Linebacker Duo on Similar Path

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – With their helmets on, Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant are nearly mirror images of one another. The duo represents the ideal Butch Davis linebacker prototype for the future of North Carolina football.

The similarities between the two sophomores are numerous and oddly amusing – both student-athletes were quarterbacks in high school and moved to linebacker for the first time of their lives at UNC, both enrolled in January of their respective senior seasons and they just happen to be roommates.

But on top of that, Carter and Sturdivant were both thrown into the fire last season at a linebacker position group that was lacking in the necessary number of bodies. Sturdivant earned an honorable mention selection to The Sporting News' Freshman All-America Team after posting 47 tackles, one sack and one interception. Carter tallied 25 tackles and two tackles for loss in his freshman campaign.

Both linebackers also blocked a punt that resulted in a touchdown – Carter's occurred in the season opener against James Madison, while Sturdivant's took place in the win over Miami.

And if you're looking for reasons why the North Carolina defense should be improved this season, consider this – these two linebackers relied just as much on pure athleticism as they did on actual knowledge of the game in their first collegiate seasons.

"I think it was probably 50-50," replied Carter, when asked what percentage of the time he knew exactly what he was doing on the field last fall. "I knew some stuff, and then some stuff I just relied on my athletic ability."

"I'd say that's probably about right – 50/50," said Sturdivant, laughing. "Last year I was just out there trying to play – hopefully getting the call right, first of all – but this year I think it will be a lot better for me."

There were times during the John Bunting era that linebackers knew exactly where they were supposed to be and what the defensive call was set up to accomplish, and still couldn't make a play due to their lack of speed.

Those times are long gone.

Sturdivant is well-built at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, while Carter weighs in at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds. But it's not their size that makes them so effective on the football field – it's their speed. Carter ran a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash this offseason, which fell just behind his teammate's posted time of 4.43.

With a full season of experience under their belts, the two linebackers believe that they can finally merge their athleticism with their knowledge of the game to provide even more production on the field for linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen.

"We've watched a lot of film," Sturdivant said. "Last year we got a lot of game experience, which should help us out this year. We know a little bit more of the respect [that] we have to give at linebacker. Both of us played quarterback in high school, so it was new to us, but I think we're getting a hold of it."

Sturdivant – an Oakboro, N.C. native – will attempt replace Durell Mapp's huge void at weakside linebacker, while Carter, from Havelock, N.C., will anchor the strongside position. Senior Mark Paschal returns to secure the middle linebacker spot.

Senior Chase Rice and junior Kennedy Tinsley are the only other veterans in a unit dominated by youth. True freshmen Kevin Reddick, Zach Brown, Ebele Okakpu, Kenneth Harris and Dion Guy join HB-turned-LB Ryan Taylor in filling out the position group.

"I kind of feel like an old head and a veteran a little," Carter replied when asked about the inexperience at linebacker.

In order for North Carolina's defense to live up to its preseason hype, Sturdivant and Carter have to surround the immense playmaking ability that they displayed last season with unwavering consistency. With there being so few known qualities at linebacker, both individuals must produce for the desired results of success.

And oddly enough, that makes perfect sense with these two linebackers.


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