Third Starter at DT

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – When Everett Withers was recently asked if any of his players had surprised him with their play during training camp, the North Carolina interim head coach pointed to defensive tackle Jordan Nix.

"Nix is pushing Tydreke Powell right now really hard," Withers told reporters on Thursday. "We didn't really know what we would get from Jordan this year, but he's been a pleasant surprise because he will help us. We consider Jordan a third starter at [defensive] tackle right now."

Nix signed with Oklahoma in March 2007 after a late push to secure a necessary ACT score. But the Lawton, Okla. native's stay in Norman lasted just two months once he arrived on campus in June.

Former UNC defensive line coach John Blake had recruited Nix while he was coaching at Nebraska in '07, and that bond held firm after the decision to leave Oklahoma. Nix's high school coach initiated the contact with Blake to inquire about the possibility of a transfer to North Carolina.

"I really wasn't getting along with my coach at Oklahoma – personality clash," Nix said. "I remembered Coach Blake recruiting me and then I called him up and went to junior college for a little bit and then came through here."

The red-shirt senior played in 11 games last season and started against Rutgers and William & Mary, totaling 18 tackles, a fumble recovery and a quarterback pressure.

Nix enters his final season of eligibility under his fifth different defensive line coach, if you count his abbreviated stay in Norman. After Blake resigned following the LSU season opener last September, longtime NFL assistant Charlie Coiner took over the position until Joe Robinson arrived after the season from LSU to assume UNC's defensive line coach duties.

Nix describes Robinson as a players' coach that is very specific when it comes to drill selection in focusing on fundamentals and technique. Despite the high turnover, Nix understands how college football works.

"It's a business," Nix said. "You learn. It was hard when Coach Blake left, most definitely, but you kind of learn to move on because once you get to the next level – if you get to the next level – you might be gone after the first two days. You never know, so you learn not to get too attached and just move on and play ball."

Withers and Robinson plan to continue former head coach Butch Davis's approach of rotating plenty of bodies along the defensive line in an effort to keep all of the players fresh throughout the course of a 65-75 snap game.

"It helps me a whole lot having guys like [Quinton] Coples and Tydreke, and now [Donte] Paige-Moss and [Sylvester Williams] coming in to realize that the plays that I do get in, I can go as hard as I want to go," Nix said. "Because I know somebody just as good as me is coming in right after me, if I need that break."

The 6-foot-3, 295-pound rush tackle excels against the run, while his focus has been on improving his pass rushing skills and solidifying his ability to play both interior line positions.

"I'm just trying to play my role on the team," said Nix, adding that his season goals are 10 sacks and 70 tackles.

With three defensive tackles currently interchangeable, the Tar Heels are currently looking for another option to step up.

"We're looking for a fourth guy right now," Nix said. "We've got some young guys stepping up. But like Coach said, I go with the ones, Tydreke goes with the ones and Sylvester goes with the ones – we all go with the ones, that's the little rotation that we've got."

Red-shirt freshman Ethan Farmer had assumed that role before a minor injury set him back, but he has since returned to practice and is battling along side true freshmen Shawn Underwood and Devonte Brown. Nix indicated all three players have been making strides during camp.

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