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UNC Football: Chazz Surratt’s versatility makes him a match-up nightmare

Surratt gave the Eagles fits last Saturday. We explore all the ways he creates havoc on Carolina’s defense.

For the second time in two games, Chazz Surratt led the Tar Heels in tackles (with eight against Boston College) and tied for the lead in sacks (with one). His numbers are impressive, yes. But his versatility is his biggest contribution to Carolina’s defense.

A quick aside... I was not an accomplished basketball player in high school. I rode the bench when I made varsity and played less than the Dook towel-wavers on Senior Night. When I got to Carolina, I just about lived in Woolen and played pick-up most every day, often with my good friend David Galloway. David’s younger brother Brian was a star player at his high school, along with his friend and teammate Drew Murphy. Brian disrespected my game so much, that when I torched Drew to the tune of five made shots in a row, he was yelling at him in front of all ten players on the court.

I gave Drew the business. I gave him lay-ups, I gave him a three-pointer, I posted him up. Everything was going down. Drew was shocked, since the scouting report Brian gave him said “McKay is garbage. Disrespect him and pass me the ball.” After hitting my last five shots, I demanded the ball on game point. David passed to me at the top of the key, and I got in a three-point stance and asked Drew, “How do you want it?” He looked at me confused, then turned to look at Brian. As soon as he looked away, I drove left and got an uncontested lay-up. Game.

Afterwards, I told Drew that I was not garbage. I was good, and versatile. So too was Chazz Surratt against Boston College. So let’s take a look at a few random plays throughout the game that show you just how versatile Chazz Surratt is on Jay Bateman’s defense, and how dangerous he was to Boston College’s offense (to follow along, here’s the condensed game replay, courtesy of the ACC Network):

  • 1st Quarter, 5:44, 1st & 10: BC lines up in a jumbo package, two tight-ends, one on either side of the line. Chazz stands tall and wide, past the right tight-end, spying the backfield which only has one tailback standing directly off the QB’s right hand. One wideout is split left and goes in motion once summoned by Jurkovec. Before the wideout crosses in front of the QB, he takes the shotgun snap. It looked like it could be a jet sweep, as the tailback began his run by sweeping wide, as if to lead block for the tailback. Instead, he cuts upfield. The tight-end does not block and immediately goes vertical. The wideout was a ruse and BC never intended to run the jet sweep.

Chazz Surratt was not fooled. He immediately starts running downhill, releasing the tight end to safety Trey Morrison, who had dropped in to a linebacker spot pre-snap and is now covering the tight end man-to-man. He ignores the wideout running the jet sweep fake and makes a direct line to the QB. Fair credit to Jurkovec, he makes a great throw under pressure to the tailback, and Chazz puts his hands on the QB, but does not hit him. This play was made in the film room, as Chazz knew not to key on the jet sweep on this play. NFL brain.

  • 2nd Quarter, 11:51, 1st & Goal: After the Sam Howell tipped-pass interception, Boston College begins on the UNC 5-yard line. The Eagles put out another huge formation with two tight-ends on the right; a big, “thicc” receiver on the left, two yards off the left tackle. The wideout out right motions to the left side of the line. Surratt and Gemmel are squated four yards off the LOS, Surratt on the right side. Gemmel immediately heads to the action of the play, in this case a fake hand-off, while Surratt waits. The moment, and I mean THE MOMENT, Surratt sees Jurkovec roll out to his right hand side, he is shot out of a cannon trying to hit him before he can throw. Surratt probably does not know what routes are being run behind him, he has one mission. As Jurkovec begins his windup, Surratt runs over one of those arrows on the track of Mario Kart and seems to pick up a bit of speed before putting his shoulder in Jurkovec’s left armpit, forcing a bad throw and an incomplete pass to Zay Flowers, who had Kyler McMichael beat for a touchdown.

Note: The next two plays were back-to-back.

  • 3rd Quarter, 6:25, 1st & 10: BC have a bunch right formation with two tight ends and Dazz Newsome-like receiver Zay Flowers behind them. Flowers goes in motion towards the quarterback, who is under center. Chazz is directly behind the defensive tackle, lined up between the center and right guard. Gemmel is one step in front of and to the left of Surratt. Flowers makes it to the other side of the line and Jurkovec snaps, faking a hand-off to the lone tailback, while Flowers sprints back to the spot where he came from. Chris Collins has already set the edge to contain Jurkovec running and Flowers artfully dodges behind him and in front of Gemmel to get into space. Jurkovec flicks a pass that Flowers catches in stride.

Rewind to the snap. Surratt is literally sitting in place watching the quarterback. Once he knows the handoff is a fake, he sees Flowers coming out to the right side of the field and breaks. Flowers catches the ball on the right hash mark, and Surratt is catching up to him, but has a poor angle. He’s in danger of missing the tackle. Nope, never mind! He flattens his angle, gets his arms around the receiver’s waist, and drags him down after a minimal 3-yard gain. That is great coverage by a linebacker on a quick and slippery receiver.

  • 3rd Quarter, 5:53, 2nd & 7: BC has a jumbo left formation with two tight-ends right next to the left tackle. One wideout is two yards off the right tackle, the other split wide left, one tailback. Surratt and Gemmel are equally deep, about three yards apart. On the snap, Surratt smashes into the center and left guard like a cop trying to bust down a door. That chaos allows Jahlil Taylor and Myles Murphy to meet at the quarterback with their hands in his face, with Des Evans behind just in case he tried to scramble backwards. The pressure causes Jurkovec to badly underthrow a wide-open Flowers who would’ve had a first down.

The strides Chazz Surratt has made since the beginning of last season are incredible. His fundamentals are more solid, he feels comfortable, understands what he needs to do, and is letting his natural athletic talent shine. Imagine for a moment that a team like the New England Patriots drafts Surratt at the end of the first round and puts him through their versatile-linebacker academy. He could be the next Tedy Bruschi or Mike Vrabel. There is literally no roof for his ceiling.