What UNC fans are used to seeing are four defensive linemen attempting to put pressure on the quarterback in passing situations, with blitzes reserved for rare occasions.
What changes are in store?
“In defense of that idea (rushing four players), when you have great players up front, there’s not a coach among us that would bring more than four if we didn’t have to,” defensive coordinator Dan Disch said. “So, if you’ve got some dogs up there that can get after the passer with three or four guys, that’s always a good thing, and you can always drop one to coverage.”
But changes in the game of college football have convinced the new staff that a different approach is needed.
“Typically with max protections and people doing all kind of trick stuff nowadays, sometimes it’s harder to get to them with three or four guys, so we’re going to be a blitzing, attacking defense,” Disch continued. “That’s our style and I think that’s what kids enjoy playing.”
Part of the staff’s approach is geared towards creating more opportunities for turnovers. Southern Miss tied for 6th nationally in interceptions, and 25th nationally in turnovers gained.
“If we want to create turnovers, we want to make things happen – not wait for them to happen,” Disch said. “Not comparing to what we’ve done in the past (at UNC) because I don’t know enough about it, but we’re going to be an attacking defense.
“We’re going to try to cause some issues with the quarterback as far as deception and dropping guys off that maybe normally wouldn’t drop off; create some issues. The offenses are so good this day and age. They can all throw the football. Their running so much variety of offense with the zone read and the options packages that if you sit back and wait on them, it’s hard. Our philosophy is to attack – always attack and try to dictate the tempo.”
From watching Southern Miss games, it is evident that the play of the cornerbacks in the style of defense UNC will implement next year is very aggressive. The corners frequently played in bump-and-run coverage; “hard corners.”
“That’s what we preach,” Disch said. “Number one, you’ve got to make kids understand that you can’t make plays by sitting back and being conservative. So, if we’re going to be an attacking defense and we’re going to try to make plays and do things that disrupt offense, you either have to take chances or you have to be aggressive. They know from the get-go that they’re going to have to play hard get after people.”
That means not playing safe, taking more chances, and, on occasion, getting beat deep on double moves – a risk that Disch and his defensive coaches understand.
“Mistakes are going to happen and we’re not going to get too bent out of shape if a kid gets beat on a play,” Disch said. “At the end of the day, we’re going to make more plays if we let these kids be aggressive. Yes, we’re going to do a lot of press stuff; we’re going to play a lot of bump technique. We’ll play our fair share of hard corners where you’re trying to disrupt receivers because what offenses want to do is throw it to air like they do all summer long; they want to play catch.
“A lot of it is mindset; a lot of it is a little bit of luck. But, if you put yourself in the position to make plays enough times -- like the reason me and you can’t make a hole-in-one is, we aren’t close very often, where that great golfer is always close. So, it’s the same thing. When you’re taking chances and trying to make plays, they happen a lot more for you – that’s what happened to us last year.
“What you have to try to do is disrupt receivers and confuse quarterbacks. There’s still a talent to execute it – we’ve got to have the kids that can do it and those kinds of things. But, we’re going to be aggressive. We’re going to challenge receivers the best we can. A lot of it is dictated by the talent level we have. But our kids I think will be excited to be put in the position to make plays.
“Everybody wants to make plays.”
Check back tomorrow for Part IV from Inside Carolina’s one-on-one interview with Dan Disch …