Line Change

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.--After moving from defensive end to defensive tackle, following a season-ending injury to Chase Page in preseason practice, Khalif Mitchell is moving back to defensive end and Kyndraus Guy is moving from end to tackle.

Through four games, Mitchell has five solo tackles, one assist, two tackles-for-loss, a pass break-up and a quarterback hit, but the coaches haven't gotten the production from the defensive tackle position that they have wanted. Head coach John Bunting made the announcement to the media on Sunday, but Mitchell didn't find out until later.

"I was surprised," he said. "I actually didn't know I was going back until Coach did it in practice, [Monday]. I didn't know I was going back outside. It was sort of surprising. I love it; I'm glad I'm back outside. I have got to learn my plays again now and do what I've got to do."

At 6-6, Mitchell was fighting an uphill battle on the inside against shorter guys who could use leverage to their advantage.

"I have a tendency to get up and try to look for the ball because I felt like I couldn't see it at times…" Mitchell said. "I stood up a lot and that's what the center and the guards love--to get a big guy and stand him up. They even try to get the shorter guys to stand them up. When I stood up, I helped them out a lot. They got inside of me; that was the hardest part."

And on the inside, things move at a fast and furious pace. Quick reaction time and the ability to use your hands are necessities, and both are areas where Mitchell still needs work.

"When you engage a blocker, you have to use your hands, and that's the hardest thing to teach a defensive lineman," explained defensive line coach Brad Lawing. "When they understand how to use their hands they can get their body in proper position, get off blocks, and make plays. If you don't use your hands, you can't get off blocks. That's a hard thing for kids to learn how to do."

What was a disadvantage on the inside of the line is an advantage on the end: length. Long arms, long strides, space to operate, and a little more time to react make it a perfect fit for the Virginia Beach freshman.

"I'm big and long," Mitchell said. "Guys on the outside are not used to seeing a guy my size. I can contribute a lot to the team on the outside just by making sure I set the edge and help my linebackers to be more physical."

With the move by Mitchell to the outside, Guy moves to the inside to tackle in order to fill the void--and begins learning a new position.

"Get better," Guy said, "I need to get better. I feel a little shaky; it's totally different from the defensive end position."

At 6-2, Guy may be more suited for the position than Mitchell just based on size alone, but he also has one full year of experience using his hands.

"It's OK if a defensive end misses his hands because he's already outside," explained Guy. "If a defensive tackle doesn't use his hands and he gets reached, it's a gap, and it creates a running lane that you can put an 18-wheeler through. You have to use your hands."

While he's up for the move, he knows it's going to present some new challenges.

"With the tight end I have an advantage because I'm a little bit more powerful," Guy said, "but those guards are 300-350 [pounds]. That's a big difference when you have two 300-pounders coming at you. It's totally different, but that's what you practice for."

Defensive end is the more glorified position. Players get a chance to operate in space, one-on-one, and display moves to sack the quarterback or make a tackle-for-loss. In the middle, most of the time is spent battling inch for inch with players much larger to give teammates a chance to make a play, and there is no glory in that. But that is not what concerns Guy.

"Notoriety is nothing to me if you have an L," he said. "All I care about is W's. Rings on your finger determine what you are. If an individual gets notoriety, that's all good--sacks, records, whatever. That's all fine and dandy, but if you are getting L's, getting losses, what does it mean? It means nothing if you don't have that gold on your finger."


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