Chizik Returns

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina defensive coordinator Gene Chizik returned to practice on Tuesday following a leave of absence to tend to a private family matter.

Chizik’s absence, which lasted nearly two weeks, spanned four spring practices and two scrimmages.

The value in UNC head coach Larry Fedora’s offseason defensive staff acquisitions was apparent during Chizik’s leave due to the level of experience of the position coaches.

“I’ve got great coaches,” Chizik said after practice on Tuesday. “Two of the three position coaches have been coordinators before. This is not new to them. We didn’t miss a beat at all. We felt like we had a good strategy and we moved forward with the plan. It didn’t hold us back in any way.”

Linebackers coach John Papuchis, whose nickname is J.P., spent the last three seasons as Nebraska’s defensive coordinator. Secondary coach Charlton Warren served as Air Force’s defensive coordinator for six years from 2008-13.

Papuchis ran UNC’s defense in Chizik’s absence.

“J.P. took over and they already had an install, so they knew what they were installing,” Fedora said. “That had all been planned, so they just went on as if he was here. J.P. did a nice job of stepping in and making sure we didn’t miss a beat.”

Chizik said he was in constant communication with his defensive staff, including regular Skype sessions to avoid any confusion. The former Auburn head coach indicated that the installation pace actually increased during his time away.

“The last five or six practices have moved fairly quick in terms of installation, but they’ve handled it well,” Chizik said. “We definitely have some things that we have to clean up, but as a whole, I think they’ve handled it well.”

Tuesday marked the 10th of 15 spring practices for the Tar Heels.

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