In 2014, the Tar Heels had a disappointing finish to a season filled with hope, culminating in an uninspired bowl performance that saw them finish the season 6-7.
After that effort Larry Fedora hired Gene Chizik to run the defense, and Fedora would have arguably his two best season as coach, including Chizik’s first in 2015 that saw Carolina make it all the way to the ACC Championship. The Tar Heels regressed slightly in ‘16, but after Chizik left in 2016, the bottom fell out for the Tar Heels leading to the return of Mack Brown.
Mack Brown decided that after a 2020 season that was disappointing despite promise, and a lackluster bowl game, Chizik can do it again.
On Saturday, UNC officially announced the hiring of Chizik as Assistant Head Coach-Defense. That’s an important distinction, as it makes clear who’s making the final calls for the defense, and that Chizik is responsible for the defense as a whole, not coaching one group at the same time.
The hire is also a reunion for Brown personally: Chizik was a co-defensive coordinator for Brown at Texas for their 2005 National Champion team, after which Chizik was able to go on to Auburn and win a title on his own. The story goes that Brown initially wanted Chizik back when he was first hired, but for one reason or the other it didn’t happen. Now the two are reunited and hope to spark a change in a defense that has the talent but hasn’t panned out.
Outgoing coordinator Bateman was also responsible for coaching the safeties, and with Chizik not being responsible for a group that position coach was still open. The answer was in the former DC for Indiana, Charlton Warren. Warren was the DB coach for Carolina during that 2015-16 timespan under Chizik, and after that moved over to coach the same position at Georgia. He only had one season as the IU defensive coordinator, where the Hoosiers finished 71st in total defense, and gave up 384 yards per play. He’s proven track record of success in the secondary with both UNC and Georgia, as well as the previous experience with Chizik, should lead to a smoother coaching experience for the players on the field.
It’s worth noting, on defense the structure is Chizik as the head coach of the defense, Tommy Thigpin and Warren as Co-defensive coordinators, and those worried that Dre Bly will be set aside as he was the CB coach shouldn’t worry, Bly will still be in charge of the corners.
The moves are unlikely to be the last for Carolina, as the Special Teams social and outside linebackers spots are still open. It’s still unknown if there will be any shake ups on the offensive side of the ball, but it’s clear based on performance Brown is prioritizing the defense first.