The Chronicles of Reddick

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Kevin Reddick collided with a pair of obstacles in his attempt to take the field for North Carolina over the past 12 months, but now that his academics and health have been solidified, the freshman linebacker is focused on trotting out against The Citadel on Sept. 5 in a starting role.

Reddick's beginnings as a Tar Heel took an unusual detour last summer when the NCAA Clearinghouse flagged one of his test scores after he had already gone through the second summer session at UNC. His second ACT attempt fell short of the qualifying range, and Reddick, who had been practicing with North Carolina for nearly a week, was forced to withdraw from school and attend Hargrave Military Academy for the fall semester.

As you might expect, the 6-foot-3, 235-pounder would prefer to leave those memories in the all-too-recent past.

"That's over and done with – I don't want to say too much about that," Reddick said on Tuesday. "I'm here now, so I'm just trying to stay focused and try to help the team out and get out there and play."

And that's what he tried to do during spring ball – get out there and play. But once again, an obstacle sauntered into his path; this time in the form of a serious illness. Just several days into spring practice, Reddick was diagnosed with mononucleosis. He was essentially quarantined from his teammates for a week and was sidelined for three weeks total.

That's twice that the New Bern, N.C. native got the ball rolling in a designated practice session only to run headfirst into a brick wall.

"It was just crazy – it seemed like every time I turned around, I was having a downfall somewhere," Reddick said.

This preseason, the true freshman already has 14 practices under his belt, providing relief that some random force of nature is not going to swoop in and deliver yet another detour – those have typically arrived in the first week of practice for Reddick, if history is any indication.

He's made the most of his first full training camp experience, playing a significant role in one of the few position battles on a squad that is both deep and experienced.

Inside Carolina staff members witnessed sophomore Zach Brown working with the first team at weakside linebacker on Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after another media outlet reported that Reddick was working as the first-string option at that very same spot.

As it turns out, the competition for the Will linebacker role is so fierce that not even Reddick is sure where he stands.

"We really don't have a starter at the Will right now, so we're just still battling and helping each other out at the same time," Reddick said. "… I'm learning a lot from [Brown] and he's learning a lot from me. It's still a team thing, but at the same time, you've got to eat for yourself. You've got to go out there and compete for yourself."

Head coach Butch Davis further discussed the position battle during his post-practice meeting with the media on Tuesday.

"We've got a pretty good battle going on for the Will linebacker position with Zach Brown and Kevin Reddick that's pretty hotly contested," Davis said. "Those are two really good players. They're good tacklers [and] they've got speed. Both of them are young, but they've got really good instincts."

While Brown's sub-4.3 40 times have drawn plenty of buzz this summer, Reddick's football IQ has proven to be a worthy adversary to that blistering speed.

"I feel like I'm a playmaker and that I've got a nose for the ball, as far as reads and that kind of thing," Reddick replied when asked what attributes have allowed him to excel.

He's quick to let you know that he never expected to be a starter when he arrived in Chapel Hill, but he definitely intended to make a run up the depth chart.

"Nobody here played second before they got here," Reddick said. "In my mind, I'm just telling myself, ‘I can't live to play second. I've got to compete.' If I was third or fourth, I would still be competing to move up… Any team is about competing."

During the recruiting process, most analysts penciled Reddick in as your prototypical middle linebacker. And while he may eventually end up there whenever junior Quan Sturdivant decides to turn pro, right now he's focusing on his current position.

"I can play all three," said Reddick, who is also listed on four different special teams units as a backup. "I'm playing the Will now – that's my primary position, but at times they'll throw me in at Mike just to go back and get the feel so that I can keep on top of that one."

His efforts haven't been overlooked – Davis has highlighted Reddick's improving performance in a variety of recent media interviews when asked about standout players. Hearing that praise only makes Reddick look away sheepishly and shift uncomfortably in his cleats. For this freshman linebacker, it's not about the personal accolades.

"I'm just trying to help the team," Reddick said. "If you're doing your job and helping the team, you're probably going to get noticed. Just go out there and ball out, every day."

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