Kaufman Adjusting to DC Role

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – It only took a matter of hours for Everett Withers to name Art Kaufman as his defensive coordinator after receiving North Carolina's interim head coaching job on July 28. After all, the two old-school football coaches are cut from the same cloth.

Kaufman, in his third year at UNC, was an obvious choice for the promotion to Withers' former role. The two-time All-America linebacker at Arkansas-Monticello has a wealth of experience after 27 years of coaching including stints as defensive coordinator at four different schools.

Kaufman's first defensive coordinator opportunity came in 1987 at Northwestern State. He later took the Louisiana Tech coordinator/linebackers coach position in the early 1990s before assuming that same role at Mississippi from '95-'00. Kaufman last held the defensive coordinator title in '01-'02 at Arkansas Tech.

The Dermott, Ark. native admitted on Tuesday afternoon that he was still getting acquainted with his new role at UNC.

"It's a little bit of an adjustment, but it's not like it's something new to me because I've done this for 10 years," Kaufman said. "I've been out of it for 7-8-9 years and then going back to it, it does come back to you but it takes a little while to make sure all of the stuff is in line and you've got all of the i's dotted and the t's crossed."

That's not to suggest that Kaufman is rushing to get things in order, however, as there's an eternity – less than three weeks – before the season opener.

"That's why we practice," Kaufman said. "I'm practicing. I go through it and I'm trying to stay ahead of it. Are we ready to play? Well, we've still got 17 days before the first game, so I'm not ready and I don't have to be ready, but I have to be getting ready. That's my focus. I only have to be ready for tomorrow."

Kaufman made his presence felt early in training camp, making a few adjustments to improve the speed and effectiveness in practice.

"Coach Kaufman has really taken control of the defense," cornerback Jabari Price said on Monday. "He's made changes that were for the best of us, so we're just letting him lead the pack. It's for the good."

Don't expect in major shakeup in North Carolina's defensive play-calling this season, as Kaufman indicated things would remain status quo primarily due to the fact that he was involved with building the current defensive philosophy.

"I've been in that room with Everett for two years and we've gone through and put everything in," Kaufman said. "There are some things that he did as a coordinator that popped in his mind, the way things came to him. And for me, a lot of them come the same way because I understand how we put them in, but maybe for a different reason, because I'm teaching ‘backers or from my background, they may not come to me quite as quick.

"So I may do the same thing, but have a little bit different way of calling it or running it. I want to make sure that we know what we're doing, how to do it, and be time efficient with everything we do on the field and off the field. So I try to go in saying, ‘Hey, how can we make this more efficient?' I've learned so much from Everett that now I'm saying, ‘Okay, he called it this way, we're going to do that, and we might can do it this way and it be the same thing and even more efficient.' And I think that's the thing we always try to improve on."

Withers is following in his predecessor's footsteps of serving a CEO role and delegating responsibility to his assistant coaches. As such, Kaufman has been given the freedom to make the changes that he sees fit to make, although their backgrounds align to the point where there would rarely be any surprises.

"The thing is that Everett knows that he and I are on the same page," Kaufman said. "We started in the same system years and years ago – 20-something years ago – and have come up and gone our different ways, but our theories and beliefs are all the same. So again, the little bitty changes are very minimal to what the whole perception and the scheme is going to be.

"We'll be the same type of defense with maybe a little different way to call this or a little different way to call that or play something, but it's the same thing that even from Year 1 to Year 2 with us, we changed things to, ‘Hey, is this a more efficient way or better way to do it?'

Easing Kaufman's transition is the knowledge that UNC returns six starters from a unit that ranked 30th nationally in total defense (338.5 ypg), 22nd in rush defense (125.6 ypg) and 45th in scoring defense (23.2 ppg).

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