North Carolina

UNC Linebackers playing the speed game

Posted July 27, 2009

Each football offseason seems to bring about tales of some mythical occurrence, whether it be a true freshman that’s turned heads in 7-on-7 or a weight-lifting record shattered with a Herculean effort. For the UNC program, that topic of conversation has revolved around linebacker Zach Brown’s 4.26 40.

While that time may be impossible for most to believe, the entire North Carolina football squad was in attendance during the Tar Heels’ strength and conditioning timing day back in the spring. Starting quarterback T.J. Yates was standing beside the assistant coach in charge of timing the 40-yard dashes.

“The first time he ran it, nobody believed it,” Yates told reporters during Sunday’s ACC Football Kickoff at Grandover Resort. “We were like, ‘Does that really say a 4.28?’ And then he got all of the coaches to come down and time him, and then he ran like a 4.26. Our whole team was out here, and all of the coaches, and everybody just erupted. Everybody was in disbelief… That’s insane.”

Defensive end E.J. Wilson had just finished his 40-yard dash less than 10 minutes earlier, putting down an impressive 4.73 of his own.

“The first time he ran, we were like, ‘Yeah, Zach’s kind of moving fast,’” Wilson said. “But we didn’t expect a 4.2. Then we saw the clock. Then all of the coaches had their own clock and everybody had 4.2 except for one coach, and he had a 4.3 flat.”

Six stopwatches were present for Brown’s second attempt. Adding even more humor to the time is the fact that his form was not boasting of perfection.

“He could still critique his 40 time,” Yates said. “He kind of started off to the left a little bit and then he straightened it back up. He could definitely get it down a little bit more… He’s just raw power and speed.”

Not bad for a 6-foot-2 sophomore linebacker that checks in at 230 pounds and benches 380 pounds. Wilson indicated that Brown is also one of the strongest pound-for-pound athletes in the program, prompting this comment from the fifth-year senior – “He’s just a freak of nature.”

Brown also dominated an offseason training competition, winning an estimated 10 different events that ranged from sprinting to dragging sleds 100 yards.

Granted, the Tar Heels were timed on a Mondo track surface, which is estimated to be worth five-hundredths of a second to one-tenth of a second faster than other surfaces, but Brown’s speed in conjunction with that of fellow starting linebackers Bruce Carter (4.46) and Quan Sturdivant (4.43) has the makings of what ESPN tabbed as “arguably the fastest linebacking trio in the country.”

“I haven’t seen a group of linebackers this fast since I’ve really been following college football,” Wilson said. “All of our linebackers run a 4.4 and one of them runs a 4.2? That’s unheard of.”

Yates echoed those sentiments, saying, “Those linebackers over there are some of the fastest that I’ve ever seen… They can run. The things that might have worked in the past – our old slide naked or a running back running out the other side – they’ll hawk them down like it’s nothing. They’ve got the speed and they’re getting a lot smarter.”

Brown will likely take over at weakside linebacker, as Sturdivant slid over to middle linebacker upon Mark Paschal’s graduation. The junior from Oakboro, N.C. led the nation with 87 unassisted tackles in ’08, and is expected to earn preseason All-ACC honors this week in Greensboro.

“Quan goes to the ball with a purpose,” Wilson said. “He’ll let you know he’s coming. He has no problem with contact – he actually likes it. And one thing people don’t know about Quan is that he’s actually one of the smartest football players on the team, along with Bruce [Carter].”

Carter (68 tackles, five sacks) remains bunkered down in his strongside linebacker position, having a resume of supernatural accomplishments that rivals Brown’s – how does a school record 40.5-inch vertical jump sound?

“Bruce was more quiet when he first got here, more reserved, but he’s coming out of his shell,” Wilson said. “He’s starting to be a vocal leader, which is something that’s really going to help this defense.”

Not getting any media attention is a bevy of young talent in the linebacker corps, from Ebele Okakpu to Dion Guy to Linwan Euwell, as well as others.

“There are a lot of guys that are sitting on the bench that probably could be starting for any team in the country,” Wilson said. “I think those guys are really going to help us, as far as coming in and giving Quan and Bruce and Zach a blow. And we also have Kevin Reddick – it’s going to be a good battle in training camp between Kevin Reddick and Zach Brown to see who wins that starting position.”

Speed kills, but only if it’s going in the right direction. Sturdivant and Carter have proven that they can harness their velocity in a productive manner. Opposing programs are hoping that Brown and Co. have a little more difficulty in achieving that end goal.

Comments

Please to add a comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • ACC: NC State at Georgia Tech

    Saturday at 12:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • SEC: Arkansas at Florida

    Saturday at 2:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • PGA: Waste Management Phoenix Open

    Saturday at 3:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • Big 10: Michigan at Michigan State

    Sunday at 1:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NHL: Hurricanes vs. St. Louis

    Tomorrow at 7:00 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • ACC: NC State at Georgia Tech

    Saturday at 12:00 pm on WRAL-FM

  • NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at NY Rangers

    Saturday at 7:00 pm on 99.9 The Fan

Scoreboard
NBA
Final
ORL 100
MIL 115
Final
IND 103
NYK 82
Final
MEM 99
DEN 69
3rd
LAL 62
CHI 50
 
Final
PROV 83
DEP 72
Final
RUTG 51
MSU 71
Final
ARMY 71
BU 67
 
Final
RFLSH 75
BRY 68
 
Final
MERC 75
CHAT 72
 
Final
LIU 67
CCST 55
 
Final
TOWS 74
COC 70
 
Final
UMASS 66
DAY 64
Final
FUR 59
ETST 55
 
Final
ODU 71
FIU 56
Final
RMU 87
FD 65
 
Final
CHAR 86
FATL 61
Final
LIB 53
HIGH 72
 
Final
UNF 86
KNST 67
 
Final
FLGC 78
LIP 62
 
Final
OSU 80
MD 56
Final
Terriers 73
MNTER 67
 
Final
STET 85
NKENTUCKY 75
 
Final
WAGN 75
SHU 64
 
Final
GMAS 68
STLU 60
 
Final
JVU 65
USCU 78
 
Final
VMI 70
WCU 85
 
Final
LATU 69
WKENT 56
Final
UNCG 42
WOFF 58
 
Final
DET 93
YOUNG 87
 
Final
GSOUT 83
APP 46
 
Final
TENNM 81
EILL 51
 
Final
GHND 64
HC 54
 
Final
CIN 70
UCONN 58
Final
NDST 61
DEN 54
 
Final
SD 55
MAST 66
 
Final
UWMIL 71
ILLCH 65
 
Final
BEL 103
JVST 82
 
Final
SMISS 54
MARS 69
Final
TXSA 69
MTST 58
Final
PETE 49
RIDE 58
 
Final
SEMIZ 61
SIUE 75
 
Final
TENST 64
TENT 56
 
Final
NDAK 60
WEBER 67
 
Final
SALA 89
LALAF 85
 
Final
ARKST 65
ARKLR 75
 
Final
TROY 55
LAMON 58
 
Final
TXARL 74
UGST 88
 
Final
MURST 85
EKENT 78
 
Final
NCOL 79
IDST 76
 
Final
MIZZ 53
KENT 69
Final
GONZ 64
PORT 46
Final
UTEP 71
UAB 69
Final
GRCN 78
UMKC 57
 
Final
WLVRN 78
CHIST 62
 
1st OT
USC 72
COL 69
 
2nd
UCI 63
CPSL 53
 
2nd
CSNO 63
HAW 74
 
Final
PAC 43
PEPP 50
 
2nd
SDU 54
SCU 44
 
2nd
UCD 67
UCSB 62
 
2nd
UCLA 58
UTAH 50
 
Final
PORST 54
MONT 73
 
Final
SACST 75
MNTST 59
 
2nd
CSFU 49
LBSU 41
 
2nd
GAELS 44
LMU 37
 
1st
WASU 28
CAL 25
 
1st
BYU 32
USF 27
 
Final
NYI 2
BOS 5
Final
NYR 0
MON 1
Final
PHI 5
WIN 2
Final
TOR 1
ARI 3
Final
FLA 3
CLB 2
Final
TAM 5
DET 1
Final
STL 5
NAS 4
Final
CAL 0
MIN 1
3rd
EDM 3
BUF 2
 
2nd Intermission
SJS 6
ANA 1