North Carolina outside linebacker Bruce Carter underwent surgery Tuesday to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
Carter, a Second Team All-ACC selection and finalist for the Butkus Award as the nation's best linebacker, injured his knee November 20 against North Carolina State. He was kept out of the Tar Heels' finale against Duke due to the knee injury, though news of the severity of his injury was kept quiet until now. Dr. Jeff Spang performed the operation at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.
The injury casts a considerable shadow over Carter's pro stock. Rated among the elite senior prospects in the country heading into the season, Carter's best attribute is his jaw-dropping athleticism. The 6-3, 235 pound Carter has unofficially been credited with a 4.4 second running of the 40-yard dash, a 40.5" vertical jump and a 440 pound bench press. In fact, he was recognized by ESPN's Bruce Feldman as the No. 1 "Freak" in his annual Top 10 breakdown of college football's elite athletes.
The torn ACL, however, could rob Carter of that athleticism. It certainly will keep him from being able to work out for teams prior to the draft.
Carter, quite frankly, needed to wow in workouts because his play this season has been disappointing. Carter exploded onto the scene as a sophomore in 2008, recording 68 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, five sacks and five blocked kicks. He wasn't able to match that production as a junior (65-7.5-2-0) and slipped even further in 2010 (57-3.5-2.5-1).
Without his breathtaking athleticism, Carter simply isn't nearly as highly thought of as a prospect. Despite his experience, Carter does not locate the football particularly well and is viewed by some scouts as simply a better athlete than football player, despite his hype. His less than ideal instincts were masked by his straight-line speed and explosiveness.
Unable to wow scouts in workouts, Carter could see his stock slide into the third round, or even lower. This, despite the fact that he's been rated at or near the top of the senior outside linebacker rankings all year long.
Consider that two other highly touted OLB prospects of recent years -- Clemson's Ricky Sapp and Wisconsin's O'Brien Schofield -- dropped into the fifth and fourth rounds, respectively, due to knee concerns. Sapp, drafted last year by Philadelphia, was placed on IR before the season began. Schofield, drafted by Arizona, has registered seven tackles this season.
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