Attention Turns to Wilson

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – E.J. Wilson played the 2007 season hidden beneath Hilee Taylor's All-ACC campaign. But the red-shirt junior defensive end would just as well prefer to remain under the radar, as his emphasis this fall is more on team goals – such as winning the ACC Championship.

The Lawrenceville, Va. product indicated on Friday that he's not feeling any additional pressure to perform since Taylor is now in the professional ranks with the Carolina Panthers.

"I'm approaching it the same way that I approached it last year," said Wilson, who posted 44 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and five sacks in 2007. "I don't need all of the attention. I don't need anything from anybody to let me know that I'm doing a good job, as long as [head coach Butch] Davis is satisfied with what I'm doing, and [defensive coordinator Everett] Withers and [defensive line coach John] Blake, and the defense is doing what it's supposed to be doing… I don't care if I get mentioned in one article or not on ESPN or anything else."

Blake has instilled an immense level of confidence in his defensive line unit, and Wilson is completely on board with his position coach.

"I think we can be the best defensive line in the nation, if the young guys step up and we keep the same intensity that we've had through the offseason and training camp and if we stay healthy," Wilson said.

Wilson did clear up speculation that he had moved into the weakside defensive end role vacated by Taylor last season.

"No, I haven't moved to the weakside," Wilson said. "I play weakside sometimes on passing situations when Vince is in, because he's more comfortable playing the strongside and putting his right hand down, so I put my left hand down – that's what it takes for us to be a great team."

Davis heaped praise on his fourth-year defensive end earlier this week, saying that Wilson "was bigger, stronger [and] more physical at the point of attack" than he was in 2007. Those improvements were the result of an intense offseason workout plan with strength and conditioning coach Jeff Connors.

"My strength is one of my strong points, so I was really just working on my explosiveness, my change in direction and my get-off on the ball," Wilson said.

The 6-foot-2, 280-pounder's physical stature has changed dramatically since arriving in Chapel Hill – Wilson earned all-state honors in high school at wide receiver and all-region honors at defensive back. The exercise and sports science major was 225 when he stepped foot on campus and had ballooned to 286 pounds by the time his Christmas break rolled around. Wilson played last fall at 270 pounds.

"But at 280 right now, I'm faster than I was last season at 270," said Wilson, who attributes a solid basketball career at the AAU level for his relatively easy transition to the defensive line.

Wilson also had some positive things to say about the triumvirate of highly-touted freshman defensive ends on the team – Robert Quinn, Quinton Coples and Michael McAdoo.

"They're hard workers," Wilson said. "They're trying to take in everything that the coaches are telling them. Every day they're getting better. Of course, it's the beginning of camp, so they're not the finished product, but I think by Aug. 30th, they'll be ready to play. And as we get into the season, you're going to see them grow a lot and I think I lot of people will be impressed with them."

When asked about his personal goals for this season, Wilson was more interested in talking about helping the team than he was in providing statistical targets.

"I want to be the best defensive end that I can be," Wilson said. "I want to be a leader. I want to be out there talking the guys up when someone is down. I want to be the one they can come to when someone has a problem. And then the ACC Championship – that's all that's on my mind."

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