As part of our 2012 season preview, we’re counting down the top 25 players in the ACC for this season, from 25 to one. Obviously these lists are always completely subjective, so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.
After sanctions were handed down to North Carolina’s football program, Kevin Reddick had the opportunity to spend his senior season somewhere else, where he’d actually be able to play in a bowl game. Instead, he stuck it out, seeing what the new 4-2-5 defensive scheme opens up for him, and there’s a pretty good shot he’ll be greatly rewarded.
When you observe the 2011 Southern Miss defense under Larry Fedora, you see an unorthodox set relying heavily on strong linebacker play. While that group was talented, and impressively finished in the top 30 in scoring D overall, the players at UNC are obviously a grade above. By abandoning the traditional 4-3, and embracing a set built for its best defensive player (Reddick), there will be a marked difference, that obviously starts right in the middle of the field.
Last year, again in the 4-3, Reddick recorded just 71 stops in a scheme that heavily emphasized the team’s strong D-line and secondary play. And it was obvious he was a better player than he’d been the year before, running a fairly quick 4.57 40-yard dash at 240 pounds. Taken out of plays by the design of the defense, however, he still managed to insert himself into the action, and make those 71 hard-fought tackles. He’s quick to express his own personal frustrations last year, and quick to point out his desire to rectify it. As he told ESPN:
“There’s going to be a lot of plays for me, I just have to make them. That’s why I stayed. I had an opportunity to go to other colleges but I stayed. I wanted to experience this. I like this defense, and I feel it was based a little around me.”
The Butkus and Lombardi watch list honoree went on to talk about the adjustments opposing offense will also have to make, as they’ve become so used to UNC lining up in a pro-style set. It’s tough to find a defensive leader that’ll buy into a system this quickly. Expect some impressive numbers from Reddick in 2012 as he likely plays himself into the first round of the NFL Draft.