Why this UNC linebacker entered the NCAA’s transfer portal earlier this week

North Carolina senior linebacker Jonathan Smith entered his name in the NCAA’s transfer portal earlier this week, Jeremy Sharpe, a program spokesperson, confirmed on Thursday.

Smith, a 6-1, 230-pound inside linebacker, wants to get more playing time somewhere else.

Smith had three tackles in three games this season. He was suspended the first two games of the season after his grades dropped last spring.

Smith played in seven games in 2018 and started in four. He had 27 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

But with the emergence of inside linebackers Jeremiah Gemmel, and Chazz Surratt, who converted from quarterback to linebacker this spring, Smith’s playing time decreased his senior season.

Subscribe to the N&O's Sports Pass for UNC coverage

Get top-notch coverage of UNC sports from Jonathan Alexander, Luke DeCock and Robert Willett. Sign up for The N&O's digital sports-only subscription for only $30 per year.

Surratt has been one of UNC’s better players this year, and Gemmel is one of the team’s defensive leaders. Gemmel has 35 tackles through five games, which is second on the team, and a forced fumble. Smith’s departure will likely mean more playing time for Surratt, who has continued to improve through each game.

He led UNC with seven tackles, a sack and two pass breakups last Saturday against Clemson.

We felt like we couldn’t take Chazz off the field much,” UNC defensive coordinator Jay Bateman told the media on Monday.

But Smith’s departure also leaves the Tar Heels thinner at linebacker.

Smith confirmed the transfer himself in a tweet Thursday afternoon. In the tweet, he thanked UNC’s football staff, coach Mack Brown, his teammates and Tar Heel fans.

“I will forever be grateful for the relationship we built the past months,” Smith tweeted in reference to Brown. “Lastly I would like to say thank you to my teammates for everything. The bond and brotherhood I built with y’all will be unmatched and I love all y’all boys and I know y’all gone ball out the rest of the year.”

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer

Jonathan M. Alexander has been covering the North Carolina Tar Heels since May 2018. He previously covered Duke basketball and recruiting in the ACC. He is an alumnus of N.C. Central University.
Support my work with a digital subscription