After two seasons of mediocre play on the defensive side, Larry Fedora has made radical changes by altering the base set the defense will operate in. In the new defense there will be five players from the secondary on the field. The new defense will have to work on preventing big plays and limiting the run game when players start farther away from the line of scrimmage.
The safeties will be asked to do the most in the new defense. They will have to do a little bit of everything; cover receivers, blitz, contain the run game and provide help on pass plays. The coach of the safeties is Vic Koenning, the man who will also be responsible for reforming most of the Heel's defense this fall. In training camp Koenning has focused a great deal on speed to make sure that the secondary is able to perform its new responsibilities well. Several players to look out for in the secondary are converted corner Tim Scott (now playing safety), Sam Smiley, Kameron Jackson, Dominique Green, Allen Artis, Cameron Albright, Ayden Bonilla, Malik Simmons and Ryan Mangum.
Scott has been singled out because of his speed and coverage ability, which Koenning thinks could be his tools to being one of the best safeties in the nation this season. Smiley seems to be positioned to be more of a big hitter that also possesses elite speed. Jackson has emerged as a leader of the defense off the field who will help inspire his teammates to make plays. Green will build on his performance from last season and is expected to be an impact player on the defense. Artis has emerged as an excellent tackler but as a freshman will need to work on his cover skills in order to play regularly. Albright is another freshman who possesses all the athletic tools to be dominant but will need to be coached up in order to realize his potential. Bonilla has been singled out as a player who can grow into a role as a nickel corner while providing depth this season. Simmons also provides depth and has the speed necessary to make an impact on games. Mangum is a jack of all trades type of player who will play a little bit of everything in the secondary and work primarily out of nickel sets.
The secondary will have to prove its up to the task this year if the defense is to be successful. The key for this group will be to hold opposing offenses in check and prevent big plays. Getting off the field on third down in big games was something that the Heels struggled with last season. If the secondary steps up that should be a much easier task.