Chase Page: ‘I can't wait'

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – "It all starts up front." That's the battle plan UNC coach John Bunting has taken during this offseason. With three returning starters on the offensive line – two fifth-year seniors – and a revamped defensive front sure be quicker and with more depth this season, the Tar Heels' focus is on controlling the offensive line of scrimmage, while continuing to get closer to survival on the defensive line.

"We have a great group of seniors, and they are linemen," senior Chase Page said. "In my opinion, linemen are the most important offensively and defensively. Without a solid line, everybody in front of you and behind you is going to have problems."

Page should know, aside from being one of the team's most vocal leaders, he has now moved to defensive tackle from the end position after beginning his college career on the offensive line.

"I'm at tackle, because I'm way too slow to play end," he admitted.

Taking a look at the personnel on the defensive line requires remaining grounded by its relative inexperience. But there is clearly room for optimism, and it's not solely reliant on the fact the only way this group can go is up.

"We've got a lot of leaders – Jonas Seawright and I are seniors, Tommy Davis is a junior and there are seniors all over the offensive line," Page said. "So those guys are pulling the young guys along and just trying to make them work harder. Everybody just seems to want to work harder because they remember what happened last year and they don't want to let that happen again."

New co-defensive coordinators Marvin Sanders and John Gutekunst have been well received by the players, including those on offense. The Tar Heels have the potential to put points on the board in bunches, though it's whether or not the defense has firmed up since allowing 505 yards per game last year that is most in question.

But everyone agrees the two must go hand in hand, with each unit pulling its weight. And if they do, then UNC might post a win total that could surprise and put out the fire under John Bunting's seat.

Outside of the promise of budding young talent on the defensive front (which Carolina now has more of), the arrival of Sanders and Gutekunst have brought an infectious belief in their meshed philosophies.

They talk about simplification and more time spent on base defense and less on multiple variations.

"It's a simple game," Page said. "They line up, you match them and then go tackle the ball. People try to make brain surgery out of it, but it's not that big of a deal – especially for a defensive lineman. If you're making mental errors on the defensive line then you need to study more. That's the way we're looking at it. It's really, really, really easy."

With the high-tech approach now all but abandoned, more time remains to work on mastering the fundamentals. Bunting dedicated 30 minutes of every practice working solely on individual fundamentals.

"It's all about what you put into it," Page said. "Myself, I really worked on pass rushing. Coach [Brad] Lawing really emphasized that. More pressure means more interceptions, and more interceptions means less scores for the other team."

More interceptions for Carolina in 2004 would mean just three. But the Tar Heels' two picks – both by Mahlon Carey in the game at Wisconsin – is only one of many embarrassing statistics from last year that still leaves a bad taste in Page's mouth.

"I can't wait to get out on the field; I will play anybody," Page said. "I'm not even worried about that. I just want to get on the field and hit somebody – and walk off of Kenan field with a victory. I want to get that good feeling back in the pit of my stomach.

"The only way to ease the pain of losing to Duke – losing our [Victory] Bell…when I say that it's just so ridiculous. I mean, Duke played a good game, but there is no way that should have happened."

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