Mack Brown reunited with the media on Wednesday for what he deemed the ‘Pre-Spring Practice State of the Program’ presser. The talking points ranged from the new coaching staff additions to the upcoming schedule. Here are the biggest things to take away from what the head coach of the Tar Heels said earlier today.
Camp Will Start This Sunday; Haven’t Decided on Spring Game
Brown revealed that the team will begin spring camp this Sunday, March 5th. Due to rules from the NCAA, the first two practices will be in shorts, before the team puts pads on for the third practice. The team will span their 15 on-field practice sessions between two different periods (March 5-9 and March 21-April 15). The conclusion to spring practice is currently something that Brown and the staff are still discussing. He says the discussion centers around whether or not they will have a traditional spring game, which teams are starting to go away from, or if it will be more of a practice.
Secondary Hardest Hit By Spring Injuries Again
For the second straight season, the Tar Heels' secondary will be shorthanded by injury issues in the spring. The good news is that the unit isn’t nearly as banged up as it was last year ago when the team was forced to limit contact. Safeties Giovanni Biggers and Will Hardy will miss the entirety of spring practice with upper body injuries, as will transfer cornerback Armani Chatman. The safety absences will allow the team to give guys like Don Chapman, Ja’Qurious Conley, who is a full go after injuries cost him nearly all of last season, and transfer Derrik Allen plenty of reps. Chatman’s absence at corner means Lejond Cavazos will have a chance to prove that he is capable of being the full-time starter opposite of Marcus Allen. Wide receiver J.J. Jones will also be absent from spring camp after offseason hip surgery, meaning transfer Dontrez Walker and Andre Greene Jr. should see plenty of reps in his place. Depth offensive lineman Trevyeon Green will also be out with an upper-body ailment. Six other Tar Heels will be limited in the spring (British Brooks, Sebastian Cheeks, Des Evans, Tomari Fox, Caleb Hood and Ed Montilus).
D.J. Jones Moving to Safety
One of the more interesting roster notes that Brown mentioned on Wednesday was the move of D.J. Jones from running back to safety. The head coach said that Jones came to him asking how he could help this team elsewhere due to the log jam at running back. With Brooks and Hood limited during the spring, Brown says he will still see some reps at running back, but the majority of the focus will be on getting him valuable reps at safety. Considering the issues that this team has had with their safeties since 2019, any additional help back there should be encouraged. Brown said that regardless of where he plays, Jones will feature on all four special teams units.
Brown Says There Were Three Elements of the Schedule That Led to Frustrations
To be fair to Brown, the schedule was not something that he brought up by himself. Still, his answers to the question of why he was so frustrated were not what Tar Heel fans wanted to hear. Brown mentioned the tough start to conference play that the team has by facing Pittsburgh on the road after a challenging out-of-conference schedule as one of his three frustrations with the team’s 2023 slate. He was also irritated that the team will have to face Virginia at home during fall break because ‘it is not fair to the students.” His last gripe is that the conference scheduled the team’s toughest game before the rivalry game against NC State at the end of the season. Tar Heel Twitter was not happy with these complaints and honestly, who could blame them? The Tar Heels' out-of-conference schedule is not easy, but it isn’t like it is the toughest that the program has ever faced. As for the issue with the Virginia game, every school has had to play a home game at some point during fall break when the student section is light. I respect the South’s Oldest Rivalry as much as anyone else but let’s not act like this game is one that Tar Heel students circle on the calendar each year. Also, this year’s Virginia team, which is set to be one of the worst power conference teams in the country, is one that you should be able to beat with no crowd, let alone a light crowd. When it comes to the tough finish, this is something that other teams in the country have had to deal with before and Brown needs to remember that he was the one that eliminated the yearly FCS opponent being played before the game against the Wolfpack. At this point, let’s hope we don’t have to hear anything more about this from Brown with the team now officially returning to the practice field.
Search Continues for Analyst Similar to Clyde Christensen on Defensive Side of the Ball
One of the biggest news items from Brown yesterday was the return of former Tar Heel quarterback and NFL coaching veteran Clyde Christensen to the staff as an offensive volunteer. The team is ready to dive into spring practice, but Brown says that they are still looking to add someone on the defensive side of the ball. He said that the team is looking for someone with a lot of experience that is willing to take on a similar role to the one Christensen will hold on that side of the ball. Finding that guy will be much easier said than done.
Freddie Kitchens Reached Out to Him About Vacant Job
Along with Brown, new tight ends coach and run game coordinator Freddie Kitchens was introduced to the media. Prior to him taking the stand, Brown revealed just how he got to campus. Following the departure of John Lilly, Kitchens reached out to the head coach of the Tar Heels expressing interest in the position, which led to him and the rest of the staff quickly hosting a Zoom meeting with him. The decision was apparently an easy one for the staff judging by how quickly the hire was made and Brown said he is excited about what Kitchens will bring to the table as a former NFL play caller and head coach.