NAVARRE — Josh Carter's sophomore numbers painted the picture of a dominant defensive tackle. His size did not.
The face of Navarre's Final Four defense delivered 10.5 sacks, 31 tackles for a loss, four forced fumbles and two blocked field goals.
He was our unanimous Large School Defensive Player of the Year. He was also playing the wrong position, his 5-foot-10, 240-pound stature signifying so.
But the Raiders were stacked at linebacker, names like Aaron Mitchell, Bo Hering, Xavier Fernandez clogging the position.
Those names have graduated. Welcome home to linebacker, Josh.
"It feels good. I wouldn't say better than defensive tackle, but everything comes more natural now," said Carter, who has since slimmed down to around 225 pounds. "I don't really feel like I've missed anything or it's that big of a change. The goal is still to make plays. I just feel normal here."
The move was made in the spring. Carter impressed from Day 1.
"When he hits people, he knocks them back," said Jay Walls, Navarre's head coach. "It's almost a distinctive noise when Josh lays a hit on someone. He's just so physical and has so much strength. When he hits someone it comes from such a low center of gravity and he has a pretty good nose for the ball. He was successful on the defensive line because of his athleticism and his football IQ, but after the season personnel shifted and we knew he was a natural fit for linebacker."
The move didn't surprise teammate Dante Wright, a fellow Dandy Dozen who starts on both sides of the ball.
"He's big, fast and tough," Wright said. "I saw the move coming. He had a really good combination of talents on the defensive line. And now he has a great combination at linebacker."
A part of Carter's success is his ability to scan the whole field and read the guards and tackles. He also trusts his instincts.
"Wherever I'm playing, I don't think too much," he said. "Yeah, I make my reads. But I also just do whatever my body does."
His nose for the ball and ability to wrap up on tackles helps, but Carter said it's his quickness and explosiveness that sets him apart.
"That's where I shine. That's what gives me that advantage," said Carter, who sat down with us recently to discuss his mom's cooking, Navarre's biggest rival and what he believes to be the most exciting play in football.
Who’s the best player on your team other than yourself?
I don't even know how to answer that. I can't answer that.
Who's the most underrated player on your team who’s ready to break out?
Probably (running back) Chris Williams. He's very underrated. Obviously backing up Michael (Carter) last year he didn't get a lot of repetitions. But he can do probably everything that Michael can do if we're being completely honest here.
What’s the team’s ceiling this year?
The main goal is to get to state and win state championships. That's always been the goal. That's always going to be the goal. Winning a state championship is our ceiling."
What’s the team’s basement?
Even if everything goes wrong, we're still a playoff team. I believe that.
Are you a trash talker on the field?
I don't really talk trash that much unless I get trash talked to first. I don't really hear too much from other people. People can get personal in a quick second, but I don't hear much directed at me.
Who’s your team’s biggest rival?
Gulf Breeze, no doubt. Realistically, I knew that they were going to be well before last season started. They have athletes. It's just now they have the proper coaching. Circle that game, definitely.
Rainy day, time to binge on some movies or TV. What are you watching?
I don't really even watch TV. If I could, probably "Brickleberry." That was wild.
What’s your favorite home-cooked meal?
Definitely oxtails from my mom. I could eat those all day. That with mashed potatoes, plain.
What’s the most exciting play in football?
I like seeing the deep ball, like Hail Marys. You never know who's going to come down with it.
Compare your game to a current star in college or the NFL?
I was just thinking about this too. (Seattle Seahawks linebacker) Bobby Wagner. I like his aggressiveness and he can tackle anywhere on the field. Sideline to sideline, he's fast. I love to watch him play.
You win the lottery. What’s the first thing you buy?
Probably a house. Anything big. Gotta go big.
What’s the best part about being a Navarre Raider?
Just the mentality of it. Being able to wake up and know you're a part of a good program. That means a lot to me.