According to UNC officials, junior defensive back Matt Merletti tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee during Tuesday's practice, and will be out for the entirety of the 2009 season.
A native of Cleveland (OH) who attended St. Ignatius High School, Merletti came in and played right away as a true freshman in 2007, earning action in 10 games. In all, he had four special teams tackles that year.
In 2008, Merletti was a co-captain on special teams, an honor bestowed on UNC's top special teams players based on a point system. Merletti had 11 tackles last year and recovered two fumbles, including a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown vs. Connecticut.
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One of the strongest pound-for-pound players on the entire UNC roster, Merletti recently completed 25 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press, an incredible number considering he weighs 185 pounds.
Merletti was competing for playing time at safety in training camp prior to his injury.
There's a good chance Merletti will be receiving a 'Medical Redshirt' since he didn't use a redshirt as a true freshman, which means he'll still have two years of eligibility remaining starting with the 2010 season.
Nonetheless, Merletti's absence is one that will be felt in the UNC special teams this fall, and it will be critical for others to step up and fill his shoes.