At 6-foot-3, 295 pounds, Farmer is the prototypical nose tackle for associate head coach for defense Vic Koenning’s attacking 4-2-5 scheme. Farmer was a force up front last season, starting all 13 games and recording 30 tackles (2.5 for a loss) and a forced fumble.
When UNC lost two key defensive tackles (senior Shawn Underwood and redshirt freshman Gregg Webb) to academic issues in the offseason, Farmer’s role on this young defensive line became more essential than ever.
Farmer’s status throughout training camp, however, was up in the air. Although the veteran defensive tackle was allowed to fully participate in practice, he was awaiting a NCAA appeal regarding his academic eligibility.
Despite the Tabor City, N.C. native’s status for his senior campaign being in doubt prior to the start of training camp, he refused to let it affect his preparation.
“I found out during midway through the summer,” Farmer told reporters this week. “I didn’t know what was going on, but I pushed my self constantly, and I knew that hard work would pay off.”
UNC head coach Larry Fedora also discussed how important it was for everyone involved to try and remain focused on football, even in the face of so much uncertainty.
“We didn’t know one way or the other, but I know this, it wasn’t going to do you any good to mope around and dread it, and then you don’t get any better,” Fedora said. “So what we did was stay positive, and went to work every single day as if he was going to be there, and it worked out.”
Finally, just three days before the Tar Heels’ season opener against Liberty, Farmer won his appeal.
“Wednesday, before the Liberty game, it was a night class, and I went to class, and as soon as I walked out of class, I saw Coach Fedora there,” Farmer said. “I said, ‘what are you doing here?’ and he asked me if I was ready to play. And it was just a shocking thing to me.”
Farmer got the start in UNC’s season opener, and his presence had an immediate impact on his teammates. He finished the game with four tackles (2 solo, and 2 assists) and was instrumental in holding Liberty under four yards per carry.
Farmer also had four tackles in UNC’s Week 2 win over San Diego State, although arguably his biggest impact in both games was rallying the defense along with senior bandit Norkeithus Otus at halftime.
“It’s a big positive,” senior safety Tim Scott said when asked about Farmer’s return. “Ethan is one of our game-changing guys; he’s one of our energy guys. When he’s energized at practice the whole D-line is energized, and things just go forward.”
When speaking to reporters on Monday, Farmer seemed relieved to finally be able to put the academic situation behind him.
“I feel more relaxed,” Farmer said. “It was just tough. Throughout the whole time I went through the process, it was just tough. That’s just me, personally, listening to my coaches and teammates supporting me. I’m over it now. Like I said earlier, I faced a lot of adversity, but I’m here playing, and that’s a blessing for me.”
Farmer will need to be at his best once again as North Carolina travels to East Carolina for a matchup with a Pirate offense that scored 55 against the Tar Heels in Kenan Stadium last season.
Persistence Pays Off
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