Kaufman, Part I: Setting the Standard

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- For four years Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant started at linebacker for the Tar Heels. Now, as the duo prepares to take its skills to the NFL, UNC linebacker coach Art Kaufman will oversee a transition.

"The big thing was where (Bruce and Quan) went from January a year ago to August, they made as big of a transition in that time as they did the first year I was here," Kaufman said. "That made it more fun to be around and see those guys really get focused and hungry. We're going to miss their game experience."

Carter and Sturdivant started 81 games for the Tar Heels over four seasons, with an impressive collection of accolades and achievements during their careers.

Sturdivant led the Tar Heels in tackles in 2008 and 2009, while Carter had over 200 tackles during his career and was also a force on special teams, blocking seven kicks. Both returned an interception for a touchdown while at UNC -- Carter, twice. They were in on the ground floor on the return of lights-out defense to North Carolina.

The Tar Heels will certainly miss the skills and experience that Carter and Sturdivant brought to the table, but there are other consequences for the 2011 Tar Heels.

"What we're going to miss is the depth of Bruce and Quan," Kaufman said. "The game experience we're going to miss, but depth is really the thing. That's where what we've got to get done between now and August is to create that depth. And, a lot of depth is intelligence as much as it is ability."

When Kaufman talks about intelligence, he's talking about Football I.Q. – the ability to translate what a player sees on the field into a guide for what he needs to do and where he needs to be to make a play.

Those instincts can be spotted regardless of position. After all, Carter and Sturdivant were high school quarterbacks – not linebackers.

"I think the intelligence level or instinctual level, which is basically learning, reading and feeling -- that's a lot of it," Kaufman said. "Then, you've got to have the ability to finish the deal.

"I think that the guys' instinct and intelligence level of reading, comprehending and going to it, that's one part of it. And, that is the most major part of it because if you can't do that, the rest never comes into play.

"Then they've got to have the ability when they get to a blocker or get to a ball carrier to make the play. I've seen guys who can tell you how to do it and who could go out there and show you how to do it, but they couldn't do it. They weren't athletically skilled enough, strength level-wise, speed-wise, agility-wise, to make the play."

Carter and Sturdivant are part of a group of 12 UNC players that were invited to the NFL combine, and Kaufman says that group established the criteria for the skill level of player the Tar Heels are looking for.

"I think we've got physically talented players," Kaufman said. "They've got to be physically talented enough and produce well enough, not just run fast, jump high, and all that. They've got to be football intelligent and football savvy on the field. That's how those guys get into that combine.

"The truth of it is, the next guys we bring in, I'll tell them right now, ‘I've had great players, do you think I'm going to take one less than what I think is as good as those guys?' I'm not taking one less. You've got to be that caliber guy for us to take you.

"They have set the standard."

Check back tomorrow for Part II, as Kaufman discusses the 2011 linebacking corps ...


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