Probable starters: Marvin Austin (#9), Aleric Mullins (#97)
Key Reserves: Cam Thomas (#93), Tydreke Powell (#91), Tavares Brown (#96), Robert Quinn (#42)
Overview: Defensive tackle is undoubtedly the strength of Carolina’s defense this year, both in talent and in depth. Of the five players likely to get playing time, four of them are talented enough to make it to the NFL. And this is after the graduation of first round pick Kentwan Balmer.
The leader of the group has to be Marvin Austin. The crown jewel of Butch Davis’ inaugural recruiting class, Austin played in all 12 games (albeit often off the bench), racking up 25 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 4 sacks. This year, he can double those stats. If he develop his game against the run, he can easily become one of the ACC’s best defenders in 2008.
Playing alongside him will most likely be Aleric Mullins, the top recruit of John Bunting’s final season. The redshirt sophomore had 19 tackles, 3.5 TFL, and 2 sacks in 2007, and for now is expected to win the starting spot over Cam Thomas and fellow Ahoskie native Tydreke Powell. Add Tavares Brown and Robert Quinn and Carolina has an upper hand at DT over almost everyone on their schedule.
Fun Fact: Powell and Mullins were teammates in Ahoskie, NC, a town of 4,500 just southeast of the Great Dismal Swamp. What are the odds that two players at the same smal town high school would be playing at the same major college…at the same position?
Outlook: Given the level of talent at this position, it’s reasonable for four or more players to see significant action this season. If there’s depth on this team that the coaching staff can exploit, it’s here.
Having great talent at DT isn’t a guarantee that a defense will be able to control the line of scrimmage. But it helps.