To get an idea of the four starters in North Carolina’s defensive backfield, all you need to do is ask them about each other.
Here’s free safety Myles Dorn on K.J. Sails, the team’s top cornerback: “He’s just a nasty, in-your-face type of guy. I kind of feel like that’s what makes him good — I mean, he’s not the biggest, not the fastest, not the strongest. But he has that heart.”
Here’s Sails on Dorn and J.K. Britt, UNC’s two starting safeties: “Man, with those guys back there, I don’t really worry about much … they’re going to let you know what it is and what it’s not.”
And here’s Britt, a strong safety, on Dorn: “Me and Myles? It’s a good relationship, man. He kind of controls the air, and I like to control down low.”
It even extends to Patrice Rene, who isn’t penciled in at the No. 2 cornerback spot, but is the clear frontrunner. Sails emphasizes that Rene’s confidence “is out the roof right now — he’s playing great.”
Britt is a senior; Sails, Dorn and Rene are all juniors. Assuming that starting lineup holds, the four will enter UNC’s season opener at California with a combined 97 games of experience and 37 starts.
It’s the reps of these four, and the relationships between them, that have inspired confidence in a program looking to start anew after a 3-9 season in 2017. Among their supporters is their head coach, Larry Fedora.
“Those guys have been out there a bunch — I feel good about them,” Fedora said on Wednesday, in his last interview of the preseason. “We don’t have that alpha dog (like) M.J. Stewart back there, who has been killing it. But those guys, as a unit, have been doing a really good job.”