ACC Kickoff: Dexter Reid

GREENSBORO, Ga. – North Carolina has produced at least one All-Atlantic Coast Conference defensive back in five of the last seven seasons. Senior safety Dexter Reid, who was a first-teamer in 2002, is the nation's leading returning tackler.

"Dexter has done a tremendous job at Carolina," said Virginia senior Almondo "Muffin" Curry. "It's hard to block him when he's coming down from safety. He made almost 170 tackles last year. That is tremendous."

Reid finished last season ranked second nationally for most tackles with 13.8 per game.

On Sunday at the annual ACC Football Kickoff, he was as hard hitting with his quotes as he is on the field.

Constantly asked about last year's much-maligned defense, which had a lot to do with the Tar Heels' disappointing 3-9 finish, Reid declined to discuss previous shortcomings for the most part. He's also not buying the predictions for Carolina's 2003 fortunes as told by early season publications.

"We were undermanned and inexperienced at a lot of positions last year," Reid said. "There were a lot of guys who were just playing high school ball the year before and may not have been ready to step up to the collegiate level. Guys didn't say, ‘We're not going to work as hard because we made it to the Peach Bowl the year before. Once you reach the plateau of going to a bowl, you want to work that much harder to get back that feeling that you had. I don't think guys stopped working or playing hard."

With Florida State, Maryland, N.C. State and Virginia as the favorites to fill the league's first four bowl berths, the Tar Heels will be challenged to gain one of the remaining two slots. At the beginning of the season, most players will set their goals high. But realistically, with the Tar Heels' especially difficult schedule right out of the gate, a bowl-eligible season would make a lot of UNC fans happy.

"It's always about getting back to the post season," Reid said. "Things are not won and lost in magazines. You still have to show up every week. I don't really read them, but it is motivation for me. I don't mind being the underdog.

"We're coming off a 3-9 season with not too many guys returning. We're returning six or seven on defense, but those guys are still young and learning. We have a lot to prove this year, and we are just looking forward to doing that.

"Last year is behind us. We don't like to get into talking about last year. We learned from it. just looking forward to getting after it in August."

Reid is being promoted as a potential All-American this year. Graduating and finishing out his four-year career at UNC was never in doubt for the Norfolk, Va., native, although some would have thought his lofty numbers in 2002 would have tempted him to try his hand early in the National Football League.

Again, and without ambiguity, Reid made his point clear concerning that assumption.

"It was all speculation," Reid said. "I never said anything about leaving. I don't know how that got started. I laughed at it. There were rumors being spread about me that were not true. I promised my momma back in August of 1999 when I reported, that I would get a degree. And I will graduate in December with a degree in African American Studies."

Along with his education, Reid has gathered 334 total tackles (209 as the primary tackler), broken up 15 passes, accumulated 14 tackles for loss and recovered two of his four forced fumbles.

He has been particularly hard on quarterbacks however. He has four sacks for a total loss of 25 yards, and although he has just three career interceptions, one he returned for a 62 yards for the game winner over the Cavaliers in 2001.

"The aggressiveness he brings, you don't see that from many safeties," said Virginia quarterback Matt Schaub, who threw the errant pass to Reid. "He's a quick player with good reaction skills."

More from Reid:

  • When pressed to say which is the better quarterback, N.C. State's Philip Rivers or Virginia's Matt Schaub, Reid replied, "They are both great quarterbacks and students of the game. They do a good job of recognizing defenses. In coverage, you really have to mind your ‘P's' and ‘Q's.' Both of them bring a lot to the game. Both are competitive games for us – going against State or UVa.

    However he did say this about Rivers:

    "I'm just surprised how he is able to move all those guys around and not get called for delay of game sometimes. The way I look at it, or the way [the position] was defined to me, I'm a linebacker who can run and cover."

    And on quarterbacks in general:

    "You have to watch a lot of film. Quarterbacks are getting smarter these days, and they watch as much film as anybody. You have to do what you can to outsmart those guys, because come Saturday or Thursday, the game is played under the helmet.

    "Every quarterback in the league brings a different approach to the league."

  • Reid said Curry, a friend he's known since high school, talks the most trash of any player in the ACC.

    When Curry heard that, he smiled and said that Reid himself was more deserving of that distinction, "Dexter definitely talks. We're not even on the field at the same time and I can hear him from the sideline talking to me."

  • Reid said his favorite ACC quarterback is Darian Durant, and would not choose a selection for the No. 1 player in the ACC.

    "There are a lot of great athletes in the ACC that bring a lot of different aspects to the game. It would be hard to narrow it down to just one guy."

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