There was a time in the late ‘90’s when Mack Brown was the head coach at UNC and NFL scouts camped out in Chapel Hill due to the enormous amount of next level talent on the Tar Heel roster. Those days are as close to being back and some would say its’ better than ever. The present UNC roster has at least five players on defense that rank as top 45 selections. The 2010 Carolina football team is underrated and the 2011 NFL Draft could be a special one for the program.
It’s rare that we are enamored with an NFL prospect early in his college career yet Robert Quinn has us under his spell. A sensational athlete that disrupts the action behind the line of scrimmage or effortlessly makes plays in space, Quinn is one of those players that grabs you on film. He’s fluid on the field, possesses a great change direction and can turn on a dime without losing momentum. Constantly doubled by opponents he keeps his feet moving up the field, pushes blockers off the ball yet also shows tremendous edge speed. Quinn displays an array moves with his hands, plays with terrific balance and body control. Effective in space, Quinn also shows ability in backside pursuit. He lacks natural bulk and size to this point and occasionally takes wide angles around offensive tackles. Regardless, Quinn is a top prospect and, if he medically checks out, a top five pick in the near future.
Senior linebacker Bruce Carter is another top athlete who makes plays all over the field. Displaying terrific speed to the sidelines in pursuit of the action, Carter is quick and fluid changing direction, covers a tremendous amount of area on the field yet does a nice job diagnosing the action and remains disciplined with assignments. He also lacks great size, is not a strong wrap-up tackler and gets caught up in the wash on occasion yet is a three down linebacker and starter at the next level.
In our minds Marvin Austin is an enigma of sorts. Yet another tremendous athlete on the UNC defense, Austin displays the ability to drop in space and make plays on the ball. He possesses a fluid change direction and shows speed pursuing plays from the back side. Rarely off his feet he displays good first step quickness and is a defensive tackle that can rush the passer. Our concerns are about his motor, which does not always seem to be running. In many ways Austin is the beneficiary of those playing around him. He has the ability to be a top 15 choice in next April’s draft and Austin’s play this season, assuming he takes the field after the ongoing NCAA probe, will cement him in the middle of round one or could push him into the second frame.
Kendric Burney is an opportunistic cornerback and a real ball hawk with a nose for the interception. Burney effectively reads the quarterbacks eyes, makes his move to the throw and has great hands for the pick. He explodes to the action with a burst of speed and has a nice sense of timing. We were impressed the way Burney elevated his game in 2009.
We can’t say the same about Charles Brown, who we had rated higher coming into the ’09 campaign. Brown possesses solid ball skills and is a good athlete with a terrific burst of speed. Problem is he seems to fall asleep on the field at times, gives up a lot of underneath receptions and lackadaisically follows receivers out from their breaks. Like Austin, Brown must put in a big campaign this season.
Quan Sturdivant is a tough, run defending linebacker best in the box. He does a nice job getting his teammates in proper position and is a stout run defender but struggles in space and against the pass.
The talent on offense does not offer the same impact as the other side of the line of scrimmage, though some will argue receiver Greg Little has the makings of a number one wide out on the NFL level.
Little effectively looks the pass into his hands, displays good eye/hand coordination and effortlessly makes the reception in stride. He extends his hands to offer the quarterback back a nice target, sells routes and comes back to the ball out of breaks. Little plays with a large degree of quickness yet we think he’s more solid than spectacular.
Zach Pianalto is a rough and tumble tight end that does everything well. He shows concentration as a pass catcher, makes the difficult reception in the middle of a crowd and nicely adjusts to the errant throw. He’s a hard working blocker with a nasty attitude and is always looking for someone to hit. In our opinion he’s a terrific number two tight end prospect.
Ryan Houston is one of our favorite players on the team. Underrated by scouting services who list him at fullback, Houston showed a lot of skill last year in the role of feature runner. He runs hard on the inside, picking the difficult yardage yet also shows vision, patience and waits for blocks to develop. Houston picks up blocking assignments in pass protection and plays with a degree of intelligence and power.
The team has several offensive line prospects to keep an eye on.
Red shirt sophomore Jonathan Cooper is a athletic lineman effective blocking in motion. Quick off the snap into blocks, he move well on his feet, blocks with leverage and anchors in pass protection.
Cam Holland is a real mauler on the inside that gets movement run blocking.
Mike Ingersoll is a solid position blocker who seals defenders from the action and really gets after assignments.
North Carolina Pro-Prospects