Heel Tough Blog: Should They Stay or Should They Go?
When we did this last year, we were hoping that this wouldn’t be something we had to do again at the end of this season. After four straight losses to close the year, however, we once again enter an offseason with questions about the future of the staff. We give you a look at some staff members who may be on the chopping block and tell you whether they should stay or go.
When Mack Brown gets back in the office on January 6th, this should be the first member of the staff who he makes a decision on. There were some rumors right after the bowl game that there were hesitations about firing Cross due to the connections to the players, but this feels like a move that has to be made. While he may have the relationships with the talent in the room, he simply hasn’t developed that talent and has already started losing some of it to the transfer portal. There was a slight drop off in production from 2020 to 2021, leading us to question his status heading into this season where there was a massive drop off. In fourteen games in 2022, his unit registered just 21.0 tackles for loss and 10.0 sacks, two of the lowest totals for a defensive line in all of college football. With all the talent that he has at his disposal, this is simply unacceptable and he needs to be held accountable. This is a no-brainer in our opinion.
What Should Happen: Go
This is the other name that comes up constantly when talking about the future of the defensive side of the football. Similar to Cross, Bly’s relationships with guys on the roster are the biggest pushback against letting him walk, but it extends even further than just his own room. He has been the leader of the team’s pursuit of the 757 and the state of Virginia as a whole, which has been a major element in the improvement of this roster since Brown’s return. As great as he has been as a recruiter, though, his cornerback room has had some struggles at developing talent that has seemed to peak in their first seasons and tailed off. Both Tony Grimes and Storm Duck are prime examples of this and it is probably one of the biggest reasons behind their decisions to enter the transfer portal. Ideally, you would love to be able to move Bly into more of a hands off role where he can continue to recruit, but that might be a tough sell. The lack of development and the mass exodus from this room this offseason is too much to just look past because of the recruiting prowess, though.
What Should Happen: Go
Not only does Brown need to evaluate the future of the on-field staff, but also the strength and conditioning staff, primarily Hess. One of the biggest issues that this team has right now is that they are pushed around in the trenches constantly in important games and struggle to handle the physicality. This issue has become more prevalent over the past couple of seasons, especially on the defensive side of the football, where the highly-rated talent has struggled to put on the right size and strength to control the line of scrimmage. The offensive line has also really struggled when matching up with physical teams and the talent that is being brought into the room from the high school ranks just hasn’t seemed to be able to add the needed strength in a timely fashion. Hess was a smart hire when he first came over because of the relationship that he had working with Jay Bateman at Army, but it has become clear just like it did with Bateman that he simply isn’t as effective as a Power 5 strength and conditioning coach.
What Should Happen: Go
Tar Heel fans had high expectations for the return of Chizik because of the amount of success that the team had in his first stint in Chapel Hill with less talent at his disposal. This season, however, was easily the worst of his three in Chapel Hill and, in some respects, was a step back from last year. The significant step back from the defensive front is something that he has to shoulder some of the blame for and the same goes for the pass defense as a whole that allowed the most yards since 2003 through the air. It’s understandable why people are frustrated, especially with the success that he had the first time around in year one with less talent. Even with all of this, Chizik’s track record of success and, more importantly, the fact that he was in his first season back with a staff that involved a majority of holdovers from the previous staff have to be taken into account when evaluating him. Chizik shouldn’t be gone just yet and he needs Brown to help him by allowing him to hire some position coaches that will be able to better execute his scheme.
What Should Happen: Stay