CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Some college football coaches are flexible in their recruiting preferences, favoring length and athleticism over specific position labels with a willingness to move players around as needed. UNC defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, on the other hand, is a bit more specific.
“We definitely want the best athlete we can get, but we have a pretty stringent profile of exactly what we’re looking for at every single position,” Chizik said on Wednesday. “It doesn’t matter what that position is, we have something that we’re looking for. Now, it doesn’t mean that if they don’t have one of those qualities, it’s not always a deal breaker, but we definitely have an idea, kind of a template, of every position and when we start out recruiting, that’s what we’re looking for.”
Take the linebacker position, for example. Chizik’s ideal Mike backer is 225-240 pounds with a solid frame build to take offensive guards and centers that weigh 300 pounds or more. At outside linebacker, he prefers a longer, leaner prototype. If the outside linebacker drops back into coverage, Chizik wants the quarterback to forced to throw over his length, while if he is blitzing, he wants the rangy athlete charging the pocket to be able to deflect or divert potential passes.
Those qualities are evident in UNC’s 2016 signing day haul. Outside linebackers Dominique Ross, J.B. Copeland and Tyrone Hopper all stand at least 6-foot-3 and weigh between 210-225 pounds, while middle linebacker Jonathan Smith, who Chizik labeled the best linebacker in the state of North Carolina, checks in at 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds.
“Length in the game of football on the perimeter is huge,” Chizik said, “and girth and size on the inside, in the middle of your defense, is paramount, too.”