The North Carolina defensive backs, who have maintained the self-appointed moniker since the late 1990s, prided themselves on physical play and dominant defensive coverage.
But after finishing 101st out of 125 teams in pass defense, the Tar Heels brought in two hard-nosed headmen in defensive coordinator Gene Chizik and defensive backs coach Charlton Warren to restore order to a reeling secondary.
“(They) came in with a different scheme and a different mindset for everybody,” said junior cornerback Brian Walker, who swapped jersey numbers this offseason. “We all needed discipline in our technique and everything.
“It’s a new beginning for us.”
Under Warren’s command, it all starts with accountability. The former Air Force player and coach has drilled the fundamentals into his squad, threatening lost playing time for those who fail to meet his expectations.
“It’s been intense,” said junior cornerback Desmond Lawrence. “They want to make sure we know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. They’re really making us students of the game.”
With the hiring of Chizik, UNC abandoned its complex 4-2-5 defense in favor of the more traditional 4-3 setup. For the secondary, the transition means fewer responsibilities and greater understanding of basic assignments.
As a result, Lawrence anticipates fewer breakdowns in the secondary in 2015 — one season after the team allowed 22 plays of 40 yards or more, the most of any team in a major conference.