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Heel Tough Blog: Which DL Transfers Should the Tar Heels Be Talking To?

The offensive line is the biggest area of need for the Tar Heels remaining, but as Mack Brown said last week, the team is still searching for help along their defensive line. This group is very similar to the offensive line group in terms of those available being risks, but there is still a solid group of players that the team should be willing to talk to. Here’s a look at some of those names that we think the Tar Heels should be talking to.

DL Soane Toia- San Jose State

San Jose State Athletics

Toia entered the transfer portal on Monday and should immediately go to the top of the Tar Heels board here. He was a first team All-Mountain West member this past season after recording 37 total tackles, 7.0 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and 23 total pressures. Toia doesn’t grade out as the best run defender on this list, but he is the best pass rusher and that is something that the team needs, as well. Getting him to leave the West Coast might be difficult, but the Tar Heels need to at least gauge the interest here.

DL Will Buck- San Diego

San Diego Athletics

It may seem a little crazy to have an FCS player this high on the list, but Buck is more than worthy of being near the top of this list. The grad transfer missed the 2023 season due to injury, but had a huge junior season back in 2022, racking up 33 total tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks and 54 total pressures all from a defensive tackle spot. Prior to that, in 2021, he finished with 39 total tackles, 15.0 tackles for loss, 10.0 sacks and 37 total pressures. He combines that tremendous ability to get after the quarterback with some nice production as a run defender. He graded out at a 69.8 or higher as a run defender in each of his two seasons as a starter, including a 71.5 in 2022. There would be a question of how he would transition to the Power 5 level, but this would definitely be worth the risk if you can convince him to come East.

DL Tiaoalii Savea- Arizona

Arizona Athletics

Savea is another player from the West Coast that Ted Monachino should be taking a serious look at right now. He had a really solid junior season this past year, finishing with 22 total tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and 10 total pressures. Savea is an outstanding run defender, grading out at a 76.7 this season in run defense according to PFF. It will be tough to get him to head across the country, but the staff needs to at least try.

DL Etinosa Reuben- Georgia Tech

Nick Cammett- Diamond Images

Reuben is the biggest risk of anyone on the list but might have the highest upside. The former top 500 prospect showed flashes in his time with Clemson before he entered the transfer portal last offseason, but he was never able to establish himself at Georgia Tech. In his most significant season of production back in 2021, he graded out well across the board according to PFF and proved that he can make plays behind the line of scrimmage. This is far from a guarantee, but it might be worth the risk with the other guys that the team has in this room.

DL De’jon Benton- USC

Brian Rothmuller- Getty Images

Taking anyone off of the USC defense probably doesn’t get many people excited, but Benton would be a solid rotational piece to add to the room. This past season was his best at the college level, as he finished with 12 total tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and eight total pressures, and he had settled into one of the starter roles prior to suffering a season-ending injury against Washington. Benton is another guy that the staff would have to convince to come East, but it could be worth a shot to add a new body to this room.


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