This was not the season that the Tar Heels were hoping for by any stretch, but especially on the defensive side. The defense ranked outside of the top 80 in each of the major categories and closed the season with one of the worst defensive performances in school history in a loss to one of college football’s worst offenses. All of this happened in a season where, due to the upgrade in overall talent, many people expected the Tar Heels to take a step forward on that side of the ball. Those struggles and the continued trend in the wrong direction for the defense led many to call for a change of the defensive play caller and that came to fruition on Friday as multiple outlets have confirmed that defensive coordinator Jay Bateman is out at Carolina.
This is a move that needed to happen for many different reasons. For one, the way you were dominated by South Carolina was something that simply can’t happen. South Carolina came into the game ranked outside of the top 95 in each of the major statistical categories and put up 38 points, 543 total yards and 301 rushing yards in a game where the team didn’t look good or ready to go. That followed a third straight season of trending in the wrong direction under Bateman, as the team’s defense dropped in every major season for the second consecutive season.
There has been no real signs of progress since Bateman’s arrival. He did some really good things on the recruiting trail, but he and the staff just haven’t been able to develop the talent. This is a team that simply lacks the physicality that it needs, something that has to be addressed immediately, and the technical mistakes never seemed to be addressed throughout the season, leading to the same mistakes happening week after week.
With the talent that Bateman and the defensive staff were able to bring in this season, this couldn’t have been the easiest decision form Mack Brown, but you have to commend him for making the tough decision here. We have been calling for him to make some of those difficult decisions this offseason with the short timeline that he has in his second tenure with the Tar Heels and he did just that and this might not be the end of the moves after that embarrassing finish to the season.
Brown will now be looking for a defensive coordinator that can help turn things back in the right direction for a defense that has enough talent to compete at a high level. With the Bateman firing, the team will also be searching for a safeties coach after he handled those duties for the Tar Heels as well the last three years.
UPDATE: According to Brett McMurphy of Stadium, the Tar Heels are also parting ways with outside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator Jovan Dewitt after two seasons. The Tar Heels outside linebackers have really struggled to produce outside of Tomon Fox and had issues containing the edge in the run game. In terms of special teams, the unit showed major improvements this season, but was one of the big issues for the team in the collapse against NC State. Larry Porter, who was the assistant special team’s coach this season, might just be elevated here.