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The Daily Tar Heel

Linebackers' Inexperience, Injuries Leave Questions

But this season might be an exception. With one experienced player returning and two possible starters injured, the linebacker situation appears far from stellar.

Gone is former UNC linebacker David Thornton. Thornton, who had 155 tackles and three sacks in 2001, signed with the Indianapolis Colts in July.

Anxious to fill his shoes is redshirt freshman Doug Justice and sophomore Clarence Gaddy. Both Justice and Gaddy have struggled to stay healthy.

Earlier this year, Gaddy broke his wrist. More recently, during the first scrimmage, Justice sprained his ankle. The two injuries could determine who plays with Malcolm Stewart, the only returning linebacker.

Stewart acknowledged depth as an issue. "Actually it is a big deal that we don't have a lot of depth, especially in practice because a lot more guys get hurt, more reps are made," he said.

Bunting, an ex-NFL linebacker himself, said his attitude is improving. "The linebacker position is one where you need to have experience, one where you need to have repetitions. I feel better than I did at the beginning of camp about that position."

Justice, who has missed practices due to injury, is optimistic because of the defense's potential. "We have Dexter Reid and Michael Waddell. They are known, but everyone else is new," he said. "People are going to get to know us."

But for the team to be successful, senior Sean Williams said, the unit needs to work on communication. "We need to communicate to get our jobs done right," he said. "It doesn't matter who's in there, we're going to perform the same techniques. We know how we're supposed to play."

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