Kaufman Takes Charge

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Art Kaufman saw the Tar Heel football program as a good fit from several different angles.

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The new linebacker coach viewed UNC as the right match in terms of defensive coaching philosophy and the type of personnel he prefers. Plus, his familiarity with other staff members and the opportunity to be a part of a program that is raising its level of play cemented his decision to come to Chapel Hill.

"Any time when you talk about top-flight football programs, you look at the university of that state – that's the first thing," Kaufman said. "I knew of Everett (Withers), he and I have crossed paths, and I was at East Carolina for two years, so having been there I knew a lot about this place. I guess I visited here back when Coach (Mack) Brown got here the first couple of years and I knew Carl Torbush and some of those guys and what they had built here.

"I just knew that this place could do some great things, along with Coach (Butch) Davis' reputation. He's from Arkansas, so I've kept up with him and knowing what he's done in the game, and being around a really good staff with some top-flight athletes."

Though his time at UNC thus far has been brief, he's already been impressed with the group of linebackers that he has inherited.

"When I got here, I said, ‘These are the kind of linebackers (Miami had when Butch Davis was there).'" Kaufman said. "I think they are very athletic. The two older guys - Bruce (Carter) and Quan (Sturdivant) - are guys that as I watched them out there, not only are they athletic, but they are guys that have knowledge of the game."

When coming into a new situation, an assistant can often be faced with personnel that doesn't mesh with his coaching philosophy – that won't be a problem for Kaufman.

"The thing is that I look at the group – there are guys that are athletic, which is the same thing that I believe in as coaching linebackers, which is the same thing that Coach Davis did when they were at Miami when he was the D-line coach down there," Kaufman said. "That's a lot of where probably my philosophy came from."

"A linebacker is really a running back on the other side of the ball," Kaufman continued. "A running back knows the play, takes the ball, starts to the hole, and then makes his cut from there. A linebacker for us is to get lined up, know where your gap is or what your assignments are, and then work it, and if the ball is in there, make it, if it's not, then it's just running to the ball.

"So much of it is vision. The really good linebackers to me, they have instincts. There are tips before the ball is snapped that they should be able to pick up, but they also have vision - they can see guys, come and help, see the holes and stuff like that. That's what I'm looking for."

That doesn't mean there won't be a learning curve. The defense will have two new assistant coaches, and they were hired right before the start of spring practice. Coaches will have to adjust to each other and their players, while the players will have to adjust to a new voice and perhaps different styles of teaching. Kaufman recognizes the adjustment, but believes it can be made without stunting the progress of the defense.

"There are only so many different (defensive) concepts," he said. "Now what you call them, or which adjustments you're going to use and what word is used, that's where you've got to get on the same page. I know as we've gone through stuff here, with Coach Withers and Troy [Douglas] and all of us, it's ‘Hey, alright, now we're playing this coverage, it's this formation, what do we call the way we play this concept?'"

With the personnel he has at his disposal, Kaufman already seems to feel he is ahead of the game.

"It's not what you do, it's how you do what do," he said. "It's the little things. If you've got skills and you know what you're doing, then refine your fundamentals and go in and work on your steps, keep your pad level down, put your eyes in the right place - those are the things we work on. I think that's where those guys, the older guys, are at the point where they know what to do, now they can really work on how they're doing it exactly."

What North Carolina is getting in Kaufman is an experienced coach who has played in a wide variety of conferences, and who has faced a wide variety of offenses. In the SEC, Conference USA and elsewhere, Kaufman has been tasked with the responsibility of defending offenses that range from pro-style, spread, option, and everything in between. It was this diverse experience that attracted Butch Davis and the rest of the UNC staff to bringing Kaufman on board.

"Everett and I talked; John Blake, we talked when we interviewed Art," Davis said. "What a valuable asset - somebody that brings in fresh ideas from being at Ole Miss and playing in the SEC, or coaching against the SEC, and being at Southern Miss, and the variety of different offenses that they see.

"You're always looking for fresh ideas."

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