Game Report: Kentwan Balmer

There's a buzz going around the state about UNC commitment Kentwan Balmer, but few have actually seen the lineman play. So, <i>Inside Carolina</i>'s Scott Cline traveled to watch Weldon's season opener at Roanoke Rapids.

ROANOKE RAPIDS, N.C. -- UNC commitment Kentwan Balmer shined Friday night during his Weldon Chargers' first game of the 2003 season, recording 8 tackles, including 3 tackles for loss and one sack. The raw statistics don't even begin to tell the story of the impact his play had upon the game, however, or the reasons why this sleeper recruit is an under the radar steal for the Tar Heels.

Balmer, a 6-5, 245 DE/OL prospect out of tiny 1A Weldon High School (enrollment: 281), impacted nearly every aspect of the 6-0 victory over Roanoke Rapids. On defense, where his upright stance defensive end left him towering over opposing players and his speed and athleticism left them in his wake, he essentially closed off whichever side of the defensive front he was playing on to offensive plays. When Roanoke did run to his side, which wasn't often, Balmer would shed blockers with ease and either make the tackle or redirect the play into his teammates' arms.

On several instances, including one memorable teeth-jarring hit, dives or counters to the other side of the formation were broken up in the backfield as Balmer broke through the line. The penetration that was his hallmark of his game doesn't translate well into statistics, as several sacks made by other players were the direct result of the opposing quarterback heading in the opposite direction of Balmer. On his one sack, the same QB actually fell to the ground rather than absorb the hit headed his way. Frankly, no one seemed to blame him.

As an offensive lineman, usually a tackle, Balmer represented the mainstay of the Chargers' offensive attack. On the one scoring drive of the game, the three plays of over 15 yards the led to the touchdown were through gaping holes the future Tar Heel created. The touchdown itself, a broken play, actually ran behind Balmer twice -- once on the called sweep, and once on the cutback that broke into the end zone.

While his skills are impressive on both sides of the ball, it is as a defensive end that most anticipate an impact on the college level. When asked whether he preferred defense over offense, Balmer responded "Yes sir, it doesn't matter though, wherever they want me to play I'll play."

With Balmer playing in the 1A Tar-Roanoke conference, and having fallen under the recruiting world's radar screen, will added exposure mean a chance of a change of heart about his college choice? "No sir, I'm more excited about UNC than I've ever been," Balmer immediately responded when asked about the potential of any other school making a run at his services.

Weldon's head coach, Grady Williams, echoed those sentiments. "Kentwan wanted to go somewhere with a family atmosphere, with a strong tradition, and UNC certainly has those. Plus, Coach Bunting will push him to be his best, both athletically and academically. He is really looking forward to attending UNC, and the entire community is really excited about it as well."

Balmer, who doesn't turn 17 until October, recorded 103 tackles and 11 sacks during his junior season, and all indications are his numbers will improve this year. His frame, at 6-5, appears to have room for significant additional weight beyond his current 245, and if he can achieve that without losing speed, watch out.

Numbers simply can't quantify the type of player he is, however; the sound of one of his thunderous hits does a much better job. Rankings and stars aside, Tar Heel fans have reason to be excited about the arrival of Kentwan Balmer in 2004.

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