Defense Paring Down
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina’s defensive roster has spent the last eight months learning Gene Chizik’s 4-3 scheme. With the installation process finally complete, the unpacking of that data dump has now begun.
Training camp officially came to a close once classes started on Tuesday. However, the Tar Heels are still in a light camp mode until game prep for South Carolina begins next Tuesday.
“We’re starting to really pare down and zero in,” Chizik said after Thursday’s practice. “We’ve put a lot of stuff in. You build a library of what you’re trying to be able to pull from during the year, so now we’ve got to go back and specifically focus on certain coverages, certain things that we’re doing. So now it’s going back in and taking everything piece-by-piece and cleaning it up.”
The standard approach most defensive coordinators employ is to install their complete playbook during training camp and then piece together certain elements to comprise a game plan each week during the season.
While the scheme implementation has been wrapped up, the starting lineup is still in flux at several positions. Both defensive end spots as well as several positions in the secondary remain up for grabs.
Regardless of scheme and personnel, the most notable difference this training camp has been the defense’s confidence in its abilities.
“I’ve seen everything I need to see,” sophomore defensive tackle Nazair Jones said. “I know that this is not the same team that you saw last year and definitely not the same team you saw two years ago when we played South Carolina.”
The prized prospect in North Carolina’s 2015 recruiting class was defensive end Jalen Dalton. After turning heads with his athleticism in spring ball, the 6-foot-6, 280-pound rookie -- who turned 18 years old earlier this month -- has encountered some difficulties in his first training camp.
“He’s getting better, but at this point, he’s at the back of the depth chart,” Jones said. “I think he’s still adjusting to the college game. There’s nothing wrong with redshirting. I sat out a year and I redshirted and then I came in and had a great year my redshirt freshman year. I just tell him to keep his head up because he’s constantly working hard, but sometimes things just don’t click the way they should. Maybe he’ll redshirt, maybe he won’t, but I know he’s still working.”
Junior defensive end Mikey Bart agreed, saying, “I don’t know if he’s ready yet mentally, but he’s got a lot of potential and he could be a good player for us.”
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