“Bryn, you need to pick up the pace.”
In other football programs across the country, as well as previous North Carolina squads, such a direct criticism could potentially fuel rage and resentment within the ranks. That sort of reaction never transpired in the Kenan Football Center’s defensive backs room, though.
The offense’s only response was to prevent that type of criticism again by increasing its tempo to adequate levels.
“Not only am I trying to get them ready, I’m trying to get the defense ready,” Reddick told reporters at the ACC Operation Kickoff event at Grandover Resort on Sunday. “I’m not too worried about what they’re doing. I’m talking up for the defense. If you’re going at a slow pace for us, then that’s going to put us behind.”
A leadership committee of roughly 15 players, including one veteran and one underclassman from each position group, meets every other Wednesday for 60-80 minutes to discuss these types of topics. The committee was created in early 2011 with input from the coaching staff, training staff and academic support center.
Senior left guard Jonathan Cooper was one of the original 13 appointees to the committee, which now includes players such as Reddick, Renner, Sylvester Williams, Travis Bond, Erik Highsmith and James Hurst.
Jeff Janssen, director of the Carolina Leadership Academy, assumes an active role in the meetings. Noted speakers, such as Super Bowl champion coach Tony Dungy, have made appearances in the past.
UNC head coach Larry Fedora’s approach of demanding accountability within his program has added an additional layer to leadership methods that have taken hold. One of Fedora’s first tasks upon arriving in Chapel Hill was to call his leaders together and deliver a message: “This is our group that needs to take us where we want to go.”
Reddick indicated the meeting topics range from players being cancers to the team to how workouts are going. The committee feels good about the big-ticket items, so it concentrates its focus on the small details that may have been overlooked in previous years.
“Guys are really stepping up and taking that vocal role,” Renner said. “In the past, I couldn’t always say that our leaders would do that. Not to put them down, but they were more to themselves. We really have a tight-knit team now and I can honestly say that we’ve grown up. We matured just because of the things that we’ve gone through in the past.”
That past, of course, is a synonym for the NCAA investigation, which saturated the UNC football program for nearly two years. While none of the current Tar Heels were involved in the scandal, they still suffered as collateral damage.
“It makes you grow up a lot quicker than you want to,” Renner said. “This time last year was pretty tough for all of us and we had to come together and make a pact. And we did that. I can say that Kevin and me have been really good friends, but it’s brought us closer together. The bond that we have on our team is like no other.”
Reddick has no qualms in staking his claim to a prevalent leadership role on the defensive side of the ball.
“I’ve been embracing it since last year and that’s made me a better players and a better man now,” Reddick said. “I can say at times I try to take over the whole team and be that say-so guy. Or when we’re calling up the huddle, I’m talking every time because if somebody messes up, I‘m going to be the one that let’s them know. I think everyone needs that on a team because a lot of guys are afraid to speak up.”
The difference this year over past years, according to Reddick, is that the Tar Heels are holding their teammates more accountable for their actions. That serves as a guard against the past and a foundation for the future.
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