Conversation with Gene Chizik, Part III

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – In Part III, which concludes the Q&A, Chizik talks about the types of offenses he’ll face in the Coastal Division and in the ACC. He discusses the importance of “buy-in” from the players and what that will look like. How much of the defense can he install during spring practice? Finally, he discusses how to teach his mantra, “selflessness, toughness, and discipline.”

Have you had a chance yet to look at the level of competition in the Coastal Division specifically, and the ACC in general, and the best type of defense to match up with those offenses?

Absolutely. Absolutely we have looked at all the different offenses and what different people are doing, the lion’s share of what types of offenses, if you can group them together, that we will see more of than others.

Obviously this is a very competitive division, very competitive side, and everybody’s got really good players, everybody’s got really good schemes, but regardless of what the schemes are week-to-week versus a spread-ish offense versus a pro-ish offense, if you will; doesn’t matter. We build the foundation of the defense the exact same way and we expand out from there once they understand the foundation of the defense.

Foundationally they’ve got to understand alignments, what they are supposed to be doing, and then how to approach the football and tackle it. I don’t want to dumb it down, but that’s it.

In terms of everything you want to get done, are 15 spring practices enough to install everything you want to install, or will it be an ongoing process through fall camp, and even into the season?

That’s a very good question, answered by the fact of are we ready to leap to the next thing. Are we ready to take the leap to learn the next coverage? If we haven’t made enough significant progress on ‘X’ coverage, we can’t go to the ‘Y’ coverage, because ‘Y’ coverage will probably be built in principle on ‘X.’ Same thing with fronts, defensive fronts.

We would love to say that within 15 days we’d get through 90 percent of our install. That would be the goal, but that’s really going to be dictated by how fast these guys can absorb, process, and execute what we are doing.

Last year, defensively, what the players went though was bad, historically bad at UNC. How do you mend that, obtain buy-in, does your prior success play a role in that?

Buy-in is always extremely important as we all know, so that really matters. We as coaches know that.

The true buy-in from players, when you get right down to it, you hope it is buy-in time, but when they buy-in matters when they get out there on Saturdays during the season and either they are playing well and executing, or they’re not – or at least seeing some level of improvement.

You can get all the buy-in you want before September. It’s not hard to buy-in, you know, you’ve got to believe what I say, and how its going to work, and all those things. But the true level of buy-in is going to come once the season starts. That’s been my experience.

Right now we’re developing player-player relationships, we’re developing player-coach relationships, that’s what we’re doing as we go, based on how we teach and how we coach and the trust that comes with that slowly but surely.

I told the players the other day, ‘You shouldn’t trust me, you don’t even know me, but I don’t trust you either, and I don’t know you, but slowly but surely by September 1st, I feel confident that both of those will happen.’

In terms of teaching, your mantra has been selflessness, toughness, and discipline. How do you teach those things?

I think we develop that through strain. Through straining. Through pressing, and straining, and demanding, and watching them operate with pressure. It’s that simple.

You need to be disciplined when the strain is on, when you’re tired, when we’re pressing you, when we’re riding you, when we’re all over you. Are you tough? Are you mentally tough? Or are you going to tap out right now because a coach got on you because he’s told you something four times in a row and you’re still not doing it? So we’re going to put pressure on the players.

We’re going to love them up, hug them up when they do it right, we’re going to put pressure on them when they do it wrong. I think all those things get developed through strain.

We had Blue Dawn workouts here leading up to spring practice. I want to see what you are like when you’re straining, when you don’t think you can finish, when you don’t think you can do it.

The selflessness part comes in those arenas too. When you are dying, but your buddy is over there dying more than you, can you pick him up, help him get through it too? ‘I know you are tired, but…’ and things like that. I think it is all developed through strain.

That’s what we’ve been trying to do since I got here, both mentally in the classrooms and meeting rooms, and on the field as well.

Inside Carolina Top Stories