CHATHAM, Va. -- According to Melik Brown's coach, he has put on 12 pounds of muscle and increased his bench press by 40 pounds since his arrival at Hargrave Military Academy this fall. Which begs the question, how long will Brown remain a UNC linebacker prospect or will he continue to play defensive end when he arrives in Chapel Hill?
It's a decision that UNC head coach John Bunting -- who knows a bit about judging defensive talent -- has time to ponder.
Bunting's 11 seasons as a linebacker in the National Football League is one of many attractive attributes he brings to the recruiting war. And the offer of early playing time on defense is some of his most powerful ammunition.
"Melik's ecstatic," Hargrave head coach Robert Prunty said. "He loves John Bunting, he knows John Bunting played linebacker in the NFL and he knows that Coach Bunting is a defensive guy."
Brown was listed preseason at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, with a time of 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash. But his position is and remains defensive end, where he helped lead Camden to a 12-0 record and its first-ever New Jersey sectional state championship in 2001.
As a senior at Woodrow Wilson (Camden), he made 57 tackles and rang up 10 sacks as a defensive lineman. He has also played center on offense.
"He's a defensive end who I think will become an outstanding outside linebacker," Bunting said following the 2002 signing day. "He has great instincts for the football, which you want in a linebacker."
Since Brown failed to qualify academically last year, Bunting has been unable to publicly revise his most last profile on Brown.
However, Prunty and several of Brown's teammates pointed to a visible growth in Brown's mental acumen and his developing leadership skills in their brief interaction with him.
"He has that will to win," Prunty said.
Like many of Carolina's bumper crop of recruits this season, both committed and undecided, Brown is buying what Bunting and his assistants are selling.
The Tar Heel coaching staff sold Brown on UNC in the spring of 2000, when Bunting and assistant coach James Webster visited him in his hometown.
"They really showed me a lot of respect," Brown said. "They shared some history about the school and they were excited about my playing ability.
"They offered me, and a few weeks after they offered me, I just accepted."
Nothing is more glaring than North Carolina's immediate need for defensive depth up front. Brown and freshman Victor Worsley were unable to impact the 2002 Tar Heels as was previously projected, due to an entirely different set of circumstances.
Robert Harris, who suffered a knee injury in the off-season, Sean Williams and Malcolm Stewart -- arguably the best of UNC's current linebackers -- will be gone.
Sophomore Clarence Gaddy and freshman Doug Justice could improve with the experience they are receiving during this season. Yet to be proven is whether junior Clay Roberson, sophomore Devllen Bullard, and redshirt freshmen Jeff Longhany will be able to help resurrect a traditionally strong area for the Tar Heels.
While Carolina remains mired in a 2-5 record, 0-3 in the ACC, its fans patiently reserve their judgment of the Bunting regime, until he has had ample time to bring in his own players.
"They told me to come in ready to play," Brown said.
Hargrave (5-1) defeated the North Carolina junior varsity squad in Chapel Hill, 20-15. In that Oct. 13 game, Brown led a defense that recorded a safety, four quarterback sacks, an interception, a fumble recovery and a blocked point after touchdown attempt.
Brown is currently awaiting the results of a Standard Aptitude Test (SAT) he took last week. Provided that went well -- and he believes it did -- Brown should be in the UNC camp next year.
"He feels like he made his score last Saturday," Prunty said.