There have been several changes at linebacker, including terminology. On the post-spring official depth chart, linebackers are not designated simply as outside linebackers or middle linebacker anymore. Now they are designated as a "Sam" linebacker [strong side linebacker], a "Mike" linebacker [middle linebacker], and a "Will" linebacker [weak side linebacker].
Also, two stalwarts at the linebacking position, Brandon Spoon and Sedrick Hodge, graduate this spring. As a unit, the linebackers were hit the hardest by graduation this spring. Both graduating players were taken in the NFL draft.
There are two remaining linebackers, seniors Merceda Perry and Quincy Monk, that do have a lot of experience. Perry redshirted as a result of an injury in the second game of the season last year.
Perry started seven games in 1999, and was second on the team in tackles that year. He missed one entire game that year and parts of three others due to a dislocated shoulder, making his defensive stats even more impressive.
Still recovering from his injury last season during the spring, Perry has been cleared to return to practice in the fall.
Bunting says, "Merceda should be back full-go to start summer camp. We are looking for him to have a banner year for us at the strong side backer position."
When starter Brandon Spoon went out with an injury in 1999, Quincy Monk started five games, and also started nine games of the 2000 season because of Perry's injury. He finished fourth on the team in tackles with 35 solo hits and 41 assists.
Of Monk, Bunting says, "Quincy Monk could be an All-Star player."
So even though the Tar Heels graduate two starters, both Monk and Perry have seen extensive game action, and have between them started 22 games for the Tar Heels. That both finished in the top five in tackles for the Tar Heels, even in abbreviated seasons, should bode well for 2001.
There has been some discussion that Quincy Monk will play the "Mike" position for the Tar Heels, but the official depth chart has that position going to Robert Harris, a former walk-on who caught Coach Huxtable's eye early in spring practice.
"On the first day of practice, he really jumped out at me, said Coach Huxtable, "Harris plays with a great motor, has a good understanding, and you can tell he loves the game; he has a great passion for the game."
Harris's progress has apparently allowed Quincy Monk to go back to an outside position, where he has played his whole career. If called on, however, both Monk and Perry can play inside.
Though one does not have to look from down the depth chart to find that experience is in short supply, Huxtable is impressed with the talent there.
"I have really been impressed with Clarence Gaddy," says Coach Huxtable, "He is a very heady kid, has tremendous athletic ability, really runs well, and he has really been working hard. David Thornton is another player who has impressed me; he has really done a good job and works hard."
The players seem ready for the challenge that graduating players like Spoon and Hodge brings. David Thornton says, ""We definitely have some big shoes to fill, as far as the loss of Spoon and Hodge to the NFL…[but] I feel that the guys are responding well and stepping up…everyone is excited and looking forward to the challenge."
Position-by-Position - Linebackers
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