Spring Game: Defense Notebook

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Inside Carolina's Buck Sanders provides analysis on the defense from Saturday's Spring Game ...

The format did not contribute to a solid evaluation or review of the defense. Only on occasion did the first offense and defense scrimmage against each other. Last year, the leading tackler for the defense was walk-on Alex Crisp, who saw no action at all in 2008. Crisp also made some tackles again today, but isn't likely to be a significant contributor next season. That's all about the format. Kendric Burney was out with a hamstring pull, and Aleric Mullins was not dressed out today. Given those limitations, here are a few thoughts about the defense on display today.

* Zach Brown made several plays. We knew he has great speed, but playing defense entails a feel and an anticipation that straight-line speed doesn't help. He seemed to flow to the ball well, didn't overrun his assignments, and played fairly instinctively.

* On the second team, Herman Davidson. He was extremely active and did a good job of running to the ball. Davis has said that ideally he'd like to play six linebackers every game, and the guess here is that Davidson is going to be one of those six. He had six tackles today - the leading tackler.

"I think another interesting thing that I'm looking forward to grading the film and taking a look at is our linebackers, to find out how some of our young linebackers played today," head coach Butch Davis said. "Zach Brown made some plays, Herman Davidson. I mean at least they showed up in the stat category, now how they actually played, we'll find out when we take a look at the film."

* E.J. Wilson had two sacks today, and Quinton Coples had one. The defense didn't play completely vanilla as it did last spring, and on occasion blitzed, though not frequently. I expected the defensive line to dominate the offensive line more than it did, though UNC did seem to get more pressure off the edge.

* The first-team defensive line did a good job defending the run. Draughn and Houston got very little on the ground when the first team defense was in.

* Da'Norris Searcy, though he played limited minutes, made the most of them, particularly in the ones vs. ones period.

* I thought the defense missed Kendric Burney. Not only is he good in coverage, he's a physical guy who is not afraid to deliver a big, bone-jarring hit. Last spring, he put a big hit on Little that set the tone for the defense.

* The offense is definitely looking to throw underneath defenses and in the middle of the field more than they did last year. The tight ends had five catches and the running backs had six. Though the defense gave up one big pass play, a 46-yard completion from Yates to Dwight Jones, the defense didn't give up anything else deep.

* Butch Davis is pleased with how the leadership on the defense is progressing.

"I think there are a lot of kids now this year, E.J. Wilson is doing a really good job on the defensive line," Davis said. "Now that Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter have two years of starting experience at the linebacker position under their belt, you see them doing a lot of the same things you really appreciated in Kentwan Balmer. Talking to those young linebackers, you'll glance over there and you'll see them whispering to Herman Davidson in his ear, and talking to Zach (Brown), and they'll be pointing something out – and I love that."

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