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Carpenter Switching to LB to Pursue NFL Dream

By Dave Holcomb
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Dave Holcomb discusses the position switch of Georgia Tech defender Tariq Carpenter.

Georgia Tech’s Tariq Carpenter experienced a perfectly fine college career at safety. He arrived in Atlanta as a 3-star prospect in the 2017 recruiting class and played five good college seasons.

Carpenter helped the Yellow Jackets defense transition from playing a supporting role to a triple-option offense under Paul Johnson to a more traditional defensive style with coach Geoff Collins.

In five seasons, Carpenter posted 223 total tackles, including 154 solos, 7.0 tackles for loss, 17 pass defenses and four interceptions.

Carpenter could never play football again and look back on his career with fondness. Sure, he probably wishes Georgia Tech won a few more games during his tenure, but he played as well individually.

But for competitors such as Carpenter, it’s hard to give up the game. And the Georgia Tech safety is willing to switch to linebacker to keep his career going.

It’s possible that he could experience even more success after the position change.

Transitioning from the secondary to a spot in the front seven is usually difficult to make because of the size and strength required to play defensive line and linebacker. But at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, Carpenter possesses the frame to play linebacker.

Some of his tendencies even lean more towards him excelling at linebacker.

“His size, speed and aggressive demeanor should help him fit more cleanly than at safety,” NFL analyst Lance Zierlein of wrote. “Carpenter is a natural in-run support with clear eyes and a physical approach in the box.”

Obviously, switching positions while moving up a level of play will make grading Carpenter on a learning curve necessary. Still, Zierlein wrote he has the skills to do it, including the ability to more closely guard tight ends in the passing game.

NFL draft analyst Joe Marino of NFL Draft Network agrees.

“He has the frame needed to play on the second level and features outstanding length,” Marino wrote. “He is a physical defender that is a sound tackler.”

One of the biggest keys for Carpenter this offseason was to perform well at the Senior Bowl and the Georgia Tech Pro Day. Furthermore, Carpenter has to convince teams around the league he will be an asset on special teams while he develops as a linebacker.

Carpenter can place a checkmark next to the first key. Georgia Tech beat writer Ken Sugiura of The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported he “dazzled” at the Senior and Hula Bowls.

Then at the Georgia Tech Pro Day, Carpenter ran the 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds. He also posted an 11-feet, 4-inch broad jump.

Among safeties, Carpenter’s 40-yard dash time is somewhat ordinary. But at linebacker, his time is eye-popping. Additionally, his broad jump would have tied the best mark from all prospects at the 2022 NFL Combine.

Testing well helps get players drafted. Although nothing is guaranteed when it comes to Day 3 of the NFL Draft, the draft scouts at ESPN have ranked Carpenter No. 20 among the inside linebackers in the 2022 draft class. ESPN also rated the new linebacker the 207th-best overall player, firmly placing him among the prospects who could be drafted in the sixth round.

Once in a camp, Carpenter will likely need to excel on special teams to make an NFL roster. There’s little chance that he develops into an NFL-caliber linebacker in one summer, so in the meantime, in order to keep receiving valuable practice repetitions and direction from NFL coaches, the Georgia Tech product must carve out a role on special teams.

“[Carpenter’s] traits and special teams talent could buy him an early opportunity on a roster as he learns the linebacker position,” wrote Zierlein.

Most importantly, Carpenter’s traits, talent and special teams play could help his football dream continue.