Georgia State linebacker Blake Carroll sees his role continue to expand

Blake Carroll has become one of the more valuable members of the Georgia State defense. A senior outside linebacker from Lawrenceville, Carroll was an All-Sun Belt selection last year and was named to the preseason all-conference team earlier this month.

Not bad for guy whose career almost didn’t get off the ground.

When he arrived at Georgia State as a freshman from Mountain View High School, Carroll and coach Shawn Elliott didn’t really see eye-to-eye about a lot of things. It’s the sort of clash that easily could have led to internal strife or a move to the transfer portal.

“I just had to realize I'm part of a team, and I'm here for the team. That's all I had to adjust to."

- Georgia State senior outside linebacker Blake Carroll

“Blake came in, and he was hard-headed,” Elliott said. “He didn’t like academics. He didn’t like structure. He didn’t like discipline. I guess he was used to getting rubbed on the back and told how great he was, and I was a different guy, so he and I butted heads early in his career.”

Carroll admitted as much. But he also was smart enough to recognize the need to reassess the situation and make the appropriate changes if he wanted to stick around and contribute.

“I will say that coming in, everybody was the guy in high school,” Carroll said. “I just had to humble myself. I wouldn’t say I thought I was bigger than the team, but I did think I was going to play a bigger role than I did at the time. I just had to realize I’m part of a team, and I’m here for the team. That’s all I had to adjust to.”

He wound up playing in every game as a freshman and was starting by his junior season. He was honorable-mention all-conference in 2020, when he led the team with 74 tackles, and was third-team all-conference in 2021, when he ranked No. 2 in tackles with 89 and led the team with 11.5 tackles for loss, the fourth-highest total in program history. He also had 5.5 sacks, three hurries, intercepted a pass, forced two fumbles and a fumble recovery.

“It’s amazing to see them grow and mature, and now here he is, he’s a leader for us,” Elliott said. “We don’t have to worry about him academically. He’s doing things the right way. Everybody talks about developing players on the field, but that man has developed more as a person off the field than ever.”

Carroll (6-foot-1, 232 pounds) has taken to his role as a team leader. He’s become more vocal and sets an example by typically being one of the first guys to show up at practice.

“I have to hold myself to a higher standard because I want to hold everybody else to our standard,” he said. “I can’t just tell them what to do and not be doing it myself. It all comes as part of being a leader, so people can see you’re a leader and listen to you.”

The Panthers have no worries about their inside linebackers, where Carroll and senior Jordan Veneziale return. Veneziale led the team with 97 tackles and had four sacks. Justin Abraham, who played in eight games last season, is an experienced reserve.

The Panthers open the season at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 3 at South Carolina.