The North Carolina football team's linebacker core has a lot to look forward to in 2020. There is a combination of experienced talent and new additions that have the potential to bolster the front seven.
Returning to its linebacking core is redshirt senior Chazz Surratt, who had a breakout season in 2019. After beginning his UNC tenure as quarterback, Surratt transitioned to linebacker last season. Surratt led the team with 115 tackles, including 15 tackles-for-loss. He also finished with 6.5 sacks, one fumble recovery and one interception, with his lone interception sealing North Carolina’s win against Duke.
Based on his on-field production, Surratt earned All-ACC first-team honors. He was the runner-up for the ACC Defensive Player of the Year Award as well.
Surratt has high expectations this coming season. He was named to three preseason award watch lists, including the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Butkus Award and the Chuck Bednarik Award. He was ranked by ESPN’s Mel Kiper as the No. 2 inside linebacker in the 2021 NFL Draft. With the lofty expectations and promising first year at linebacker, Surratt looks poised to have a tremendous impact for the Tar Heels.
Junior Jeremiah Gemmel also looks to build off of his 2019 campaign. Like Surratt, he made his first start in the season opener against South Carolina, and started all 13 games at inside linebacker for UNC. Gemmel finished second on the team with 84 total tackles and fourth with 7.5 tackles-for-loss. He added three forced fumbles to his line, the most on the team. He had one of his best games of the season during UNC's six overtime 43-41 loss against Virginia tech, when the redshirt first year had 11 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss to go along with a forced fumble. Gemmel provided a huge step up from his first-year season, and the Tar Heels will rely on him to build from the momentum of last season.