Gene Chizik will join the North Carolina football team’s coaching staff as the Tar Heels’ new defensive coordinator, a team spokesman confirmed Monday.
Joe Schad of ESPN originally reported the news Saturday night around 7 p.m., and The Daily Tar Heel received confirmation around 11 a.m. Monday morning.
“Throughout the hiring process, I worked closely with athletic director Bubba Cunningham to invest in someone who believes in the mission of the University and shares our vision of providing an outstanding experience to the student-athletes,” Fedora said in a statement. “Gene Chizik believes in competing at the highest level both on and off the field and is another highly regarded leader for our program.”
Chizik, a former head coach at Auburn, led the Tigers to a 22-19 victory over Oregon in the 2011 BCS National Championship to cap off an undefeated 2010 season. He was named the 2010 SEC Coach of the Year by the AP. He also went down in school history for the most wins by a head coach in his first three seasons at Auburn with 30.
“I’m thrilled to join Coach Fedora’s staff and I appreciate the trust he and athletic director Bubba Cunningham have in me,” Chizik said in a statement. “It is a tremendous opportunity to coach at one of the most prestigious Universities in the country and live in Chapel Hill. I’m committed to the student-athlete experience they expect at Carolina, and look forward to developing our players into the best they can be in all areas of their lives.”
Before he took over head coaching duties, Chizik was a defensive coordinator at Auburn from 2002 until 2004. In 2004, the Tigers led the nation in scoring defense with 11.3 points and allowed only 277.6 yards per game, good for fifth in the nation. That year the Tigers went 13-0, and Chizik was named the nation’s top assistant coach.
Chizik also served as an assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator at Texas, who won a national championship with his help in 2005. His first full-time collegiate coaching job was at Middle Tennessee State in 1990, the same place Fedora served as an offensive coordinator from 1999 until 2001.
The Tar Heels hope to benefit from Chizik’s experience and his proven ability to help turn struggling teams around. Vic Koenning, who came with Fedora to Chapel Hill in 2012, was at the helm of a defensive unit that allowed a school-record 70 points to East Carolina and at least 40 points on five other occasions in 2014. Against Notre Dame and Clemson, the Tar Heels, who ran a complicated 4-2-5 scheme, gave up 50 points.
UNC ranked 117th nationally out of 125 teams in total defense, allowing 497.8 yards per game in 2014. In 2013, the Tar Heels gave up 55 points in a loss to ECU, and in 2012, Georgia Tech traveled to Chapel Hill and put up 68 to UNC’s 50 for the highest scoring football matchup in conference history at that point.
On Dec. 26, UNC lost to Rutgers in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit, 40-21. News circulated on Dec. 11 that Fedora and Koenning would part ways, and Koenning did not coach in the bowl game. Cornerbacks coach Dan Disch called the plays for the defensive side.
UNC players took to their Twitter accounts to express their excitement about Chizik and what he’ll bring to a defense that desperately needs a turnaround.
Great defensive coordinator, no more excuses on our part. Its time to make a run, starts now. UNC OR NOTHING. ??— Brian Walker (@BWalk28) January 2, 2015
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