The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday February 8th

Peppers Not Alone on Line

All-ACC Julius Peppers has a strong supporting cast on North Carolina's talented and hungry defensive line.

It's not exactly the Fearsome Foursome, but when you've got a player like junior Julius Peppers on your line, an equitable moniker can be hard to come by.

Peppers, named a second-team All-America defensive end last season after leading the nation with 15 sacks (one short of Lawrence Taylor's UNC record) and setting a school record with 24 tackles for loss, certainly will get the bulk of the attention from every offensive line the Tar Heels meet this year.

And for that very reason, the play of his three linemates -- end Joey Evans and tackles Ryan Sims and Will Chapman -- will be crucial to the success of the unit and the defense as a whole.

"We're just going to play," said Sims, a senior, who had 52 tackles and six sacks and earned honorable mention All-ACC honors last season. "You've got to pick your poison: either Julius or us other three guys.

"I mean, we don't get as much publicity -- we're still just the other three guys. But if you're going to double-team one person, that leaves only one person on another.

"And we feel that we can beat any sin-gle block. So we're just going to go out there and make plays."

Evans, a senior, played in every game and had 38 tackles as a backup last season, including 11 for loss.

He recorded eight sacks, second on the team only to Peppers, and was named UNC's co-most improved player on defense.

Chapman also came off the bench in every game last year as a walk-on fresh-man, averaging 19.2 snaps per game and finishing with 31 stops. His performance earned him a scholarship this season.

Sims, meanwhile, a third-year starter who should be one of the top tackles in the conference this season, is arguably the most talented and important player on the UNC defense after Peppers.

Even so, the Tar Heels' opponents likely will gamble frequently and put two or more blockers on Peppers, who needs 12 sacks to break the school record of 32.5 held by Greg Ellis and plans to enter next year's NFL draft.

"Actually, I'm kind of hoping that they do that," Evans said. "Sometimes, I don't necessarily think they were definitely focusing on him (last season) because all of our defensive linemen could step up at any time. But hopefully they will do that now and allow us to make more plays and help our team win.

"We have a lot of experience. We've all played together for a couple years now. We all gel; we all have our different strengths."

Peppers, for one, isn't worried about his supporting threesome being able to take advantage of blocking schemes devised primarily to stop him.

"I think this is the best line in the country that nobody knows about," Peppers said. "It will be a breakout season."

Will teams be able to focus on Peppers the entire season? They'll surely try, but they could run into a problem if the three other guys make them pay for it.

Said Sims, "It's not going to last long."

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