CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – When Larry Fedora arrived at North Carolina in December 2011, he carried with him a simple motto about the three traits he wanted out of his football team: Smart, Fast, Physical.
At North Carolina’s annual football media day on Wednesday, sophomore defensive end Dajuan Drennon suggested a change to that motto.
“I think we should change our slogan to ‘Physical, Smart, Fast’ because that’s basically what we’ve been working on,” Drennon said.
When asked what he wanted his defense to be known for, new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik replied: “Physicality.”
“Everything in this game is about physicality,” he continued. “I have never been around a good defense that’s not physical.”
Considering North Carolina’s defensive woes last season, it’s no surprise that players and coaches want to ramp up the physicality.
North Carolina allowed more than 497 yards per game in 2014 and ranked 117th out of a possible 125 FBS teams in total defense. One of the biggest factors in these numbers came from poor tackling, which is something Chizik has worked to address in training camp.
“We’ve got to be light years above where we were last year in terms of tackling,” Chizik said. “We’re not there yet.”
Tackling is part of Chizik’s three keys to a better defense, along with each player doing his job and knowing situational football.
Fedora said Chizik’s approach to the game was “definitely a mentality change” for the defensive roster. Instead of a defensive end potentially being labeled a pass rusher, the new outlook is based on the foundation that the players share the responsibility of stopping the opposing offense and then any specialty roles are additions.
The physicality has picked up on both sides of the ball, according to Fedora.
“I thought there was some great hitting on both sides of the ball,” Fedora said about Sunday’s scrimmage. “Being physical was not a factor in that scrimmage at all.”
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