UNC Officially Names Gene Chizik D-Coordinator

After weeks of speculation surrounding former Auburn national championship-winning head coach Gene Chizik, the vetting process is now over.

UNC head football coach Larry Fedora announced Monday the latest addition to his coaching staff. Coach Chizik will attempt to resurrect a defense that ranked near the bottom of the NCAA in most statistical categories last season.

***Full statement from UNC***

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – University of North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora announced Monday that Gene Chizik has been hired as the Tar Heels’ defensive coordinator. Chizik, who won national championships at Auburn and Texas, has long been considered one of the brightest defensive coaches in college football and is an experienced leader who will work with Fedora to achieve excellence on and off the field.

Chizik, 53, served as head coach at Auburn from 2009-12 and led the Tigers to three bowl victories, including the 2011 BCS title game, which followed an undefeated 2010 season. Previously, he was the defensive coordinator at Texas under Mack Brown when the Longhorns captured the 2005 national championship.

Chizik also was Auburn’s defensive coordinator from 2002-04 where he built one of the nation’s most dominating defenses. In 2004, he earned the Broyles Award as the top assistant coach in the country when Auburn went 13-0, won the Southeastern Conference and finished No. 2 in both national polls.

Since leaving Auburn in 2012, Chizik has served as an analyst for ESPN, working most recently with the SEC Network. He also worked as a college football analyst with Sirius/XM radio.

“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,” said Fedora. “Gene Chizik believes in competing at the highest level both on and off the field and is another highly regarded leader for our program.”

“I’m thrilled to join Coach Fedora’s staff and I appreciate the trust he and athletic director Bubba Cunningham have in me,” said Chizik. “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.”

As head coach at Auburn, Chizik had an Academic Progress Rate (APR) of 970 or above in three of his four seasons, including a 985 in his third year and a 978 in his final season. APR is a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete, each term. The highest score attainable is 1000.

“Academic success is one of the highest priorities for our team and we are committed to bringing in coaches and staff who value and protect our academic integrity,” said Fedora.

Chizik has also been heavily involved in college football reforms. Just this past August, the NCAA invited him to serve on a 12-person committee tasked with examining the recruiting culture in college football and evaluating the current national letter of intent signing dates. The committee was organized in conjunction with the NCAA and reported to the Collegiate Commissioners Association.

Throughout his career, Chizik’s players have earned several national awards, including the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, Lombardi Award and Thorpe Award.

Chizik was head coach at Iowa State from 2007-08. He also coached previously at Clemson, Middle Tennessee State and Central Florida.

Chizik earned his B.A. degree in education from Florida in 1985 and his M.A. in guidance and counseling from Clemson in 1991.

A Clearwater, Fla., native, Chizik and his wife, Jonna, have identical twin daughters, Landry Grace and Kennedy Danielle, and a son, Cally.


Poll: Should UNC Football Hire Chizik?

Earlier this month, word broke that UNC was looking to hire Gene Chizik, who coached Auburn to a national title in 2011, as its defensive coordinator.

But we recently reported that the hiring was slowed by concerns with Chizik’s controversial past, especially in light of the recent controversies surrounding UNC football.

Now it’s your turn to make your voice heard with our Chapelboro poll:


Fedora, Tar Heels Welcome Early Enrollees

Following a disappointing 6-7 season and the news of the likely hire of former Auburn coach Gene Chizik as the defensive coordinator, UNC football head coach Larry Fedora announced the enrollment of 10 student-athletes to campus Wednesday, the first day of spring classes in Chapel Hill.

Nine of the 10 graduated early from high school, including defensive back J.K. Britt, defensive lineman Jalen Dalton, wide receiver Juval Mollette, quarterback Anthony Ratliff, linebacker Andre Smith, offensive lineman William Sweet, tight end Carl Tucker, offensive lineman Mason Veal and running back Ty’Son Williams.

Deep snapper Cody Crafford transferred to UNC from Penn State.

“We’re excited to welcome these students to campus and look forward to having them in classes and around our team and coaches,” Coach Fedora says. “Enrolling early in January will allow them to get ahead on their school work and begin early preparation for the 2015 season. We believe these players have the ability to help our team succeed in the years ahead while earning a degree from one of the nation’s top academic institutions.”


Chizik To Chapel Hill?

Former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik is expected to accept a job with North Carolina as defensive coordinator, sources have told ESPN’s Joe Schad.

Chizik was at the helm for the Tigers from 2009 to 2012 and won the national title in 2010. He amassed a 33-19 overall record.

But after going 3-9 in 2012, Auburn agreed to pay Chizik a buyout of $7.5 million when he had $10.8 million left on his contract.

The Tar Heels finished this season with a disappointing 6-7 record and lost to Rutgers 40-21 in the Quick Lane Bowl.

Chizik, meanwhile, had been working as an analyst for ESPN’s SEC Network since August.

Chizik is known for his defensive prowess, but would have his work cut out for him in trying to resurrect a Tar Heel defense that ranks near the bottom of the FBS in most statistical categories.

No official statement on the potential hire has been released by UNC at this time.


Murky Future For 2015 Football Tar Heels

In head coach Larry Fedora’s third year at the helm of the North Carolina football team, the Tar Heels finished with a 6-7 record – the first losing campaign for UNC since 2007. Following a lethargic bowl loss to Rutgers, where is the football program headed?

***Listen to the story***

It would take a beaming optimist to project much success for the Tar Heels in 2015. Things don’t look good.

Coach Fedora will have some soul searching to do in the offseason for a number of reasons other than the disappointing finish to the season that saw the Tar Heels get outscored 75-28 in their final two games.

Quinshad Davis was loaded on a stretcher in the bowl game - will miss spring practice (UNC Athletics)

Quinshad Davis was loaded on a stretcher in the bowl game – will miss spring practice (UNC Athletics)

“We’ll pick everything apart. We’ll pick every player apart. We’ll look at every player we’ve got. We’ll look at every play that they played and what their problems were and what their mistakes were. We’ll do it with offense, defense and special teams. We’ll do it with each and every unit and then we will determine what was good, what wasn’t good, why it wasn’t good, how we get corrected. It’s what you do each and every year,” Coach Fedora says.

The most concerning issue for Carolina may be the penalties. UNC was one of the most penalized teams in the nation, collecting 93 penalties in the regular season alone. It’s tough to point to one glaring issue either. The yellow flags have come from everywhere on the field for a multitude of infractions.

Not to mention, it was a historically awful year for a Carolina defense that routinely surrendered north of 40 points per contest and was gashed in every way possible, including a whopping five yards per opponent rushing attempt. Yikes!

Many players have voiced their frustration with the complexity of learning the 4-2-5 system scheme employed by recently fired defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. But yet the Tar Heels didn’t change anything for the bowl game in Koenning’s absence.

Photo courtesy of The Daily Tar Heel

Photo courtesy of The Daily Tar Heel

Will Coach Fedora and whoever the new defensive coordinator ends up being see fit to move over to a more comfortable 4-3 formation moving forward?

An even better question may be how will the coaching staff build excitement and energy heading into spring ball with no momentum and a team that seems more divided than ever? (Just take a look at some of the honest, but pointed comments from senior safety Tim Scott, junior QB Marquise Williams and sophomore receiver Ryan Switzer in the locker room in Detroit last week!)

Luckily for Carolina, there may be a glimmer of hope. A majority of the team will be returning next fall, including an infusion of a few highly-touted recruits like talented New Bern cornerback Mike Hughes.

But for now, it’s clear the Tar Heels have hit close to rock bottom. The question is…can they pick themselves back up?



Tar Heels Tumble In Quick Lane Bowl

The North Carolina football team fell flat in a 40-21 loss to Rutgers as running back Josh Hicks dashed for 202 yards and a touchdown in the inaugural Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field Friday.

With the loss, the Tar Heels finished with a 6-7 overall mark on a season that began with high hopes and a Top 25 ranking.

Rutgers signal caller Gary Nova threw for 184 yards and two touchdowns, and Robert Martin ran for 100 yards and two scores to help the Scarlet Knights cap their first Big Ten season with an 8-5 record.

Hicks was selected as the player of the game for his efforts.

“The game of football is pretty simple,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora says. “If you give away the ball on offense, don’t force any turnovers on defense and make multiple game-changing mistakes on special teams, you aren’t going to win football games.”

Owned and operated by the NFL’s Detroit Lions, the bowl replaced the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl, which had been played in Detroit under a variety of names since 1997. The announced attendance was a disappointing 23,876 — smaller than all but one Pizza Bowl.

Williams struggled all game to lead the UNC offense (UNC Athletics)

Williams struggled all game to lead the UNC offense (UNC Athletics)

Rutgers led 40-7 before the Tar Heels scored twice in the final 7 minutes of play. UNC also had two second-half touchdown passes taken away because of controversial interference penalties.

UNC quarterback Marquise Williams was never able to get going, although he did throw for one score and run for another. Most of the night, he was under considerable pressure from the Rutgers defensive front that consistently got into the backfield with only four men up front.

Williams got North Carolina on the board with a 1-yard run on the opening drive of the second half, but the Scarlet Knights came right back with a 34-yard pass from Nova to Andrew Turzilli to make it 30-7. Martin’s second touchdown run — this one from 28 yards — gave Rutgers a whopping 30-point advantage early in the fourth.




UNC Football Aims to Stay Focused Offensively

As the 6-6 UNC football team prepares for the Quick Lane Bowl against Rutgers, the offense looks to stay focused and establish some type of consistency, with hopes of finishing the season with a winning record for the third time under head coach Larry Fedora.

Offensive coordinator Seth Littrell says inconsistency plagued the offense throughout the year, and was the main reason they never reached the level of potential he believes this group could have achieved.  However, he still sees plenty of reasons for motivation on his side of the ball; recovering from the devastating regular season-ending loss to NC State being the most influential.

While it may be easy to conclude that players would have their eyes set on winter break after a frustrating season capped with a loss in the NC State game, junior offensive guard Landon Turner says that “nobody has cashed in on this season at all, we’re still 100 percent focused, it’s still 2014, so we’ll worry about 2015 when it gets here.”

Quarterback Marquise Williams spear-heads the UNC attack  (ACC.blogs)

Quarterback Marquise Williams spear-heads the UNC attack (ACC.blogs)

Closing the year with a win to rinse out the bad taste left behind from the State game seems to be the dominant theme in the locker room, but there are still other goals to be accomplished for some of the members of the offense.

With a touchdown catch against the Scarlet Knights, junior wide receiver Quinshad Davis would break his tie with Hakeem Nicks atop the school’s list of all-time touchdown receptions, leaving him all alone at the top with 22 for his career.

Also, the game will give promising freshman tailback Elijah Hood a chance to prove that he is fully recovered from the injuries that have cost him the last two months of the season, as well as an opportunity to impress coaches leading into next year’s campaign.

The Quick Lane Bowl will be shown on ESPN at 4:30 P.M. on December 26th from inside the home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions, Ford Field.


Oakes’ Outlook: Bowls, Roles, and Noles


And so the Tar Heels’ disappointing 2014 campaign will come to a close in Motown. It’s a fitting end (a dreary and cold one in the Midwest at that) for Carolina in a season that began with its head coach, Larry Fedora, proclaiming “it’s time.” Time for what, exactly, I’m not sure, but it certainly wasn’t a trip to the Quick Lane Bowl to face the equally mediocre 7-5 Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

Grab your tickets, folks! Get ‘em while they’re hot. I hear you can grab a pair of upper deck tickets for $75 each. After all, who doesn’t want to spend Christmas in Detroit?

The only one who might be excited about UNC’s bowl destination is Eric Ebron. The ex-Tar Heel turned Detroit Lion won’t have to travel far to watch his former teammates play. Enjoy, Ebron. I’m sitting this one out.

Photo courtesy of longshotblues.com

Photo courtesy of longshotblues.com



Strap yourselves in, Carolina fans. I’m setting the over/under for the number of times we hear the word “platoon” Saturday at 50. Place your bets!

If you haven’t heard, the Tar Heels head to Rupp Arena Saturday for a meeting with the No. 1 team in the land – the Kentucky Wildcats. I’m still waiting to hear back from John Calipari’s folks for an interview…then I can ask him which side he’d like on that over/under. He’s a betting man, right?

The real question in this game is whether the blue platoon or the white platoon gets more playing time. “What did you think about that platoon shift there? I don’t know, Calipari may have taken the blue platoon out a little too soon – they’re a more offensively-gifted platoon.” Just a taste.

But let’s face it: the result isn’t really in doubt. The margin of victory? Sure. UK is really good.

Just remember, we won’t be watching a war movie this weekend. This will be college basketball. It will be easy to confuse the two. You’ll be all “platooned” out when the final buzzer sounds around 2 p.m. Saturday.

FREE ADVICE: Get your earplugs ready.

Photo courtesy of fashiontimes.com

Photo courtesy of fashiontimes.com


Jimbo’s Genius

Has there ever been a more dominant team less appreciated (or, ummm….more disrespected) than Florida State?

29 straight victories. Defending national champions. Three-time defending ACC champions. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. Tradition. Pageantry. Legends.

You can think whatever you’d like about Jameis Winston’s childishly foolish behavior off the field, but I choose to separate the product on the field from the transgressions off it.

And the product I’ve witnessed on the field since November 24th, 2012 (the last time they came out on the wrong end of a scoreboard) has been nothing short of spectacular.

And yet, as the Seminoles continued to rack up the victories this season, they began to slide down the College Football Playoff rankings. In effect, FSU was penalized for doing what? Winning. That’s downright laughable.

Dear committee members, I don’t envy your job. It’s a tough one, no doubt. But you’re missing the forest for the trees.

Photo courtesy of atlantablackstar.com

Photo courtesy of atlantablackstar.com

The goal of a game is to win. Score more than your opponent. Who’s done that better than FSU? Nobody.

Flash only takes you so far. Substance prevails. FSU has plenty of that. But this year, at least, FSU isn’t sexy. Americans like sexy.

Perhaps that’s why each week, without fail, prognosticators, pundits and so-called experts pick the Noles to lose. This will be the week, they say. The week they won’t find a way to escape.

Yes, some day, maybe very soon, it will all be over. The Seminoles will lose. Most people will be happy.

But until then, I choose to give credit where credit is due. I’ll embrace the gritty determination, the steely composure under pressure and the ability to flip the switch. I admire it all. Why hate? Appreciate!

This year’s FSU team undoubtedly has more cracks in the armor than last year’s dominant display of perfection – in every phase of the game. The defense has holes. Jameis is more errant with the football. But in a way, to me, that makes the 2014 Noles even more impressive.

They’ve persevered. They overcame off-the-field issues. They survived the media onslaught. They’ve taken everybody’s best shot each and every week. They’ve been hated, and they’ve handled that too.

Photo courtesy of ngngsports.com

Photo courtesy of ngngsports.com

Sometimes you forget that these are 18, 19 and 20-year-old kids.

It’s far easier to get to the top than to stay there. Everybody wants to knock you off the pedestal, especially if you’re Jameis Winston – the guy everybody loves to hate. So what’s the magic formula to the Seminoles’ ability to stave off all challengers? There are lots of ingredients.

But the man stirring that potent concoction is Jimbo Fisher.

I still remember sitting a few feet away from the FSU head coach back in July at the ACC preseason media event in Greensboro.

There was something in the glint of his eyes and the infectious conviction in his words that made me a believer. Right then and there. Signed. Sealed. Delivered.

He let me take a peek behind the curtain. He talked for over 20 minutes on this thing called the “attitude of domination.” He discussed how in order to be special, you have to do something different that others aren’t willing to do. The throngs of national media members listened to the man preach.

Some coaches are X’s and O’s guys. And yes, Jimbo’s no slouch in that department. But I’m convinced that what sets him apart is not his football expertise.

No, Jimbo’s a philosopher. Behind those dadgum-its and goofy smiles, there lies a resolute belief system for success. I see how he gets his Noles to buy in.

We’ve grown so accustomed to Jimbo being asked the same questions by the TV sideline reporters after each and every thrilling come-from-behind victory this season. One of those questions is always, “How do you guys continue to come up with these fourth quarter comeback wins?”

Jimbo’s regular response? “It’s who we are.”

That resonates with me. And more importantly, it’s resonated in the hearts and minds of his players.

Through it all, the Seminoles have continued to live up to the University’s motto – UNCONQUERED. 29 and counting…

But yet again, everybody and their mother will be picking Florida State to lose when it takes the field in Pasadena against the mighty juggernaut that is Oregon in the national semifinals.

That’s just fine with Jimbo and the Noles. In fact, they like it that way.


Follow Matt on Twitter @moakes3


Fedora, Tar Heels Aim For Redemption, More Passion In Bowl Game

The Tar Heels will be bowling in Motown the day after Christmas. The 6-6 UNC football team will be looking to finish with a winning record for the third straight year under head coach Larry Fedora when Carolina takes on 7-5 Rutgers in Detroit’s Quick Lane Bowl.

***Listen to the story***

The 4:30 p.m. kickoff Friday, Dec. 26 will offer UNC a chance at redemption.

Coach Fedora found it hard to offer an explanation for his team’s lethargic loss to the Wolfpack to close the regular season.

Larry Fedora (AP)

Larry Fedora (AP)

“I wish I had more answers for you. I would probably feel better about myself if I did, but I don’t have a whole lot to say. You have to give all the credit to them,” Coach Fedora says.

The bowl game gives the Tar Heels an opportunity to wipe the sour taste of a sound rivalry game beating out of their mouths and head into the offseason and spring football with a positive mindset.

Coach Fedora says the Tar Heels will need to be full of motivation to succeed against Rutgers.

quick lane bowl

“To play this game, you have to play with passion, energy and enthusiasm all the time. That’s the only way you can do it,” Coach Fedora says.

With a couple weeks to prepare for the Scarlet Knights, UNC will be hoping its starting junior quarterback, Marquise Williams, who was knocked out of the regular season finale against N.C. State, will be fully fit and ready to go.

The good news for Tar Heel fans is that it appears sophomore receiver Ryan Switzer, who also left the game against the Wolfpack, has not sustained any serious injury and will be in Carolina uniform in Detroit.

Former star tight end for UNC, Eric Ebron, announced his pleasure with the bowl destination for the Tar Heels. Ebron, now a tight end for the NFL’s Detroit Lions, will be happy to cheer on his former teammates in the stadium where he now goes to work on Sundays – Ford Field.

Rutgers and UNC are no strangers to each other. The postseason matchup will be the seventh confrontation on the gridiron between the two schools and the fifth since 2006.

Former Carolina running back Giovani Bernard’s two touchdowns helped the Tar Heels scrape past the Scarlet Knights, 24-22, in the last meeting in 2011.

UNC will be hoping for a similar result in 2014.


Back to Drawing Board for Fedora, Heels

UNC head football coach Larry Fedora was at a loss for words following his team’s 35-7 blowout loss to their rivals in red. The Tar Heels came into the contest on a high off the dominant Duke win, but the roles were reversed Saturday afternoon.

***Listen to the story***

Carolina’s football team couldn’t match the physicality and intensity of the N.C. State Wolfpack Saturday afternoon inside Kenan Stadium and as a result, finished the regular season with a disappointing 6-6 record.

Their Wolfpack rivals improved to 7-5 on the season and snapped a two-game losing slide to the Tar Heels.

***Click here for NCSU game recap***

Both UNC quarterback Marquise Williams and receiver Ryan Switzer were knocked out of the game by the relentless Wolfpack attack, and the enigmatic Carolina regular season came to a close with a resounding thud.

Coach Fedora wasn’t mincing any words after the game. He says he can’t remember a worse offensive output in his coaching career.

Mitch Trubisky was thrust into action Saturday (Elliott Rubin)

Mitch Trubisky was thrust into action Saturday (Elliott Rubin)

“You got to at least be decent up front, and we weren’t. We just didn’t have anybody make any plays. Give them credit. We didn’t match the energy level. That’s one of the worst offensive performances I’ve been around,” Coach Fedora says.

It’s hard to argue with the Carolina skipper. The Tar Heels only mustered 207 yards of total offense against the 454 yards racked up by the Wolfpack.

N.C. State shot out of the gates with high intensity and ruthless intention, dominating the line of scrimmage and delivering punishing blow after punishing blow to UNC signal caller Williams.

Carolina offensive lineman Landon Turner says the O-line’s struggles were all mental.

“I think before the game, everyone had plenty of energy. I think, mentally, somewhere down the line we lost some guys. It was more of a mental issue than a physical issue today,” Turner says.

The defensive line didn’t fare any better for the Tar Heels, giving up a whopping 388 rushing yards to the Wolfpack.

What’s more, N.C. State quarterback Jacoby Brissett ran all over the Tar Heels, setting his school’s single-game rushing record for a quarterback with 167 yards.

The only bright spot for the Tar Heels came with 1:48 remaining in the contest. Quinshad Davis tied Hakeem Nicks for the all-time career receiving touchdowns record with his 21st score.

There was plenty of red inside Kenan Stadium (Elliott Rubin)

There was plenty of red inside Kenan Stadium (Elliott Rubin)

But that was no consolation prize for the junior receiver. Davis says his team didn’t respond at all to N.C. State’s aggression.

“We felt like we were ready to go. They just hit us in the mouth, and we didn’t react. That’s that,” Davis says.

What’s next for the Tar Heel football team? The demoralized Tar Heels will now await their postseason bowl destination, likely a lower-tier bowl game.

But in the meantime, Coach Fedora says the coaching staff will hit the recruiting trail and the players will focus on finishing up their coursework strong.

“The coaches will be on the road recruiting. Our guys have got their last few days of class, so they’ll be concentrating on finishing up well in the classroom. We will probably lift them and run them some just to keep them moving around, but really we’ll try to give their bodies a break here,” Coach Fedora says.