Preseason Roundtable, Part IV

Inside Carolina counts down to the start of training camp on Friday by analyzing the key preseason topics ...

Roundtable participants: Don Callahan, Mark Paschal, Greg Barnes and Buck Sanders. Paschal, who was a standout linebacker for the Tar Heels last year, is joining the IC staff this season and will provide weekly analysis on the site as well as co-hosting the Inside Carolina Call-In postgame show. Stay tuned for more details.)

Marvin Austin came to UNC with great fanfare, but have we expected too much of him in terms of productivity? What should we expect to see from him during fall camp that will tell us if he's ready to have the type of "contract season" many are forecasting?

Mark: You have got to love his marketability. Marvin needs a breakout year if he wants to talk about this being a contract season. He has all the talent a first-rounder needs, I just want to see him get in great physical condition and dominate like we all know he can. Time for him to step up and be a leader as well, and he has that capability, it is just up to him.

Don: No, with Austin's freakish athletic ability and John Blake's guidance, we haven't expected too much of Austin. He has the tools, the coaching, and the opportunity – what else does he need to be a playmaker on defense? Austin has to provide a preview during fall camp. He has to make plays – not just big plays, but plays only "special" players make.

Greg: Because Austin arrived in Chapel Hill with great expectations, it's easy for the Tar Heel faithful to forget that the junior was only 19 years old during the '08 season, but yet started 11 games and tied veteran defensive end E.J. Wilson for the most tackles (38) by a defensive lineman. Having said that, Austin does need to continue to develop his technique and use his incredible combination of size and speed to draw double-teams with more consistency, thus opening more holes for potential blitzes and creating more one-on-one opportunities for the defensive ends.

Buck: One early sign about how serious Austin is about this being a "contract season" will be his conditioning when he reports to fall camp. It's no secret that the staff wasn't too happy with his conditioning last fall. I don't expect him to be cut like a bodybuilder, but it will be a promising development if he "looks" like he's ready to excel. I agree with Greg that it's easy to forget how young Austin is, and how much physical maturity plays a role in the development of defensive tackles, but it is time for Austin to become the type of defender who can take a game over. That's what is expected of him, and that's what we've not seen to date.

Quan Sturdivant has had all of spring to adjust to middle linebacker, and will have fall camp to make the final adjustments there. What does he need to tweak during fall camp to be as successful there as he was on the weak side?

Greg: There's no question that Sturdivant possesses all of the physical tools to succeed at middle linebacker, but the added responsibility of directing the Tar Heel defense will be something that the junior needs to adapt to and accept quickly. The mental requirements have increased with the position change, but working in the middle during spring ball will be a huge benefit.

Don: Middle linebacker isn't new to Sturdivant – even before last spring. Many forget that Sturdivant played much of his freshman season at MIKE, before Mark Paschal unseated him. Sturdivant's problem at MIKE back then was the mental part of the game. Playing WILL fulltime last fall could only improve Sturdivant's "FBI" (football intelligence). During fall camp, Sturdivant has to continue to improve on the mental aspects of the position.

Mark: Quan's a ballplayer, plain and simple. I see no real weakness in his game; great speed, quickness and agility. Smart, good leader and sure of himself. I do want to see him become even tougher between the tackles and work on his fundamentals. If he does that he will be an All-ACC first-team player this season.

Buck: Having someone with Sturdivant's speed in the middle is an added plus, the question is whether he can make running backs dread running between the tackles? Well, he did lead the nation in unassisted tackles, which bodes well for a successful move to the middle. I think for Quan it will be a matter of taking on a real leadership role on the defense, and taking on greater responsibility for the success of the entire defense.

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