Spring Game: Defense Notebook

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Inside Carolina's Buck Sanders provides analysis on the defense from Monday's Spring Game ...

* In prior scrimmages, word was that the defense had the upper hand. Today, the offense shined more than expected. "Yeah, all spring we had been barking at them," linebacker Chase Rice said. "They threw it back at us today." The simple defense was to be expected, however, as coaches rarely show their entire scheme at a spring scrimmage, and today was no different.

* Several players said that new defensive coordinator Everett Withers informed the defense that there would not be as much blitzing or stunting as in prior scrimmages. "He told us: ‘We are going to see if you can play today,'" said cornerback Kendric Burney. Or, as Chase Rice, added, "Coach Withers said: ‘We're going to see if you guys can man up.'" Deunta Williams confirmed that the defense knew going in that they weren't going to show their entire repertoire in the scrimmage today.

* The upshot was there was very little blitzing, particularly on the first drive of the first teams going head-to-head. As the day went on, occasionally you'd see Mark Paschal or Chase Rice come on a blitz, and on one occasion, Charles Brown came on a corner blitz. On the other hand, it should hardly be expected that offensive coordinator John Shoop used his entire playbook either.

* In addition, there wasn't as much press coverage until later on in the scrimmage. Last season, however, one rarely saw any corner other than Burney press his man on the corner. Today Brown and Jordan Hemby went into press coverage at various times.

* In a surprise move, tight end Vince Jacobs was moved to defensive end last Thursday and practiced at defensive end again last Saturday. "At first they said to go through the individual [drill]s and see how it felt," Jacobs said. "I think I excited some people in individuals. At defensive end, there are not as many plays or assignments to learn, I can just use my speed and quickness." Jacobs says he is going to try to add 20 pounds of bulk between now and fall camp.

* While some reporters were interviewing Burney after the game, Greg Little walked up and auditioned as a journalist, asking Burney: "How did it feel to get a clean hit on a big running back?" Burney had the hit of the day when he took Little down in the backfield. Burney treaded water a bit after the question, and ended by saying, "Hopefully, he's not mad at me.

* More on Burney and Little – Burney says that Little has really stood out this spring and is going to be a special running back for the Tar Heels. "He may not be the fastest back," Burney said, "but he'll get you with his first step." Defensively, Burney says that Charles Brown is starting to "lock down his corner spot," and is the most improved defensive player.

* On the first team defense, Greg Elleby (SSDE), Marvin Austin (DT), Cam Thomas (DT), and E.J. Wilson formed the defensive line, but Aleric Mullins subbed in with the first team on occasion. Chase Rice (SSLB), Mark Paschal (MLB) and Quan Sturdivant (WSLB) are the starting linebackers. Butch Davis said Sturdivant had a "very good spring at weakside linebacker." Charles Brown (CB), Deunta Williams (FS), Da'Norris Searcy (starting in place of injured Trimane Goddard), and Kendric Burney round out the first team.

* In nickel situations, Brown covers the slot receiver, while Hemby comes in as a corner, and Darius Powell comes in as a pass rushing specialist.

* Darius Powell had a sack today, as did Cam Thomas, Tavares Brown, and Mark Paschal. Tydreke Powell, lining up with the second team at DT, had two sacks, a fumble recovery, and also led all defenders with six tackles.

* There are only 27 defensive players on the spring rosters, discounting the number of injured defensive players. For that reason, there is no clear "third team," on defense. However, a second team would have Tydreke Powell (DT), Tavares Brown (DT), Darius Powell (DE), and walk-on Bryan White on the defensive line. Wesley Flagg (MLB), Kennedy Tinsley (WSLB) and Ryan Taylor would be the second team linebacking corps, while Jordan Hemby (CB), Richie Rich (CB), Melvin Williams (FS), and Matt Merletti (SS), round out the second team, but every available player mixed in with the second team at times, including Vince Jacobs, Johnny White and Tavoris Jolly, who had the lone interception of the game.

* In terms of defensive changes in schemes, Kendric Burney says that Withers is: "A little bit different." He added: "When he first got here, he said we would play a lot more man defense." Today there were several occasions when UNC was in a zone, in particular when Nicks hauled in his 45-yard reception. "He's just a phenomenal player," said Burney of UNC's star wideout.

* On Withers and defensive changes, Coach Davis takes a different view. "There are a lot of similarities [to last year's defense]; there are only so many ways you can line up the X's and O's," Davis said. "Because of his experience and where he's been, the players relate well to [Withers]."

* Davis expressed a lot of concern about the kicking game -- not so much about the kickers, but the holders and snappers. "It's a work in progress," Davis said. The confidence of the kicker in his holder, Davis indicated, is critical to his success.

Inside Carolina Top Stories