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Heel Tough Blog: Defensive Backfield Health Still a Question Mark Heading to Charlotte

Tar Heel co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Charlton Warren spoke with the media on Thursday afternoon to talk about the state of the defensive backfield. While he did discuss the impact that others are having at their positions, the biggest topic of conversation was the injury statuses of some key guys in that room.

Right off the top, he was asked about the injuries, specifically the one that DeAndre Boykins is dealing with right now and he left things pretty vague. “I let the doctor figure that part out,” Warren said. “I know he’s working hard to get back.” This is not what we were hoping to hear about the guy who started all fourteen games there a year ago at the STAR position, especially with the issues that Antavious ‘Stick’ Lane, a summer transfer from Georgia State, has had getting on the field.

As of right now, there is a legitimate chance that the team will be without both of those guys in the opener next Saturday night against South Carolina. Warren exuded confidence in where things are at in the room this is indeed the case in Charlotte. “We’ve spent all of fall camp building depth and cross-training guys because in the system multiple guys can play multiple positions. We’ll have a plan to cross-train and get our best five or six on the field in every situation.”

One of those who is cross-training and could have to play significant reps at the STAR spot is D.J. Jones, who made the move from running back to defensive back prior to spring practice. “He’s been doing a great job,” says Warren of the graduate senior. “He’s been playing multiple positions cause we teach everything like concepts. Once they understand the concepts, we can move them around and put them in the best position to help us make plays. He’s a guy that has been working hard.” Starting Jones there would be less than ideal, but it is good to hear that he is starting to show signs that he can hold his own out there if needed.

The more concerning thing that was revealed during the presser actually came in a question asked by Inside Carolina’s Adam Smith. He asked Warren about the status of safety Don Chapman, who he said was in a red non-contact jersey in the team’s latest scrimmage. If Chapman’s injury keeps him out next weekend, the Tar Heels could really be in a tough spot in the defensive backfield heading into this important matchup.

In terms of what the Tar Heels plan should be, it all depends on what they choose to do at the STAR spot if Boykins and Lane can’t play. With how much Tayon Holloway has raved about this preseason, he seems more than capable of starting for the team to begin the season, which would allow Alijah Huzzie to move inside. Safety would still be a concern if Chapman, Lane and Will Hardy are all unavailable, but Giovanni Biggers is a solid starter that you know you’ll have and Derrik Allen does have a good amount of power conference experience from his time at Georgia Tech.

The hope is that all or at least the majority of this is just precautionary from the team in an attempt to get as many of these guys out there for this game. If this is the case, though, this Tar Heel defensive front will really need to be able to get pressure on the quarterback to limit the Gamecocks passing game.


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