- Todd Archer, ESPN Staff Writer
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Ht. – 6-2 Wt. – 241
School: North Carolina
Round (overall): Second (40th)
To learn more about Cowboys draft pick Bruce Carter, we talked with North Carolina head coach Butch Davis. Here’s what he had to say:
The Cowboys view Bruce as a three-down linebacker, eventually. How does that mesh with what he did at Carolina?
Davis: Going back to my days as defensive coordinator there and being in the NFL, I understand the position-specific things everybody is looking for. That’s something everybody needs and not many have, but he’s one of those guys. He has great versatility. It didn’t matter if it was 3-4 or 4-3, he’d play well. He can play nickel. He can play dime. I told people when they came through here that to me he was like Ken Norton. Ken was one of those guys that played Sam, Will, Mike, nickel. He was one of those unique guys.
How much did Carter’s speed play a part in his success?
Davis: Coming into the program, he was a high school quarterback and played in the secondary at safety. When he got here, we projected him as a linebacker. That first year we wanted him to play special teams and learn the system. That first game the guy ahead of him gets hurt, so not only did he have to play but start. It was baptism under fire but he had the athletic ability to make plays. By the time he got to his sophomore year, you could tell he was a linebacker. He plays with great explosion. You see him cut and move. When he gets the ball in his hands, he’s a threat to score. One of the things you see on special teams, he was notorious for blocking kicks. He blocked a punt in three straight games and so you’d see teams change their protections just for him.
In a 3-4 he has to be strong at the point of attack. Can he hold up?
Davis: That will be a little different for him. I don’t think there’s anything he can’t master, but everybody coaches defense differently. I’m a disciple of the Jimmy Johnson deal and we always thought: Why get tied up when you can outrun 99 percent of them and go make a play. That’s what he was able to do for us. There’s going to be times he has to take on a tight end, a fullback and an offensive lineman. Yeah, he’s going to take them on, but he’s going to get off them and get his nose around the football a lot. We really try to predicate our scheme on making plays. I don’t know much about the Cowboys’ defensive scheme and what they do today, but I’ve got to believe he'll definitely be able to do that.
After he hurt his knee, how much did he stay involved with the team?
Davis: You never want to minimize any kind of injury, but there was a lot of debate. He wanted to continue to play. We were near the end of the season. We had one more regular-season game and a bowl game against Tennessee left, but our medical staff and coaching staff talked to him. He didn’t want to have the surgery right away, but what it did was put him two months ahead of schedule. He stayed involved. He came to meetings. He was on the sidelines during practices. He had so much respect from all of his teammates because they’d seen everything he’d done and accomplished in his four years. He’s a leader in every aspect you want somebody to be a leader: working out, lifting, running, watching film. But not only that, the way he conducted himself all over town. He’s a special kid.
You mentioned Ken Norton earlier. What is the comparison there?
Davis: He evolved into it by the middle of his second year as a sophomore. I’ve been lucky enough to be around a lot of guys like that at Miami: Ray Lewis and even before that Jessie Armstead, Darrin Smith and Micheal Barrow. Dan Morgan and Jonathan Vilma. There’s a litany of linebackers you get to compare them to, but Kenny was one of those guys that just had a flair for playing and being in the right place and making plays. Very, very athletic. So in my mind as you watch the things they do, Bruce and Kenny had a lot of the same traits. They were really big workout guys in the weight room. Kenny looked like Tarzan; Bruce looks the same way. He’s been in the weight room the last month or so working out. Then they can actually take that God-given ability and turn it into production.