Friday night was the start to what was already the third week of action in a spring football season for the states of North Carolina and Virginia. Amongst those in action on Friday night, a 2021 Tar Heel signee and a major 2022 Tar Heel target squared off in a key conference matchup in the state of North Carolina, allowing us to get a look at both guys in the same game. Here is a look at the 2021 signee’s performance in this game on Friday night.
Gabe Stephens, a 4✮ outside linebacker who signed with the Tar Heels back in December, and the Mountain Island Charter Raptors were looking for a big win over the Thomas Jefferson Gryphons at home in this one on Friday night in Mount Holly, NC. He certainly did his part, finishing the game with 8 total tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, three QB hits and four QB pressures out of his defensive end spot. However, it wasn’t enough to help the Raptors pull out the victory.
Even though he couldn’t make a late tackle on the Gryphons game-winning drive, Stephens had a very good night and showed why the Tar Heels are excited about what he can bring to the table defensively. While he will not have his hand in the dirt like he did on Friday night when he gets to Carolina, he showed that he has the physicality and the pass rushing instincts to thrive in one of the linebacker positions in Jay Bateman's system, maybe even the RUSH end position, at some point in his career. He has very good speed and can cover a lot of space in a short period of time, despite clearly adding more weight to his frame this offseason to be able to match up better in the trenches. He is an extremely reliable tackler who doesn’t miss many tackles and is also a high motor guy that has no problem staying after it to chase down plays. With him taking every snap with his hand in the dirt, he didn’t get to show the other aspect of his game that he has in his arsenal, his coverage ability. The biggest concern with Stephens is probably the fact that he is the true definition of a tweener, meaning he doesn’t have a clear cut position that he fits perfectly, but his versatility means that there is plenty of opportunity for him. He will be amongst the group of Tar Heel signees that will arrive later this summer to be a part of the team in 2021.
In our next scouting report, we take a look at the guy on the other side in 2022 3✮ WR Dakota Twitty. We will also take a look another major wide receiver target, as well, later in the week. Keep an eye on the Heel Tough Blog website throughout the week for all of these great scouting reports.