Wednesday was summer media day in Chapel Hill, as a majority of the coaching staff and a handful of players met with the media to discuss where the state of the Tar Heel football program at the virtual midpoint of the summer. Today, we look at the biggest takeaways from defensive coordinator Gene Chizik’s meeting with the media.
Communication, Pad Level and Physicality are Being Stressed
Communication was one of the major keys that Chizik mentioned right out of the gate for his defensive scheme and so far, he seems relatively pleased with the progression that the team has shown, at least to this point. Pad level and physicality, though, were the most talked about things from Chizik regarding this defense and it doesn’t seem like he is thrilled with where things are at right now. He said that the team is “not there yet” in this aspect, primarily at linebacker where he said that the team simply has to be better to get off of blocks and make plays. The good news is that he said that he thinks the team can get to where they need to be, but he also said that there is a way to go to get there.
Defensive Line and Secondary Depth is Big Difference From 2015
Chizik wasn’t the biggest fan of trying to compare this defense to his 2015 defense that he took over, but he did say that there are some important differences depthwise with this team. The main one is the sheer amount of depth and talent that this current defensive line has, something he did not really have the luxury of having in his first stint in Chapel Hill. However, he did say that it is time for this extremely deep group of talent to step up and show it and that they are not quite there yet as a group. In the secondary, Chizik was very complimentary of the experience coupled with the depth but said that the team has to communicate better than they did a year ago and make more plays, something they certainly didn’t do in 2021. Chizik is right that the talent is there, but this team simply has to execute better than they did a year ago and will have to do so on a consistent level for this team to take the steps that the 2015 defense did.
Myles Murphy and Cedric Gray Are Guys Expected to Become Consistent Forces
In order to take the steps that the 2015 defense did, they will need to have some players step forward and become consistent problems for offenses. The biggest one might be defensive tackle Myles Murphy, who Chizik says the staff expects to be a dominant player this season and wants to see get offended if teams are game-planning specifically for him. Murphy started last season hot with 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks prior to the midseason bye, but racked up just 0.5 tackle for loss and had no sacks in the final six games of the season. That simply can’t happen again, nor can the struggles at times that Cedric Gray had to make the timely tackles. Chizik said that he has loved the leadership and athleticism that he has shown, but is focusing on getting him to lower the pads and be more physical to help lead that linebacking corps towards being that downhill tackling force that he wants.