The Tar Heels wasted no time finding their replacement for Stacy Searels. Earlier this morning, just a day after it was announced that Searels was heading to Georgia in the same role, it was being reported that the team has found their new offensive line coach and a veteran one at that.
As first reported by Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports and later confirmed by Inside Carolina’s Ben Sherman, the team has agreed to a deal with Louisville offensive line coach Jack Bicknell to fill the vacant spot that was set to be manned by Kevin Donnalley until a replacement hire was made.
Bicknell has an extensive resume at both levels of football, having spent 22 years as an assistant at the college level, six years as an assistant at the NFL level and seven years as a head coach at Louisana Tech. Bicknell spent each of the last two years at Louisville and Auburn respectively and, prior to that, was the offensive line coach for three years at Ole Miss, spending his first two years working with Tar Heel offensive coordinator Phil Longo. In his NFL stops, Bicknell held assistant offensive line coach jobs with the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins and spent one year as the primary offensive line coach in both Kansas City and Pittsburgh.
Bicknell will be taking over a Tar Heel offensive line unit that ranked 116th and 128th in tackles for loss and sacks respectively this past season and will hope to quickly turn them around, something he did last year with the Cardinals. In 2021, Louisville allowed 65 tackles for loss (T-38th) and 20 sacks (25th), a drastic improvement for a team that had allowed 93 tackles for loss (128th) and 29 sacks (T-110th). His two seasons with Phil Longo back in 2017 and 2018 were solid but not spectacular in these two categories, as his groups allowed an average of 71.5 tackles for loss and 32.0 sacks during that time, marks that are still vastly better than the ones that the Tar Heels experienced under Searels, even in his best season. Since his return to the college ranks, Bicknell’s lines have been a part of a top 30 offense in all but one season (2020 Auburn).
For the situation that the Tar Heels were put in here, this is an outstanding get and may actually prove to be an upgrade in the long run over Searels, at least coaching wise. This unit was in desperate need of some change after last season and that has now come in the form of both player departures and a coaching change, meaning this will be a completely revamped unit in 2022. Now the question is, can they have the success that they need to for this youthful offense to produce and limit negative plays?