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UNC Football: Jeremiah Gemmel attracting off-season attention

Jim Nagy, Senior Bowl executive director and ESPN NFL Draft analyst, likes what he sees from the senior linebacker

Capital One Orange Bowl - Texas A&M v North Carolina Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Yesterday, Jim Nagy tweeted this about UNC linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel:

This is high praise from an important observer. Most pundits agree that Gemmel’s best chance at making an NFL roster will likely come from free agency. He does show great execution on the college field, even if his pro potential is somewhat limited.

Gemmel, a team captain and full-time starter last season, had the misfortune of being overshadowed, twice. The first instance was at the hands of Carolina’s spectacular offense. Sam Howell and the Gruesome Twosome stole most of the spotlight, torching teams to the tune of 41.7 points per game, relegating the defense to second-billing on the matinee.

On top of that, the name that came off every announcer’s lips when the defense played was teammate Chazz Surratt. It’s understandable. Surratt had such a unique story to accompany his eye-catching performances. He got most of the blitzes, and as a result, more sacks than Gemmel (6.0 vs 2.5) as well as TFL (7.5 vs 6.0). Surratt also had more total tackles (91 vs 78). Gemmel did have more solo tackles, though (50 vs 49).

The gulf in performance was very shallow. The biggest knock on Gemmel was his pass coverage, but last season, he did manage two interceptions and four passes defensed, higher than Surratt in each category. When watching film, Jim Nagy sees what all Carolina football fans see: a heat-seeking missile that can identify ball carriers sideline-to-sideline, and hit them violently.

Gemmel may not have the physical potential that Surratt showed, and as a linebacking full-timer, scouts won’t be mesmerized by imagined raw talent that can be shaped and molded at the pro-level. This does not mean that Gemmel will be any less impressive or important than Chazz Surratt in college, quite the contrary.

UNC’s defense is ready to take the next step. With Mack Brown-recruited talent flowing through the pipeline, the Tar Heels will be able to hang their hat more on defense. Talented sophomores such as Des Evans, Ja’Qurious Conley, Myles Murphy, Clyde Pinder, and Tony Grimes - who all showed tremendous potential last season, despite the lack of traditional summer camps - will be joined by freshmen beasts like Jahvaree Ritzee, Keeshawn Silver, Raneiria Dillworth, and Power Echols.

All of that talent will take time to gel with each other and acclimate to the college game. Having a senior leader at middle linebacker of Jeremiah Gemmel’s caliber will be absolutely instrumental to the success of Carolina’s 2021 season. Gemmel will have a chance to lead a defense that can win games for UNC, rather than just hold teams at bay so Sam Howell, Javonte Williams, Michael Carter, and Dyami Brown could slice and dice them, running up basketball scores.

Don’t be surprised if Jeremiah Gemmel pulls out a better statistical season (save for sack totals, perhaps) than Surratt had last season, and sneak his way into the mid-to-late rounds in the next NFL Draft. He certainly has fans at the Senior Bowl ready to showcase him.