On Thursday afternoon, the Tar Heels officially re-introduced Gene Chizik as the defensive coordinator after it was announced last Saturday that he and his top assistant from his time in Chapel Hill. We got to hear from the trio of Chizik, co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Charlton Warren and head coach Mack Brown about the defensive staff moves and some other storylines as well. Here are our takeaways from Thursday’s presser.
Chizik Took Job on the Spot
The rumors that came out on Friday after what Brown classified as a mutual parting of ways today from Jay Bateman seemed to point to this being the case. Brown said that Chizik was his first call after the parting of ways and that the job was accepted on the spot. Chizik seconded that account, saying that he had wanted to get back into coaching and had numerous opportunities to do so, but was looking for that right fit and that this one was the perfect one. He sighted that the two major factors that played into his decision were the fact that he was coming back to Chapel Hill, a place that he seemed to grow very fond of before stepping away, and the opportunity to rejoin Mack Brown after winning a national title with him at Texas. This is a job that Chizik seems very committed to and he feels like a guy that, if he succeeds, could be willing to stick around until the end of the Mack Brown 2.0 era.
Jovan Dewitt Was Casualty of Transition
Brown sort of said this in passing, but this is noteworthy, especially with the news that was announced later in the day that Trevion Stevenson will be entering the transfer portal. This seemed to solidify the thoughts that the defensive scheme will be shifting back to the 4-3 base that the team played in his first stint with the Tar Heels. With Dewitt’s departure, the team is not only losing an outside linebackers coach, but also a special teams coach. However, as Brown pointed out, that unit had a drop off as a whole at the end of the season to couple with an edge rushing group that lacked consistency in his time there.
Larry Porter Takes Over as Special Teams Coach
When it comes to special teams, Brown confirmed on Thursday that Larry Porter, the team’s running backs coach who was an assistant special teams coach last year, will be taking over as the special teams coach for Dewitt. Porter has experience at the position, as he held the same title at Auburn from 2018-20 under Gus Malzahn before his move back to Chapel Hill. Warren also has some background when it comes to special teams and will assist the unit as well in 2022.
No Changes To Offensive Staff Confirmed
This shouldn’t come as much of a shock after the moves that were made on the defensive side of the ball with nothing happening offensively, but Brown basically made it official to the media on Thursday. While he did say that this is a team that simply has to allow fewer tackles for loss and sacks, something he says that he plans on taking a big role in helping to solve, he pointed to the success that the offense has had in the three years since his return as the reason why they are standing pat with the makeup of the offensive staff. While at the skill positions and tight end that makes sense, the struggles that Stacey Searls offensive line unit had this season are hard not to be concerned about moving forward.
Priority is to Learn About Player Currently on the Roster
One of the first things that Chizik was asked about when he took the stand was about his thoughts on the current roster and where things went wrong under the last regime and he admitted that he has not been able to see a lot of the tape just yet. However, he did mention that one of the first things that he noticed almost immediately from some of the small sample sizes that he had seen of the team was that inconsistency was one of the main things that stood out to him. This is something that Mack Brown harped on about his team as a whole this entire season, but this inconsistency has been a major issue for the Tar Heel defense, especially the defensive front and defensive backs, the past couple of seasons. Chizik pointed out that it doesn’t seem to be a commitment from guys on the field and that there is a ton of talent on this defense, but that it was obvious that communication breakdowns were a big part of the issue from what he called a “10,000 feet” perspective.
Limiting Catastrophic Plays Will Be a Major Focus Again
Andrew Jones of Tar Heel Illustrated mentioned this as one of the first things that he remembered from Chizik’s first time here and the veteran coach confirmed that the mindset of ‘limiting catastrophic plays’ will be back. As was pointed out by Warren in his time on the podium, that was one of the big issues for this team this season and he could not be more spot-on, especially with the final two games of the season, which were just chock-full of catastrophic plays against the defense. Chizik was able to turn around a Tar Heel defense in 2014 that allowed even more catastrophic plays than this past year’s unit and didn’t have the depth or talent that he will inherit with this unit. It will all have to start up front with the attacking mindset and strong tackling that preach on Thursday that his teams need to play, something that will be refreshing after the defenses under Bateman seemed to be focused more on athleticism and finesse and simply lacked toughness. They need to combine that with the other element of this defense that seemed to lack under Bateman, the communication. Chizik harped on that throughout his time on the podium and pointed to it as the key to making this work.
Chizik Will Call Plays But Defense Will Be Built By Both
Some people may be wondering about how exactly things will work between Chizik and Warren on the sidelines and Warren talked about that dynamic on Thursday. As many probably expected, it will indeed be Chizik who will handle the defensive play calling duties on gameday. However, Warren, who made it clear that this is not just a meaningless title given to him to get him back to Chapel Hill, will be a big part of determining the game plan and scheme and will also be integral in piecing the personnel together for the unit. Both guys said they are very excited to build this defense and following these pressers, Tar Heel fans should be excited, too.