UNC middle linebacker and defensive captain Jeremiah Gemmel has been named to the 2021 Dick Butkus Award watch list, an award given to college football’s top linebacker. This recognition is a nod to Gemmel’s past performance and expectations for a strong senior season on a Carolina team that is a legitimate contender for the ACC title.
As we’re still in preseason, the Butkus Award watch list does have 51 names on it, so it will be interesting to see if Gemmel makes it on the final candidate roster. Gemmel is a known commodity in college football, and he will have a unique opportunity to take on more responsibility (with the accompanying spike in statistics) with the departure of Chazz Surratt to the Minnesota Vikings.
It will be an uphill climb for the fourth-year Tar Heel. Surratt’s light shined brightly, and Gemmel was often in his shadow. The two linebackers had similar total tackle numbers, but Surratt made more explosive plays, especially behind the line of scrimmage (7.5 TFL and 6 sacks compared to Gemmel’s 6 TFL and 2.5 sacks).
Media types have overlooked Gemmel on many occasions, including in ACC-specific season previews:
With a bump in supporting talent and a younger, junior partner next to him in junior Eugene Asante, Jeremiah Gemmel is poised to lead the team in total tackles. An improved front line will hopefully create more sack opportunities, either for themselves, or by flushing quarterbacks into the waiting arms of the linebackers.
Check back here in the middle of the season to see if Jeremiah Gemmel makes it to the final Butkus Award list.