Wilson: Flying Under The Radar

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – While his teammates along the defensive line have received large doses of media attention this preseason, E.J. Wilson has remained in the background, not minding that his name has not been called often during interview requests. The red-shirt sophomore likes it better that way, as it will allow for a bigger splash throughout the ACC when he bursts onto the scene this fall.

"The only pressure I feel is coming from myself," Wilson said. "I know what I can do, and I've just got to go out there and play technique. Once I know my technique, I can let my athleticism come through and shine. I like flying under the radar – I don't want any big press… I want to shock everybody. I want to shock the world."

The Lawrenceville, Va. native has impressed the people that matter most – the UNC coaching staff. Wilson is the projected starter at the strong side defensive end slot and earned the yellow jersey Thursday at practice, an indication of his hustle and dedication during the previous day's training session.

"To me, it means that the coaches see something in me," Wilson said. "They want me to step up and be a leader, and I just try to leave it out on the practice field each and every day. That's what all of us try to do, so on any given day, I think anyone can get the yellow jersey."

The 6-foot-2, 265-pounder split time at fullback and tight end during his red-shirt season in 2005, before settling in at defensive end last fall. He performed well, totaling 19 tackles with three tackles for loss and two sacks. Those experiences proved invaluable heading into the offseason.

"It was very important, because I know the speed of the game [and] I know what it takes to be good in the game," Wilson said.

He credits his improvement over the last three weeks to defensive line coach John Blake, who continues to rack up the accolades from his position group.

"He's the greatest coach that I've ever been around in my life as far as being a father figure, being upbeat, coaching technique [and] emphasizing the little things and attention to detail," Wilson said.

Those details may seem simple, but sometimes simplicity is the key to being successful on the football field.

"If you're in the 'V' of the neck – which means right between the Adam's apple and the shoulder – then nothing can go wrong," Wilson said. "You have to read the person's block, because the block is not going to lie to you. Don't guess [and] keep your eyes out of the backfield. The first thing you've got to do is defeat the man in front of you before you can go try to make a play."

The 2006 defense allowed 172.75 rushing yards per game at a 4.47 yards per carry clip, good for last in the conference and 100th nationally. Wilson acknowledges that it will take more than proper technique to improve those numbers this fall – determination and attitude will play a big role.

"Our goal is to hold our opponents to 3.2 rushing yards per carry," Wilson said. "That would put us in the top-20 defense [nationally], and then we just move on from there. No one runs the ball on us. [Head] coach [Butch] Davis said the identity of our team – one of them is going to be toughness, and toughness is shown by your ability to run the ball and your ability to stop the run, so we're focusing on stopping the run."

North Carolina began preparation for James Madison Thursday afternoon, which means Wilson is only days away from making his debut as a household name in Tar Heel country.

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