In each of the past two midweek press conferences, Mack Brown has talked about the fact that one of first things the staff was going to do post-spring was to sit down and have a conversation with each player about their roles on this team. Brown said that there were expected to be some transfers ahead of the July 1st deadline and on Monday, the Tar Heel saw their first transfer portal declaration of the summer.
As first reported by Inside Carolina, junior linebacker Khadry Jackson is reportedly set to enter his name into the transfer portal. In his two seasons with the Tar Heels, Jackson competed in all 25 games that were played, racking up 18 total tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss and one forced fumble. He saw the majority of that production come as a member of the special teams unit and a depth linebacker, playing 113 defensive snaps in his two years, but this year was competing for the main rotational linebacking spot behind starters Jeremiah Gemmel and Eugene Asante. He was the starter for the first team defense in Saturday’s spring game next to Asante with Gemmel sitting out as a coach’s decision and finished the day with two total tackles and a tackle for loss. Jackson enters the transfer portal with three years of eligibility remaining.
The good news for the Tar Heels is that the depth here still remains solid and talented. The question now is experience, as sophomore Cedric Gray becomes the veteran of the group battling for backup reps after playing just six defensive snaps a year ago. He had a nice showing in the spring game, though, and was an important contributor on special teams a year ago, so he’ll have a chance to factor in. The Tar Heels also have the likes of true freshmen early enrollees Power Echols and RaRa Dillworth, who both grew up quickly in spring camp according to Mack Brown and showed that with big performances on Saturday. With both being true freshmen, you don’t want to put too much on their plate, but both of these have the talent necessary to compete for the backup jobs and contribute if needed. Jay Bateman also reportedly spoke highly of sophomore walk-on Jake Harkleroad to the ACC Network’s broadcasting crew last week and he could be a guy that gets a chance to step up and earn some more looks in the middle with Jackson’s transfer.
Jackson was a talented linebacker that was one of Jay Bateman’s first additions to his defense when he first arrived in Chapel Hill. While it hurt to lose a guy like him, this spring showed that the Tar Heels inside linebacking room is in good shape for the time being and this is a loss that doesn’t cripple them. Expect there to be a few more of these tough decisions over the next handful of days as the staff sits down and meets with these players to discuss their roles.