And with that, all remnants of the Butch Davis on-field coaching staff have officially been erased at North Carolina.
Larry Fedora officially introduced his coaching staff for the UNC football program on Tuesday, retaining none of coaches that Davis brought on during his four years at the program’s helm.
It’s a fresh start for the team, but not necessarily for the staff. Seven of the eight on-field assistant coaches have worked closely with Fedora in the past, including six members of Fedora’s most recent staff at Southern Mississippi.
“I think that may have been one of the things that attracted the search committee to me because I had a staff ready to go,” said Fedora, who was announced as interim coach Everett Withers replacement on Dec. 8. “So we don’t have to go through a learning curve. They don’t have to learn what I’m all about. They know, and I don’t have to talk about it.”
All but one of the positions has been filled—the running backs coach—and Fedora plans to finalize the staff within the “next few weeks.” Fedora did retain strength and conditioning coach Tom Myslinski.
Blake Anderson will call the shots for offense, taking over for John Shoop and replacing the slower pro-style offense with the faster spread offense.
The spread offense is usually a style that lends itself to high passing and low rushing stats, but Anderson’s style is more balanced. Last season, Southern Miss averaged 252 passing yards per game and 200 rushing yards.
“We’re going to do what our team does the best,” said Anderson on the balanced offense. “If that means the quarterback can run, great. If he’s not a great runner then we’re going to use other guys to do it. Part of my job is using what we’ve got available to us. And we’ll mold through recruiting as the years go.”
Sure to be on repeat all season long is Fedora’s quote from his introductory press conference where he proclaimed if UNC fans were to leave their seats, they would miss a Tar Heel touchdown.
Quarterback Bryn Renner will lose his favorite target, Dwight Jones, to graduation, but has a slew of wide receivers returning next year. They will be under the tutelage of Gunter Brewer, who coached at UNC from 2000-2004 and has become a big name in national recruiting circles.
Brewer coached NFL great Randy Moss at Marshall, current Dallas Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant and recruited Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon, who is sure to go in the top ten in April’s NFL draft.
“We’d like to recruit nationally but we’d also like to recruit here at home,” Brewer said. “We have a lot of people that might be interested in visiting that will probably be surprised that weren’t on the radar screen when they first came because this style of offense produces the Justin Blackmons and Dez Bryants.”
At Brewer’s disposal will be a slew of wide receivers in Chapel Hill. Returning to the Tar Heels will be Erik Highsmith, Jheranie Boyd, Joshua Adams, Sean Tapley, T.J. Thorpe and Reggie Wilkins, among others.
But after just arriving in Chapel Hill on Sunday night, Brewer and the rest of the assistant coaches haven’t seen much of the players they have.
Fedora, who in the past has had a recruiting coordinator on staff, has yet to decide who he wants in that position. The previous recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach Allen Mogridge — a 35-year-old former UNC player who would be seen roaming the sidelines with his hat backwards and full of energy — is replaced by Walt Bell.
Bell graduated from Middle Tennessee State in 2006 and is 27-years old but has experience with Anderson and Fedora. He has played and coached with Anderson since his graduation and understands this style of the spread offense as well as anyone.
But on a more personal level, Bell uses his youth as a way to connect with his players. Since he grew up in the same generation as most of the players he will be coaching next season, he understands both the tempo at which he has to teach and the tempo at which the players need to be given information.
“In terms of recruiting, in terms of being young I’m expected to have a lot of energy,” Bell said. “A lot of these guys have done this for a longtime. I’m expected to go out and see the extra school, see the extra kid, shake the extra hand with a coach.”
Chris Kapiolvic and the soon-to-be named running backs coach round out the offensive assistants for Fedora.
On the other side of the ball, Vic Koenning is coming off a 20-14 win against UCLA in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl as the interim head coach at Illinois. Koenning is the only assistant to have not coached with Fedora, but he said he had his eye on Koenning for a
As associated head coach for defense, Koenning is essentially the No. 2 man. He assumes the associate head coach title, which had been abandoned after John Blake resigned in September 2010 amid allegations of wrong-doing and questions of his involvement with agent Gary Wichard.
When introduced, Koenning began his speech talking specifically about character and academics while putting a lesser emphasis on actual football.
In the 2010 season, 11 defensive players missed at least one game for UNC due to academic misconduct, improper relationships with agents or were held out for precautionary reasons related to either prong of the NCAA investigation.
Even more recently, defensive lineman Donte Paige-Moss sounded off via Twitter about fan support and his displeasure with the UNC coaching staff around the time of the bowl game on Dec. 26. In his rant, Paige-Moss called his coaches “horrible” and intimated that he would leave school early.
He tore his ACL in the Independence Bowl, but Monday declared his intentions to forgo his senior year and enter the NFL draft.
“The thing we’re going to do defensively is teach these young men how to be better men and better people, and running to the football and tackling will be something that’s synonymous with this team,” Koenning said. “I don’t want the boisterous type players. We want players to be confident though and the expectations are going to be extremely high.”
Koenning will work with defensive coordinator Dan Disch to run the defense, but Fedora said how that relationship will work in terms of play calling has yet to be ironed out.
Deke Adams will be the defensive line coach and David Duggan will serve as the defensive assistant coach and special teams coordinator.
The coaches hit the recruiting trail on Tuesday afternoon, and Fedora said he has spent the past few days calling high school coaches in the state and looking at his current roster and how he will manage it.
A wild card for Fedora’s recruiting process is the NCAA sanctions, which are due to come down on UNC at any time. The University already imposed two years of probation, vacation of wins from the 2008 and 2009 seasons and, most importantly to Fedora and his staff, a reduction in three scholarships through the 2014 season.
The NCAA can level greater sanctions against the program, including more scholarship losses and potentially a bowl ban, but precedents are against the latter.
“All we deal with is what we do know and that’s three and then we go from there,” said Fedora, turning his attention to schools competing against UNC for recruits. “The unknown is the toughest thing. Because as long as there’s this unknown sitting out there, that’s what everybody’s going to use. They’re going to make it the worst-case scenario possible when really that’s not what it’s going to be.”
Fedora and his staff will meet with all the players on Jan. 8 at 6 p.m. He said he watched just three minutes of UNC’s Independence Bowl game loss to Missouri because he’s ready to start anew. It will be a fresh start for the program that has been dogged with allegations of misconduct for more than 18 months.
“I want the players to know that when I meet with them on the 8th, whatever reputation they want to have, it starts then,” Fedora said. “Whatever their goal is, it starts then. Whatever they did in the past, it has nothing to do with me or this staff. So we start fresh with every kid at 6 p.m. on the 8th.”
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