Battle Tested

Battle Tested

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Jeff Battle opted to head to Utah out of high school, but returned to Chapel Hill as a walk-on last summer and has now worked his way up the depth chart at strong safety.

The Lenoir, N.C. native took a leap out west to play for Utah but after redshirting his first year in Salt Lake City, he began to yearn for familiar surroundings.

"When I went to Utah, it was okay and fun for a little while, but then I started missing home," Battle said.

The reason behind the regret stemmed from UNC Bandit Darius Lipford, Battle's close cousin who was insistent upon him returning to the Tar Heel state.

"We're both from Lenoir and at home we live like three minutes away from each other, so we were together basically all the time," Battle said. "When we left and went to school he was on me hard about coming here but then I just told him I was going to try something different so that's why I went out to Utah."

Battle and Lipford played for opposing schools in high school but still remained almost inseparable. The relationship stretched from family and close friends to teammates on the field after Battle finally mustered up the might to make a change.

Battle was familiar with the previous staff, but had to start fresh with Larry Fedora and his coaches. Lipford helped bridge the gap after Battle told him of his desire to become a Tar Heel.

The move was completed when Battle joined UNC as a walk-on prior to the 2012 season. Battle made major strides through training camp this August and currently holds claim to the starting position at strong safety in Vic Koenning's 4-2-5 defense.

"At first I was with the twos and when I went with the ones it was faster than what I thought but after a practice I was fine," he said. "We ran the same defense in high school and I'm in the same position so it felt normal."

Battle acknowledged that his improved play and position on the depth chart had a lot to do with his summer workout routine managed by strength and conditioning coach Lou Hernandez.

"When I talked to Coach Lou I told him I wanted to get my speed up," Battle said. "I just want to be a faster safety. I (did) drills all the time with him and it brought my speed up. I got faster.

"And as far as strength, I've always been strong but I didn't want to stay at the same level. I just want to keep going up because like Coach Fedora says, ‘You never stay the same. Either you get better or you get worse.' I just kept pushing and pushing so I can be in the best shape possible."

Despite 40-yard dashes not being timed this summer, Battle is certain his speed has increased.

"I raced against a couple of guys [at practice] and I know my speed is up," Battle said.

While injuries have plagued the Tar Heel defense throughout training camp, Battle capitalized on the situation by being the next man up. In 10 days he may start his first career college game some 2,000 miles from his original destination. Recommended Stories

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