Heels.
Paschal had 53 tackles last season, including 6.5 for loss, good for fifth on the team.
The middle linebacker is the quarterback of the defense, as all of Paschal’s senior knowledge will be needed to hold together a young but talented linebacker corp.
SLB Chase Rice
Rice suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the first game of 2007.
He has fully recovered and hopes to regain his starting position from sophomore Bruce Carter who played in his place in 2007.
A year to regain health and continue learning from film benefited Rice, but he remains a big question mark in 2008, because no one knows how much the rust of sitting out a season will affect him.
SLB Bruce Carter
25 Total Tackles
2 Tackles for Loss
0 Sacks, 0 Int, 0 Forced Fumbles
Carter was another talented youngster forced into playing last season.
Bruce racked up 25 tackles last season with solid linebacker play.
With Rice returning, Carter’s role for the season could be diminished, but I’m sure his athletic abilities will be utilized somewhere on the field by Davis and company.
There should be some fun and exciting fall battles between Rice and Carter for the last starting linebacker spot.
Along with these projected starters, Davis has brought in many talented linebacker recruits such as Kevin Reddick, Zach Brown, and Ebele Okakpu.
If any of these guys don’t produce, Davis wont hesitate to insert some of the new freshmen until he finds his starter.
Due up next on the position breakdowns, the Tar Heel Secondary.