Knowing The Game

Kelly Jennings and Thomas Carroll have been roommates since they arrived on campus in 2001. They have 47 starts between them as they enter their final season as Hurricanes and often talk about who knows the defense better. Their football knowledge is superb and you might be surprised who knows the game better.

Kelly Jennings is from Live Oak, Fla. and Thomas Carroll hails from Lakewood, N.J. Living together their first year in the dorms was a bit odd at times.

"We talked on the phone the summer before we got here about who was going to bring what," Jennings said. "He seemed cool, but when we first got here we didn't talk too much."

Jennings is a laid back, easy going guy, where as Carroll is more outgoing. Although they are different in many ways, they found out they are also very similar.

"As we slowly got to know each other we realized there is not a lot different between us," Jennings said. "A lot of people complain about roommate problems, but we never really had any problems."

"We compliment each other and it is fun to be staying with him," Carroll said. "We have a real good relationship."

When they first met they didn't talk too much about anything too serious. As their relationship has grown they talk about a variety of topics including life and what the future holds for them. They will also talk about the game of football and different aspects of the defense.

A majority of young players, inlcuding Jennings and Carroll, come in as freshmen knowing only their own positions. Sometimes as players get older they want to learn everything about the defense and other positions. Now both players spend plenty of time learning the defense.

"We were taking a test one time and developed a small competition afterwards about who got more right," Jennings said. "Now we talk a lot about who knows more about the defense."

Jennings, a cornerback, has three interceptions in 37 career games and Carroll, a defensive end, has 12.5 sacks in 32 career games. Both players are known for having great technique, which has allowed them to play early in their careers. Their experience on the field has helped them learn the game.

"When we talk about the defense I try to tell him I know more about coverages in the secondary," Carroll said. "And every now again he will use our terminology that we use on the defensive line. I try to line up as a defensive back and show him certain technical things a cornerback will do."

Jennings believes their conversations help each other on the field

"Thomas knows the defense very well and I think we help each other a lot by talking about it," Jennings said. "We will watch games on TV and I am starting to actually learn football now and not just our system here. Guys like Ed Reed will come back and tell us that the next level is more about the concept of football than just one particular scheme."

So who knows more about the game of football and about the defense?

"I think I know a little bit more," Carroll said after a long pause.

"I would honestly say that I think he knows more about the secondary than I know about the defensive line because he is always in our meetings," Jennings said.

Both guys graduated on the same day in December and are realizing that not only are they older guys on the team, but they must be leaders. They feel more comfortable leading by example than through words.

Carroll has seen Jennings improve on his confidence throughout his career and this year he sees it higher than it has ever been.

"I have seen his confidence level go up and down," Carroll said. "His confidence level is a lot higher than it has been because now I think he knows the defense so well he is at the point where he can anticipate the play."

Jennings feels Carroll is an important part of the defense and undervalued at times.

"What people fail to realize is the contribution that Thomas gives to our team," Jennings said. "I think he played more than all of the other defensive line guys and had less errors in his game."

Christopher Stock is a Senior Writer & Assistant Editor for CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at

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