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UNC NOTEBOOK

From White to Brown, Tar Heels’ week in a nutshell

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This space was initially going to be about how North Carolina freshman guard Coby White has found his footing over the past week, averaging 22.7 points per game while shooting a blistering 56 percent from 3-point range as the Tar Heels went 2-1, including an impressive win over No. 17 UCLA. 

But that changed on Monday morning, when the news broke that Mack Brown will be replacing Larry Fedora, who was terminated after a second consecutive disappointing season, as the UNC head football coach. 

There is of course no guarantee that a 67-year-old Brown can replicate the success of his 47-year-old self, but the man a recruit once claimed “could talk me into eating a ketchup Popsicle” would seem especially well suited for the task of rebuilding Carolina’s reputation and relationships with in-state high school coaches and recruits. Those skills will be immediately tested, as Carolina’s 2019 recruiting class currently lags well behind expectations (and the classes of in-state rivals).

One edge Brown will have on the recruiting trail is the ability to wear his 2005 BCS National Championship ring into recruits’ living rooms. UCF’s protestations notwithstanding, Brown is one of only five active coaches to have won a national championship as a head coach, an exclusive club that includes Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, Jimbo Fisher and Les Miles.

COORDINATORS KEY FOR SUCCESS

Better known as a CEO-type coach than a cutting-edge scheme junkie, Brown’s first task will be attracting top-tier coordinators and assistants to implement his vision in Chapel Hill. But as Urban Meyer demonstrated a few years ago, Brown’s recent years as an ESPN analyst (in addition to his Hall-of-Fame résumé) could be an advantage in that regard, having provided him the opportunity to meet and evaluate numerous coaches across the country. 

Early names that have surfaced as possible assistants include former Auburn head coach (and UNC defensive coordinator) Gene Chizik, Army defensive coordinator Jay Bateman and Texas A&M tight ends coach Tim Brewster. 

It is also likely that a few current UNC assistants — most notably linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen, who played under Brown from 1989–92 and has strong recruiting relationships across the state — will be considered for the new staff.

One other position at least as important as the coordinators is the head strength and conditioning coach. Head coaches tend to prefer to hire their own S&C coaches, as the strength coach spends more time with the players than any other coach on staff and thus plays a huge role in implementing the program’s vision and ethos. After several years out of coaching and without a natural option to bring with him from a prior stop, it will be especially interesting to see who Brown taps for this role.

PLENTY OF TALENT RETURNING ON OFFENSE

One thing Brown won’t have to worry about in his first year is a dearth of talent on the offensive side of the football. Ten offensive starters are eligible to return (11, if one views Dazz Newsome as the starter in the slot rather than Thomas Jackson), joined by two freshman quarterbacks who showed tremendous promise before taking redshirts in 2018.

That talented roster should make the offensive coordinator position especially attractive to top candidates wanting to build a resume, and the turnaround from a disappointing 2–10 season could be much quicker than most might expect.

STATS OF THE WEEK

33. White’s 33 points in Carolina’s 92–89 loss to Texas is the third-most ever by a UNC freshman, behind only Harrison Barnes and Tyler Hansborough, who share that record with 40 apiece.

White and fellow freshman Nassir Little have also scored 33 percent of UNC’s points on the season.

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