Darnell Carter: 'It definitely feels good to be back at middle linebacker'
Being a fifth-year senior and all, Darnell Carter admittedly was a little concerned when a new coach came on board last winter at Virginia. New coaches sometimes tend to want to rely on younger players that will remain in the program for the next several years, players whom that coach can build around for the future, when the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel might be a little more near.
Add to that the fact that Carter was being moved from middle linebacker -- the position he'd played his entire collegiate career -- to an outside linebacker position where he would need to be slimmer, more agile and better able to cover opposing tight ends and tailbacks coming out of the backfield, and the player found himself in a challenging predicament.
But like many other of the once-overlooked or under-appreciated veterans on the roster London inherited, Carter embraced his new role -- on the team and in the new scheme -- and became integral player on a team struggling through the growing pains of restructuring a foundation. A key defensive reserve for the first six games at outside linebacker, Carter said he was told early last week that he would be moved back to the middle. He started at middle linebacker Saturday in what became a 48-21 Virginia victory over Eastern Michigan, recording a season-high five tackles and one tackle for a loss.
"My whole career here I'd played inside linebacker, so I was comfortable with it," Carter said Tuesday. "I adjusted to the outside eventually, and I felt comfortable out there, too. But it definitely feels good to be back at middle linebacker. I like it. I love it, actually."
Listed at 6 feet 3 and 240 pounds, Carter possesses the bulk that defensive coordinator Jim Reid said can be advantageous for middle linebackers. Carter said that, at his weight, he felt he did "pretty good on the outside." Prior to the Eastern Michigan game, Carter had tallied 19 tackles and three tackles for a loss.
"It all depends on if you can run and if you can read your keys and know your assignments," Carter said.
But he immediately felt at home in the middle. Carter rotated through all three linebacker positions at practice last week and played at all three spots Saturday. If the same is true this Saturday against Miami, Carter will be just fine with that. After an academic suspension interrupted his career in 2008, Carter appeared in four games last season, splitting sparse playing time between defense and special teams.
This year he carries much more significant responsibilities on the field each Saturday, which is all that he could ask for in his final season of collegiate ball.
"It felt like how it was in high school playing," Carter said of his enlarged role this season. "It's been real exciting. I'm loving it. It's overwhelming, just all this playing time. It's fun. It's real fun, actually. I'm going to miss it."
| October 27, 2010; 8:53 AM ET
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