Position-by-Position - The Safeties

We continue the post-spring position-by-position analysis with a look at the safety position, completing the defensive secondary outlook for 2001.

There has  been a "switch" in terminology in regard to the safety positions under the new coaching staff.  

In previous years, the free safety had more run responsibilities than the strong safety, who concentrated more on pass protection.  The reverse is true under the new system, with the strong safety have more run responsibility than the free safety. 

As a freshman in 1998, Billy-Dee Greenwood, started two contests, and despite being limited early in the season with an ankle injury, had 78 tackles, including 33 unassisted tackles.  In 1999, as a sophomore free safety, led the UNC team in tackles with 69 solo tackles and 49 assists – a total of 118 tackles.  In 2000, he lost his starting job early in the season to Defonte Coleman.   

Soon after the new coaching staff took over, Greenwood set about regaining his starter's job, beginning in winter workouts.  Coach Connors says, "Billy-Dee Greenwood [in off-season workouts] has shown a renewed commitment to strength and conditioning." 

Apparently, that off-season work ethic carried over to the practice field.  Coach Bunting says, "Billy Dee Greenwood has competed very day at the highest level, and is providing good leadership." 

As a result, Greenwood has emerged as the starting free safety coming out of fall practice.  However, the challenge from Coleman may not yet be over.  Coleman suffered a bout with mononucleosis after last season, and lost from 215 pounds down to 193 pounds this spring.   

Coleman finished third on the team in tackles in 2000, his first year on defense at the college level, converted from a wide receiver to play free safety last year.  Whoever winds up as the starter, the Tar Heels will benefit from the competition. 

At free safety, sophomore Dexter Reid starts.  Reid, in part-time action, was productive for the Tar Heels, and is one the fastest players on the roster.  Though he split time last season with senior David Bomar, he finished fifth on the team in tackles, with 35 solo stops and 69 total tackles.  He also had six pass break-ups and an interception to his credit.   

JoVon Lewis, a red-shirt freshman, backs up Greenwood at strong safety, and is the only new face on the two-deep roster in the entire secondary for the Tar Heels. 

On balance, the secondary should be a major strength for the Tar Heels in 2001. The Tar Heels have both starting corners back, both reserve corners, two strong safeties with starting experience, and their nickel back returning.

Though the defensive scheme under Jon Tenuta may be different and "more aggressive," the Tar Heels will obviously benefit from having so many "combat veterans" on the field in the secondary.

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