Price Adjustment

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Growth and maturity arrive at different intervals for college football players. For Jabari Price, all it took was a semester break and a coaching change to elevate his play in the defensive backfield.

The first indication that something was different about the Pompano Beach, Fla. product came courtesy of senior linebacker Kevin Reddick in a packed Mallard Creek (Charlotte, N.C.) High School cafeteria last April.

A simple question about the secondary's progress provided a platform for Reddick to expand on Price's growth.

"I just want to talk about No. 4, Jabari Price," Reddick said. "That dude has grown up. I don't know what has gotten into him, but he's grown up from a little boy to a man. He's still got work to do, but as far as me playing with him for the past two years, I've seen a total difference. I think he'll be great this year."

After registering just one tackle in a reserve role at cornerback in North Carolina's loss to Missouri in the Independence Bowl in December, Price returned home to Florida seeking counsel from mentors and former teammates in an effort to regain his footing and properly adjust his mindset.

That visit, along with his introduction to new defensive coordinator Dan Disch upon returning to Chapel Hill, served its purpose.

"I've got to credit Coach Disch," Price said. "When Coach Disch came in, he allowed me to play to my ability, play to what I do best and implement his scheme at the same time, so that we both could create success. When he was able to do that, it just gave me the green light to step up and make plays for this defense."

Familiarity with other members of the North Carolina coaching staff also helped. Head coach Larry Fedora recruited Price during his tenure at Southern Miss and he also camped in 10th grade under associate head coach for defense Vic Koenning at Kansas State.

Price missed the first four games of the 2011 season sidelined due to a torn tendon in his right hand, but upon re-entering the lineup, the 6-foot, 195-pounder played conservative, more scared to make a mistake than take the risk necessary to make a play. Price summed up that approach rather well, saying, "You can never be successful like that on defense."

When spring ball arrived, Price's emphasis was on a new beginning and he proved that over the course of 15 practices as coaches and players alike struggled to remember a pass completed on the cornerback. His improvement continued during the offseason, prompting the strength and conditioning staff to tab him as "compelled" – the highest level of effort awarded within the program.

"Last year, he was kind of the new kid on the block as far as playing experience went," quarterback Bryn Renner said on Monday. "But he's just grown up. He's the leader now…

"He's taken that next step and, hands down, he's the hardest one to go against in practice. He makes my job tough and makes me a lot better."

Fedora also complimented Price on having a solid training camp.

"Jabari's going to be that boundary corner for us that's going to be asked to do some things that are very physical in nature and he will do those things," Fedora said. "He's responded very well this entire camp."

The boundary corner is responsible for covering the short side of the field. For example, if the ball is set on the left hash, the boundary corner will defend between the left hash and the sideline while the field corner covers the larger area of the field, typically with more safety help. In North Carolina's 4-2-5 defensive scheme, the Ram – a hybrid linebacker-defensive back role – is also on the field corner's side.

"Boundary corner plays to my strength," Price said. "A lot of teams go 3-by-1 to the boundary. I'm on the single receiver side, going man-to-man. A lot of teams will try to pick on that side, but they won't be successful. I have run fits as well where I'm also an extra guy in the box, so when I'm in the boundary, I also have to come up and make tackles and fit where needed in the box."

In order to constantly improve his coverage skills, Price has made a point to line up against UNC's veteran wide receivers, such as Erik Highsmith and Jhay Boyd, as much as possible in practice.

Two years after being thrust into the starting lineup against LSU as a freshman that barely knew the playbook, Price is now determined to serve as a leader in the secondary and prove his worth as a lockdown corner in the ACC.

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