Withers, Part I: Fitting In

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- One common question about North Carolina's defense is how much input head coach Butch Davis has on a daily, operational-level basis. Davis' expertise is on the defensive side of the ball, after all, and the assumption is he would obviously have some input into defensive philosophy and game planning.

Just as offensive coordinator John Shoop indicated in his interview, Everett Withers feels empowered to do his job as defensive coordinator.

"I take it as a plus and as a privilege to work for someone who has an extensive knowledge of defense like Coach Davis," Withers said. "When you have a head coach who has been involved in defense as much as he has in his past, to allow me to run it, be in charge of it, and delegate some responsibilities throughout our staff – I take it as compliment that he allows me to do that. But when he sits in our meetings, I want ideas from him. But he has a greater responsibility, more so than a defensive coordinator or an offensive coordinator – he's in charge of this whole thing."

Inside Carolina's Buck Sanders sat down with UNC defensive coordinator Everett Withers earlier this month for a one-on-one interview. This is a five-part series running all this week from that interview session.
Part I: Fitting In
Part II: Tuesday
Part III: Wednesday
Part IV: Thursday
Part V: Friday

In terms of defensive philosophy, much of that was in place by the time Withers arrived in Chapel Hill. Withers wasn't brought in to implement a new defensive approach, or bring a brand new defensive strategy to Chapel Hill. He was brought in to continue the approach already underway at North Carolina.

"Coming in [last] year for me, this group of players and this group of staff had brought in a system that was very, very similar to what I've been a part of in the past," Withers said. "It was a matter of me really just trying to grow the program or grow the system that had been put in place. So a lot of it was in place -- we may have changed or tweaked some things here or there, but what I wanted to do was just continue what was going on already with this program."

The role of head coach Butch Davis is obviously that of a "CEO."

"For him to just to sit in the offensive meetings or just sit in the defensive meetings isn't realistic – he has to be charge of the whole thing," Withers said. "I think Coach Davis does a great job of being a leader for the entire football team -- offense, defense, and special teams."

During game week, preparing to face the offenses of UNC opponents is obviously a group effort and Davis has a role in that preparation, but it is less micromanaging the various plays and approaches the defense will use on game day than it is in setting a tone for the coming week of practice. On game day, Coach Davis is basically "hands off," aside from making key game management decisions.

"Coach Davis is really good about, during game week, at setting a theme with our coaches and with our team, and allowing us to call the game," Wither said. "Obviously the head coach is always in charge of managing the game, as far as when we punt, timeouts, and that sort of thing, but he allows the coordinators to call the game.

"If there is anything he has an idea on, he's as good as any head coach I've ever been around as far as input - knowing when to offer input and when not to. He's as good as anyone I've ever been around in that aspect."

Withers has found his adjustment to the UNC staff a rewarding one.

"It's been good, and I attribute all that to the guys who are on the staff that were here and Coach Davis," he said. "They made it a really easy transition for me. It has been really easy to come in and fit into this group of coaches. Coach Davis has done a great job of assembling a staff of great guys with a lot of character and a lot of football knowledge and great work ethic."

"I think it was just more of me trying to fit into this group of coaches, but it's been great, it's been a lot of fun. It's been a lot of work, but I don't think we'd have it any other way."

Did you miss Inside Carolina's series on offensive coordinator John Shoop last week? Catch up on all five segments:
Part I: Acclimation, Part II: Game Planning, Part III: Play Calling, Part IV: Strategy, Part V: QB Growth.

For much more from both Withers and Shoop, be sure to read Buck Sanders' "Offseason Report" in the March Issue of the Inside Carolina Magazine.

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