Notes: Also played basketball as a North Carolina prep, in addition to playing quarterback, running back and safety. Originally committed to North Carolina as part of the 2006 recruiting class, but had his knee scoped in April and took a greyshirt. Joined UNC for the '07 season, starting 7-of-12 games on the strong side, and recorded 25 tackles, two for loss and zero sacks with three pass breakups and a blocked punt. Took ownership of the SLB spot in '08 when he started all 13 games, notching 68-11-5 with two pass breakups and one interception (66-yard touchdown). Also was an impact special-teams player, leading the nation with five blocked kicks, four of which were punts, including three against Connecticut. Played through minor injuries against Virginia Tech (hamstring strain) and Boston College (ankle). Started all 13 games at the "Sam" in '09 and totaled 65-7½-2 with two pass breakups and one interception (41-yard TD return against Georgia Southern). A Butkus Award finalist in '10, he played in 11 games (10 starts) at the "Sam" and recorded 57-3½-2½ with two pass breakups, one interception, a forced fumble and a blocked kick. Did not start the season opener against LSU after being cleared the night before in an NCAA investigation. Missed the final two games of the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee Nov. 20 against North Carolina State. Team captain. Medically excluded from the Combine because of the knee.
Positives: Passes the eye test and worked out like a phenom prior to injury. Rare athlete with an explosive, quick-twitch, short-area burst and natural knee bend. Outstanding balance and lateral agility. Functions in space. Adept at slipping and avoiding blocks. Ranges to the sideline to track down ballcarriers. Can run and hit and shows burst to close and finish. Drops effortlessly into zone coverage and has loose hips to shadow backs and tight ends. Has special-teams value and stood out in this area - seven career blocked kicks.
Negatives: Lacks bulk. Not stout or physical at the point of attack - plays too soft and too many tackles come down the field. Overruns some plays. Lassos too many tackles and can do a better job squaring up ballcarriers. Does not take on blocks with force or accelerate off them. Has to be schemed free as a blitzer. Has a finesse temperament and lacks killer instinct - does not play violently. Inconsistent compete level and urgency - plays when he wants to. Lacks confidence and an innate feel for the game. Durability could be an issue.
Summary: Has very clear first-round athletic talent but could slide out of the first round coming off knee surgery. Converted from safety and still covers like a defensive back and has special traits in coverage. Fly-to-the-ball, finesse, run-around 'backer with exceptional physical tools who could be very productive as a 4-3 weak-side linebacker where his range and athletic ability would play best.