Fedora informed his players during a team meeting on Saturday morning that Koenning had left the program and that defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach Dan Disch would head the defense and call the plays during UNC’s appearance in the Quick Lane Bowl against Rutgers in Detroit on Dec. 26.
“I didn’t see it coming,” senior safety Tim Scott said. “I didn’t think that it was going to happen like that. But things happen; it’s a business.”
Koenning’s unit finished the 2014 regular season ranked 115th nationally in total defense (495.7 ypg) and 116th in scoring defense (38.9).
Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin is one of four candidates that Fedora is targeting for UNC’s opening, according to sources.
“I want a guy that’s going to be high energy,” Fedora said. “He’s going to be a guy that’s very positive, a guy that’s going to be excited about coaching those guys and a guy that’s going to get 11 hats to the ball.”
Fedora said he does not have a date circled to fill the position by, only saying he wanted it done “as soon as possible.” The third-year UNC head coach does not anticipate any further defensive staff changes at this time.
Fedora’s teams have utilized a 4-2-5 defensive scheme for the past four years. He’s not adamant about moving out of the 4-2-5, but acknowledged he would be open to a 4-3 or 3-4 base depending on the new defensive coordinator’s schematic preference.
Koenning’s critically honest media sessions had turned some fans off to his approach. Junior linebacker Jeff Schoettmer dismissed the notion that possible friction between Koenning and the players played a role in the defensive struggles this season.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Schoettmer said. “We’re actually trying to figure that out ourselves. There’s been times when we’ve played great and there’s been times that we’ve looked horrible, so we’re trying to figure that out ourselves.”
Scott pointed to energy level, or lack thereof, as a primary factor in the defense’s performance.
“We just didn’t get up when we needed to get up for the games,” Scott said. “The only game I can honestly say we got riled up for was Duke.”
One note of interest Schoettmer highlighted was that UNC’s upperclassmen were recruited to the previous staff’s 4-3 scheme and that a potential issue could have been that certain players were forced to play out of position in Koenning’s 4-2-5 base.
Fedora, however, said he didn’t think switching to a 4-3 or 3-4 would present any personnel issues after recruiting to a 4-2-5 for three years.
“You’ve got guys that can play,” Fedora said. “Whether they’re at the bandit or at the ram… A ram is a guy that’s been a hybrid that can play both spots. Whether you’re in a 4-3 or a 3-4, you’re in so much nickel and dime coverages these days that you’re using a lot of secondary people. So I think we’ll fit whichever way we go.”
Fedora added that his defense would have to do a better job in matching personnel with some of UNC’s ACC Coastal Division foes that feature power run games, such as Georgia Tech, Miami and Pittsburgh.