Heading into his fifth-year senior season at North Carolina, Dion Guy has a chance to make a significant impact on the Tar Heel defense at a position that seems ideally suited for him.
A player who's spent time at both linebacker and defensive end during his previous seasons in Chapel Hill, Guy now finds himself playing the hybrid 'Bandit' position, allowing him to utilize his versatility as a pass rusher, run stuffer, and pass defender.
"The Bandit is a defensive end/linebacker, so you may see him in a three-point stance and drop (into pass coverage), or you may see him in a two-point stance and come (on a pass rush)," said UNC head coach Larry Fedora. "Or he may be moving around."
"I'd say it's about 50-50. Sometimes I'm dropping back. Sometimes I'm rushing the pass rusher. It's a combination of both," said Guy.
In the words of UNC defensive coach Vic Koenning in talking about the 'Bandit' position in the spring, Guy has a chance to kill the dreams of the opposing offense in his final autumn in the powder blue.
He's currently working with the starters at the 'Bandit.'
"I see myself being that 'dream killer,'" Guy said. "We're just out here day by day getting better. It's really exciting, man."
"I've worked my butt off during the offseason and during the spring, and I'm just out here trying to get better and help our team win football games."
Guy, as well as sophomore Norkeithus Otis and true freshman Shakeel Rashad, are learning this new position this summer in Carolina's training camp.
While Otis and Rashad's backgrounds are primarily rooted at linebacker, Guy's extensive experience on the UNC roster at both linebacker and defensive end adds an element that is part of what makes the 'Bandit' particularly effective at times in a 4-2-5 defense---the ability to create confusion along the line of scrimmage.
"That position (The 'Bandit') depends on his skills and what he can do," said Fedora.
"If all he can do is rush, then he's just going to be a rusher (playing defensive end). That's why finding the right guy for that position is important."
"With everything going on, all the movement and everybody flying around, I can see it (plays opening up for me)," Guy said. "I see them a lot. And I just know it's there. So it's really exciting. I mean, it (the position of 'Bandit') suits my abilities well, but I've still got to get better and better."
One of the specific things Guy is working on in training camp is hand placement, and making sure his hands are where they need to be as much as possible.
"I've got to keep working on my technique. Coach (David) Duggan keeps telling me about my hand placement, to keep working on my hand placement. I need to get that down during training camp so I can help the team win football games."
"I'm just trying to get better and keep grinding every day to reach my potential," Guy continued. "I'm just out here day by day, trying to practice and get better day by day. I'm just trying to get better and help my team win football games."
The spring was a chaotic time for the Tar Heels, as Guy and the rest of the defense adjusted to having just two true linebackers, a fifth defensive back (the 'Ram') on the field most all the time, as well as the unique 'Bandit' role taking the place of a second hand-to-the-ground defensive end.
Combining the transition of a new defensive scheme with the fast pace that the UNC offense runs in practice made things interesting at times during the summer, but one can already see in practices this summer how far Guy and the defensive unit as a whole has come along.
Instead of running around seemingly unsure of where to be and what to do, the defense is moving around---shall we say 'flying' around---with confidence and ease.
"I feel like we're way farther ahead than we've been anytime since I've been here," Guys said. "I feel like we're more comfortable now, you know."
"It allows us to know the plays a lot more than we did in the spring. It allows the younger dudes to learn the plays quicker, since they see the older cats out there flying around making plays, being comfortable and knowing it."
While his role as a 'Bandit' in and of itself puts Guy in a leadership role on the UNC defense heading into the season, as a senior he knows he's being watched by the younger Tar Heel players as an example of how to do things in workouts and in position meetings.
"We just know, the senior class knows that we've got to bring everybody together," Guy said.
"We know that we're not going to a bowl game this year, so we're picking everybody up. We've got to win football games. And that's the main objective. Win game by game. Practice day by day. And get better and get better. And I feel like if we do that, I think we'll have a successful season."