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North Carolina defensive tackle Kentwan Balmer hasn't had the most impressive statistical season so far, totaling 7.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

But apparently numbers aren't everything, as Balmer currently sits at No. 7 on the senior draft board of ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. That list, of course, doesn't take into account the numerous college juniors who will declare for the NFL Draft and rank ahead of Balmer, but his stock is still strong heading into the end of the 2007 season.

While Balmer said he doesn't pay attention to such projections, the reality for him and other UNC players - such as Durell Mapp - is that their chance to play at the next level is rapidly approaching.

UNC head coach Butch Davis does his part for players hoping to reach the NFL by setting up a "senior day" to talk with the players and their parents about the process.

"We talked about just the process of what it means to have a great senior year, how important that is," Davis said. "Then we talked about all-star games, and what we've tried to do is we've tried to put together video highlights and DVDs and send out to all the postseason bowl selection people."

The team hosts dates on which pro teams come in to look at the players, and Davis also contacts various people to advocate his guys. Balmer said potential UNC players definitely have an advantage in that their head coach and other assistants have been at that next level.

Balmer - who Davis termed "more of a known commodity" - is the highest UNC player on the draft boards right now, but Davis thinks that senior defensive end Hilee Taylor has a good chance of playing on Sundays, too. Taylor has had a breakout season and ranks No. 7 in the nation with 10 sacks.

"I think there's a lot of (scouts) that are going to be very enthralled with him," Davis said.

Taylor and Balmer have come up in the UNC program together, and Balmer said the two have discussed the thought of knocking heads in the NFL.

"In the NFL maybe, he'll be on the other team, and when I go there I can stay at his house, different things like that we just kind of look forward to. And hopefully it will happen for us - I think it will."



Contact the Sports Editor at sports@unc.edu

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