With the graduation of cornerback Jordan Hemby and safety Melvin Williams, the UNC secondary has some open spots in the depth chart.
“Obviously we’ve got to develop a third corner, because Jordan Hemby was a crucial piece of last’s years defense -- he was a guy who had played a lot, had started a bunch of games -- and we feel like between your ones and twos there can be no drop-off,” Douglas said.
“We felt like with Jordan as our third corner and Melvin as our third safety, we felt we were comfortable with either one of those two guys in the ball game. Now, we don’t have that luxury.”
In addition to those holes to fill, the Tar Heels have to decide who will play nickel back, a role with a separate designation.
While Douglas is excited about the prospect of coaching the senior starters this year, he also knows that he’s going to have to replace them all this time next year. Building depth this spring will be critical not just for success in 2010, but 2011 as well.
“We’ve kind of got a good idea what we’re going to get out of the starters, but this spring is the perfect time to develop those young kids,” Douglas said. “Kendric (Burney) and Charlie (Brown) and DaNorris (Searcy) and Deunta (Williams), we’re going to get them reps to make sure they’re ready to roll in the fall, but those young guys are the ones that need the bulk of the work.”
Then there are the usual purposes of spring practice.
“As of right now, our goal is fundamentals - basics,” Douglas explains. “When the season rolls around, you’ll put in your base defense and then you will tweak it week-to-week. Additional blitzes you might run, some type of zone concept one week, you might change up the next week; you tweak it according to what the offense is giving you.”
“Our goals right now are to be as fundamentally sound as possible. We’re going to work on blocking and tackling, backpedaling, breaking, playing the ball, and learn our base, fundamental coverages. We are not going to try and reinvent the wheel right now.”
The Tar Heels will also put in some time working on some offenses they don’t see often, like Paul Johnson’s offense at Georgia Tech, as well as unfamiliar offenses of teams like LSU.
“Obviously you’ve got to take some time to look at some opponents, we’re going to work some periods on what other teams do,” Douglas said. “We’ll spend a little time on trying to stop the wishbone, so the starters will get a few more reps in those periods because they are going to be the ones who see it, but you still want those younger guys to try and get a feel for what that game is going to be like also.”
“(LSU) is a team we haven’t played,” Douglas added. “We should devote a little time to them, too, because they are a new team (to our schedule), they are obviously going to present some new challenges - SEC, physical - and that’s the first game.”
All of these tasks, however, should be easier because Douglas and defensive coordinator Everett Withers, who also coaches the defensive backs, have those four senior starters back, two of whom (Burney and Williams) were named first team All-ACC players in 2009 as juniors and decided to return for their senior seasons instead of leave early for the NFL. Was Douglas surprised?
“It really didn’t shock me,” Douglas said. “I kind of had the idea that they would all come back. This, to me, has kind of been blown out of proportion.
“I had the same situation down at South Florida with Mike Jenkins. He was going to come out, and basically it was up in the air what round he would have gone in had he come out after his junior year. I told him that he could be a first round pick if he came back for one more year. You can go and be a third rounder and make this much money, or you can go in the first round and make this much money.
“I am not saying that is what would have happened to those kids, I am just saying I thought they should come back. They got to do what is best for them and their families, but personally I thought they should come back.”
They did, and maybe that’s why Douglas has a hard time keeping a smile off his face.