CHAPEL HILL, NC — If Mack Brown intends to make any offseason changes to the defensive side of the ball on his North Carolina football coaching staff this offseason, he’s in no rush in the immediate.
Brown said Monday he has yet to meet with defensive coordinator Gene Chizik to discuss an assessment. He said most UNC assistants are currently attending the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Over the next two weeks,” Brown said Monday at the Kenan Football Center of his schedule. “There is no urgency at the moment because we have no recruitment. I’m going to sit down with Gene, then every coach and Gene together, and reassess where we are and where we need to go.
It’s been 12 days since UNC’s 28-27 loss to 15th-ranked Oregon in the Holiday Bowl when the Tar Heels performed well on defense without four starters but ultimately couldn’t hold on a 24-14 lead in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Bo Nix and the Ducks had two touchdown passes in the final nine minutes of the game to rally for victory. Nix’s touchdown pass to fourth-placed Chase Cota with 19 seconds left and Oregon kicker Camden Lewis’ extra run conceded on the post provided the final margin and undoing of what UNC had built that night of December 28 at Petco Park in San Diego.
UNC went through a coaching rotation cycle earlier in December when offensive coordinator Phil Longo left for the same position in Wisconsin and took offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. with him to join the new staff. of the Badgers under Luke Fickell. Brown hired Central Florida offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey to replace Longo, and former North Texas offensive line coach Randy Clements to fill Bicknell’s position.
As the Tar Heels charged after the bowling game at the San Diego Padres ballpark, Inside Carolina asked Brown after his official postgame press conference ended if he planned to make any coaching changes on the defensive side of the ball. He said he would visit Chizik on this and more when UNC meets as a team Jan. 6 (Friday of last week) in Chapel Hill.
“I’m going to sit down with Gene and get his opinion,” Brown said, minutes after the bowling game, “and then I’m going to sit down with each coach individually and go through the process, and see what I think about that time.”
Defensive line coach Tim Cross has been the target of some UNC fan displeasure as the Tar Heels quarterback’s sack count has dried up over the past two seasons. UNC finished ninth in the ACC in sacks in 2021 and dropped to last among the league’s 14 teams in that category this season, with just 17 sacks in 14 games. Nationally, only South Florida, BYU and Colorado have produced fewer sacks per game this season than UNC’s average of 1.21 per game, which ranked the Tar Heels 128th out of 131 teams. at the FBS level.
Inside Carolina sources on Holiday Bowl night were skeptical that Brown would fire Cross, in part because of potential player departures that might result from such a move. Cross is one of the most popular coaching staff assistants among UNC players, sources said. The NCAA Winter Transfer Portal window closes on January 18.
Brown brought Chizik back to the UNC program a year ago around this time to address issues that marked the end of former defensive coordinator Jay Bateman’s three seasons on the job. The Tar Heels finished last in the ACC in total defense, giving up a league-worst 436.5 yards per game and 6.1 yards per game, including giving up 649 total yards to Appalachian State in the wild 63-61 shootout victory in the second game of the season. .
This report will be updated with more information and comments from Brown.