Edwards Leads LBs Into Spring Practice

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Believe it or not, many members of North Carolina's highly regarded 2003 recruiting class are already preparing for their senior seasons, including Larry Edwards, who is back to lead the linebackers as spring practice begins on Friday.

Like many of his veteran teammates, UNC's leading returning tackler has witnessed the evolution of a defense that has improved tremendously during his college career. Now, excitement is swirling around the Tar Heel football program, much of it in anticipation of a unit even better prepared to stop opposing offenses.

"I've never been around a team with this much commitment and this much determination," Edwards told Inside Carolina on Wednesday. "We've got so many individuals that are putting in that extra work and bought into the concept that we can be truly great.

"This team, I just feel so much more confident because I think everyone has bought into that whole aura – to become a better person and to become a better player."

After three consecutive years among the worst Division I defenses in all the land, UNC finished 2005 ranked 42nd in total defense (pass 49th and rush 42nd) admirable positioning, and incredible considering the improvement.

Can a Top 25 finish be on the horizon? If so, how will the Tar Heels further their defensive improvement this season?

"We're just going to be so much better fundamentally," Edwards said. "We've been working real hard in the weight room. We've been holding our own individual meetings with the young guys. We've been drawing plays up on the board. We're just making sure we take the steps to become a total defense. We have a total team commitment that we haven't had in a long time."

Despite the graduation of senior field leader Tommy Richardson, who along with Edwards finished with a team-high 91 tackles apiece last season, Carolina returns experience at the position in the form of Durrell Mapp and Victor Worsley; to go along with up-and-comers Chase Rice, Garrett White and Mark Paschal.

But it's Edwards, who also tallied eight tackles for loss, a sack and an interception last year, that will be called on to lead this edition of talent.

"I feel real comfortable with our linebackers," Edwards said. "I feel like we've got a good chance of rotating ourselves and keeping ourselves fresh.

"It's just been a great offseason and I can't wait to get into spring."

Stay tuned to IC as we officially kick off our 2006 spring coverage today. Much more to come…

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