CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- On the last two occasions North Carolina changed defensive coordinators, different schemes came in tow. With John Papuchis stepping into that role for 2017, don’t expect such seismic changes. Expect continuity, with potential tweaks.
Even in terms of staff structure, Coach “J.P.” - as he introduces himself - will emulate Gene Chizik’s approach.
“Like Coach Chizik, I won’t coach a specific position group,” Papuchis said. “I view my role as being more of a resource to the different groups. I’ve coached defensive line, linebackers, and the secondary in the past, so I see my role as working with all the different groups, and being a resource to them.”
That means Deke Adams will coach the entire defensive line, Mike Ekeler the linebackers, and Terry Joseph the secondary.
Both Joseph and Ekeler have worked with Papuchis at previous stops, a factor he believes will aid continuity and make the transition to an entirely new defensive staff, save himself, go more smoothly.
“We all sort of grew up together as defensive coaches,” Papuchis said. “Having worked together before helps get us all on the same page quickly.”
Though Papuchis is aware of different defensive schemes gaining wider acceptance in college football, such as the 3-4 and the 3-3-5, he won’t deviate from his foundation.
“I like to learn and see what other defensive coaches are doing, but (I believe in) in certain core beliefs on defense, and they will not change,” he said. “There might be certain concepts we experiment with, but as to the core of the defense, that will not change.”
What that means is that North Carolina will continue to play four down linemen. And it will be primarily a nickel, 4-2-5 defense – as it has been under Gene Chizik - and in certain down and distances a 4-3 defense.
One virtue of this continuity is that over the past three recruiting cycles North Carolina has recruited and developed players to meet the requirements of this defense. When Vic Koenning brought a hybrid version of the 4-2-5 to UNC, the Tar Heels were required to convert players recruited for one style of defense to another. When Chizik came in as defensive coordinator, the roster had to be retooled yet again at certain defensive spots.
Papuchis did not mention any specifics, but said that there would be potential “tweaks” here and there in the defensive scheme and there will always be adjustments based on what the current personnel can do best.
Stay tuned for more of Inside Carolina’s pre-spring interview series with the Tar Heel coordinators.