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How UNC’s Jalen Dalton became big(ger)

North Carolina Defensive Tackle Jalen Dalton

Sophomore defensive tackle Jalen Dalton talks about his development as a player, the improvement of the Tar Heels’ defensive unit and what he like to eat following the Tar Heels’ fourth day of practice on Tuesday, August 9, 2016 at Navy Field in C
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Sophomore defensive tackle Jalen Dalton talks about his development as a player, the improvement of the Tar Heels’ defensive unit and what he like to eat following the Tar Heels’ fourth day of practice on Tuesday, August 9, 2016 at Navy Field in C

Here is the Jalen Dalton gain-40-pounds-in-one-year diet, as described by Dalton, the North Carolina defensive end turned defensive tackle: “Eat whatever.”

That’s how Dalton earlier this week described his weight gain, which has allowed him to move from the outside of the Tar Heels’ defensive line to the inside, where he’ll be counted upon to bolster a run defense that is the Tar Heels’ greatest question. It wasn’t always like this for Dalton.

He arrived on campus a season ago amid grand expectations. He was, perhaps, the best of the Tar Heels’ incoming defensive prospects. And he was also on the lean side, a relatively skinny 250 pounds. (Relatively.)

That was then. And this is now: a bulked-up Dalton, weighing about 290 pounds, on the inside of the defensive line, where he looks ready to create at least a bit of havoc.

“They would play with me inside a little bit,” Dalton said of his progression from defensive end to tackle, “and they would see, I’m just quicker than the (offensive) guards. … I was decent at the end, but I was much quicker inside. So it was kind of a mismatch.”

That’s UNC’s hope: that the quicker, faster Dalton will be a mismatch for slower offensive lineman. And so here he is in the middle of the line. Along with the position change came a body transformation. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that along with the body transformation came the position change.

Either way, Dalton is carrying a lot more weight these days thanks to his diet of “whatever.”

“Eat whatever, really,” Dalton said, again. “Fruits, all that. Everything.”

Fruits? How many strawberries would one need to eat to gain 40 pounds?

Dalton didn’t exactly identify the go-to component of his patented Diet Whatever (probably will not be featured in Men’s Health any time soon). It was a little bit of this, a little bit of that.

“No, just whatever’s in the kitchen, honestly,” he said. “I might cook a little chicken Alfredo. I’m a pasta guy.” For a late-night snack, Dalton said, he’ll put together some leftovers.

Asked if there was a specific type of meat that he wouldn’t eat, Dalton didn’t hesitate.

“I eat everything,” he said, before saying it again. “I eat everything.”

Good thing, given his need to gain weight. Even after the 40-pound increase, Dalton still won’t be the biggest defensive tackle around. Weight gain might still be a priority.

He has grown, though, in more than just the literal sense.

“I’m really proud of Jalen Dalton and where he’s going,” Gene Chizik, the UNC defensive coordinator, said. “There’s no question about it. Our defensive line has to have a capacity for boredom. That’s what I tell them.

“Because down there it’s got to be a scenario where you’re just doing it over and over and over and then it becomes muscle memory. They’re getting there. Jalen Dalton is getting there.”

Thanks, in no small part, to a finely-regulated diet of whatever.

Gene Chizik comments on the progress of the defensive unit and sophomore tackle Jalen Dalton following the Tar Heels’ fourth day of practice on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016 at Navy Field in Chapel Hill, N.C.

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