CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Freshman defensive lineman Jalen Dalton could possibly make his North Carolina debut against Wake Forest on Saturday, according to UNC head coach Larry Fedora.
“There’s a good chance Jalen Dalton will play this week,” Fedora said during his weekly radio show.
Dalton, hailing from Clemmons, N.C., was considered the prized recruit in UNC’s 2015 recruiting class. The 6-foot-6, 280-pound lineman was ranked as the top prospect in-state by Rivals.com and ranked second by ESPN.com.
Dalton appeared buried on the depth chart early in the season, but injuries at defensive tackle had him rotating with the twos during Tuesday’s practice.
“Jalen Dalton has had a great week, not only this week, but about the last three weeks,” Fedora said. “He’s really been coming on. I’m looking forward to seeing him getting out on the field and see what he does.”
UNC announced on Monday that freshman defensive tackle Aaron Crawford will have season-ending surgery on Thursday to repair a left foot fracture. Sophomore defensive tackle Nazair Jones also suffered an undisclosed leg injury at Georgia Tech on Oct. 3.
What was the schedule for the team like on the bye weekend?
“We gave the players Friday and Saturday off, and the coaches were on the road Friday, everybody recruiting, so the coaches had some time then on Saturday. Then we came back early Sunday and started to prepare, and then we had a real practice on Sunday. Then they had their off-day, which was Monday, and then they came back at it [on Tuesday].”
What did you work on in practice last week?
“We were working on ourselves. First of all, the fundamentals, the techniques that we’re going to need to take us the next eight weeks. The things that we think we’re going to need to get better. We’re going to need to cut things out that maybe weren’t working for us, and add some things that we felt like could help us in this stretch as we go.”
How do you make decisions as far as cutting things out that aren’t working for you?
“We do quality control, so we’re always evaluating everything that we’ve done. So we break it down by formations, break it down by calls, break it down by everything and then you decide if this hasn’t worked, why not? What’s the breakdown? Can we change it so it will be productive? And if not, let’s cut it out. Let’s quit wasting time with it.”
How do you respond to the loss of freshman defensive tackle Aaron Crawford for the season?
“It’s just an unfortunate thing. It’s just kind of one of those freak things. They’re going to have to do some surgery, and that puts him out for the year.”
Will you apply for a medical redshirt for Crawford?
“We will do that, yes.”
What was your response to the news that tight end Caleb Samuel’s career has ended due to a medical condition?
“Much tougher than Aaron’s situation because that means he’s done for the rest of his life. We had a long talk. For everybody, the game of football is taken away from you at some point. Some sooner than later, and then for him it came a lot sooner than expected. So he’s dealing with that right now, which is very difficult. When you love the game and you love every aspect of it, that makes it difficult when it’s taken away from you like that. But, it’s just another form of adversity that, we talked about it, that he’s got to overcome. It won’t be the last in his life.
“For some reason this happened, I don’t know why, but something he’s going to learn from it, it’s going to benefit somebody or himself later in his life. He’s still part of the team. I mean we have Joe Jackson and [Nathan] Staub who are in the same boat. One thing is, I talked with them to make sure they talked with him, and then got Caleb to get in touch with them. They’ve experienced it, they know the emotions he’s going through. We’re trying to prepare for a game, so we don’t get to sit around a lot of times and spend time with them, so it’s part of the process, but we’re keeping him included in everything we do.”
Are you where you expected you’d be defensively?
“It’s where I hoped we were going to be. I didn’t know if we would be, you have no way of knowing. That’s why I think Gene [Chizik] and the staff on that side have done a really, really good job of how they taught the progression from [John Papuchis] to Charlton [Warren] to all of those guys, and just the whole way they’ve implemented the defense, starting with the base and those guys learning it and then adding each and every week. So I’m really happy with what they’ve done.”
Is it true that you’re wearing black jerseys against Wake Forest?
“I don’t know where you heard that, and I don’t know if it’s true. I don’t think so, no. Isn’t that one of Wake Forest’s colors?”
N.C. State played Friday night this past week against Virginia Tech. Would you ever be open to playing on a Friday night?
“I don’t like that. I think Friday nights for high school football, and I think we need to stay away from games on Friday nights out of respect to the high school coaches and the high school players and all of the families involved in their games. If they tell me that’s what we’re going to do, that’s what we’re going to do, but I don’t have to like it.”