CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Jalen Dalton grabbed ahold of the three-technique starting spot in spring ball and held firm throughout training camp until an ankle injury sidelined him in late August. His offseason momentum has since been halted, resulting in the sophomore defensive tackle losing his starter status last week.
Dalton’s snaps were limited in the season opener against Georgia before playing starter snaps against Illinois and James Madison. A defensive end in high school, Dalton’s strength has long been rushing the passer. His ascension to a starting job inside was due primarily to his learning to play with more physicality and with better leverage due to his 6-foot-6 frame.
Through three games, Dalton has been inconsistent in his play, according to defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. The Clemmons, N.C. product has been playing too high with not enough physicality, and it’s been a topic of conversation in recent weeks between player and staff.
“He’s not there yet,” Chizik said following Tuesday’s practice. “There’s something’s missing right now, but he’s making some strides, getting back to his old self. He hasn’t been the same since his ankle got hurt, but he’s working every day to get better.”
Redshirt freshman Aaron Crawford earned his first career start against Pittsburgh last Saturday based on his play and production over the first three weeks of the season.
“We’re going to play the best guys, the guys who are producing the most,” Chizik said.