The Tar Heel’s defense has a few different players that a person might consider the best player. NFL scouts highly regard defensive tackle, Sylvester Williams and linebacker, Kevin Reddick. Of course there is more than just statistics to look at in order to determine the “best” player. The intangibles must also be taken into account.
A solid case can be made for Williams. He is clearly the Heel’s best defensive lineman. He is constantly demanding double teams from opposing linemen because of his raw power. His 6’3”, 320 pound frame helps as well. Whenever a defensive lineman needs two offensive linemen to block them, it helps out the entire defense. Williams is also a projected 1st round NFL draft pick. Some experts have him going as high as 10th in the draft. CFBstats.com has him recorded with 13 tackles on the season, highlighted with his 4.5 sacks, which ties him for 23rd in the nation. These statistics are impressive believing that he is the most focused-on player of the UNC defensive front.
However, I am making the case that Reddick is UNC’s best defensive player. Reddick is a senior linebacker that many would say is the leader of the defense. He is projected to go in the 2nd or 3rd round of the NFL draft and is listed as high as the 4th best linebacker in the country. His statistics are impressive as well. He has 30 tackles on the season which is an average of 6 a game. He has 5.5 tackles for loss with 2 sacks and a forced fumble. The thing that puts him above Williams in my eyes is the UNC defensive scheme. The Heels only keep 2 true linebackers in their base defense. Larry Fedora’s 4-2-5 defense has 2 hybrid positions called the Ram and the Bandit. Gene Robinson plays the Ram where Dion Guy runs the Bandit. Guy is the closest thing to a third linebacker. He is 6’4”, 245 pound (actually larger than Reddick, listed at 6’3”, 240) which is excellent outside linebacker size. The Bandit is geared a lot towards pass protection and outside containment which constantly puts him outside the box. The Ram position is essentially a defensive back played by the 5’11”, 200 pound Robinson.
If the defensive line gets blown off the ball, it is up to the linebackers to stop the runner. So if Williams gets double teamed, Reddick has to be there to make the tackle. If Reddick or the other linebacker does not make the tackle, the runner enters the secondary which results in the big gains for the opposing offense. The 4-2-5 defense demands that there is a solid linebacker holding down the middle of the field and Reddick is that guy. Therefore, I conclude that Reddick is UNC’s best defensive player.