Updated: Jul 27
2023 ACC Kickoff concluded from the Westin in Charlotte on Thursday and amongst those to speak was Mack Brown and the three players to represent the team at media days today. The foursome was the first to take the stand earlier today before heading off to the side for more comments, as well. Here are the biggest takeaways from what Mack Brown had to say to the media on the podium earlier today.
Mack Says This Defense is Going to Be Good
This is probably the biggest headline grabber from the day considering the issues that the Tar Heels have had defensively since Butch Davis left campus. Brown said that while the defense did have poor showings against App State and Notre Dame, the unit was much better once they got into conference play. “We averaged giving up 24 points a game, which is pretty good, modern-day at least. Middle of the pack or a little bit better.” While he is right, this defense was still one that wasn’t able to slow down offenses like Georgia Tech and NC State who were quarterbacked by the third and fourth-string quarterbacks respectively. The team was also completely rattled by the Clemson Tigers offense after they made the move to Cade Klubnik after the first couple of drives. I think most Tar Heels fans would agree that if this defense could be a middle of the pack or slightly above-average defense that could help this team win some games and doesn’t get thrown off by the slightest changes, this team has a chance to win a lot of games. I think at this point, the unit will have to prove it to us before we believe it.
First Four Games of the Season Will Show Us a Lot About This Defense
Mack Brown has said multiple times this offseason that the Tar Heels open the season with one of the toughest stretches that he has ever faced to begin the season. The team will start the year in the Queen City with the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Duke’s Mayo Classic before head home to face Appalachian State and Minnesota and then open the conference season against Pittsburgh. “I feel like we'll be good, and we'll get tested early. We've got a really tough schedule to start the season with some very physical teams. South Carolina is going to run the ball. App State will run the ball. Minnesota will run the ball, and Pitt will run the ball”. This stretch really does test the run defense, but it should also determine what this pass defense, which struggled so much a year ago, is going to look like. If Mack Brown is going to be right about this defense, they have to get off to a good start and prove they can be that middle of the pack unit they need him to be.
Dontrez Walker’s Story is an Amazing One
It has become a yearly tradition for Mack Brown to give you a feel good story about one of the players on the roster. Last year, he shared the amazing story of Cedric Gray’s road to Carolina and eventually to media days. This year, he laid out the road that Kent State transfer Devontez Walker had to Chapel Hill, which is an immaculate one to say the least. “Tez Walker has the most amazing story I've ever seen”, said head coach Mack Brown. Here's a young guy that signs with East Tennessee State, hurts his knee. They gray-shirt him, so he decides to go to UNC Central instead of East Tennessee State. COVID year hits, so he can't play, so he transfers to Kent State. He has a great couple of years of Kent State, and then his whole coaching staff leaves. His grandmother is really sick. She's in Charlotte. She's never seen him play. He transfers back here because that's where he wanted to be in the first place. That's where the transfer portal is so good, to help kids get where they should be in the end, and he also is going to have his grandmother see him play for the first time here in Charlotte when we play South Carolina, and then she'll be able to drive to the home games.” Walker was already going to be a fan favorite with what he brought to the table on the field but this story definitely takes things to another level.
Chip Lindsey’s Offense Has a Chance to Thrive, Especially in the Run Game
Coach Mack Brown has been having to defend the hire of Chip Lindsey all offseason and it came up once again on Thursday. "Chip Lindsey averaged 33 points a game when he was calling plays as a coordinator at Arizona State, Auburn, and Southern Miss. He started this in high school. So he wants to keep the same passing game with a few tweaks.” The biggest thing that Brown pointed to, though, was the impact that he will have on the Tar Heels rushing offense. “We were really good the first two years. We were best in the league. The last two years we've been middle of the road, and we haven't been as good. Running game helps our defense. The running game is our quarterback's best friend with pass protection.” With the running back group that the team has, there is a chance that the backfield could return to being one of the best in the league. One of the biggest frustrations with Phil Longo’s offense in his time at Carolina was that the Tar Heels would abandon the run too quickly and the good news is that Lindsey seems more committed to sticking with it. Taking pressure off of the offensive line in pass protection and utilizing more clock to help the defense could be the key to this team taking the next step and making it back to the ACC Championship Game.
Mack Thinks the ACC is in Great Shape
The biggest focus for many media days the last few years has been conference realignment and for good reason with all of the movement that we have seen in the world of college football. ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips waxed poetic on the fact that the conference is in great shape amidst all of the conversations of teams wanting to bolt for bigger and better things. Brown was in lock step with the commissioner on the future of the conference. “I think the ACC is in great shape. The whole concern is finances. That's what everybody is looking at now. With the TV market changing so rapidly, your all lives' are changing all over the place with radio and TV and news print. We are at a time where there's a lot of change, not only in our business but college football.” This is encouraging to hear, but how true it actually is still to be determined.