New UNC football staff trying to recover from disappointing 2021 season

The 2021 UNC soccer season could best be described as disappointing. A top 10 finish last season gave way to a 6-6 regular season and a crushing loss to South Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. Understandably, after the dust settled from that disheartening finish, dominoes began to fall on Mack Brown’s coaching staff.

Several new faces are now part of the program and the program’s media day on Wednesday provided the first real opportunity to speak to these new members.

Charlton Warren is back at Carolina after spending several seasons as the SEC’s defensive backs coach. Warren previously held the same position at UNC in 2015 and 2016 and will fill the role again in 2022 with a group of veterans.

Warren, who is an Air Force Academy graduate, said he believes his players are extremely motivated.

“For whatever they want, their drive and passion to be better goes with it,” Warren said. “I think that’s a good room. You can’t want a lot of things but not want to put the work into it. And this group wants to put the work into it. If I asked them to run through that wall, they would probably do it and say, ‘Why did you want me to do that?’ after they do, which is great.”

On offense, Jack Bicknell Jr. takes over as coach after Stacy Searels made a relatively abrupt move to Georgia earlier this spring. Bicknell will oversee an offensive line with several new players, including five-star freshman Zach Rice and transfers Corey Gaynor and Spencer Rolland. Bicknell and Rolland both bring a New England flair to the trenches, as Bicknell is a Boston College alumnus and Rolland is from Harvard.

Bicknell jokingly said that while Rolland’s prized education is certainly an advantage, it also puts a little more pressure on the coaches.

“The problem with Spencer is, if he messes up, it’s on me,” Bicknell said. “We all know he graduated from Harvard, so no one’s really going to blame him… it puts a lot of pressure on me, and I’ve already told him that… he did a great job. I love him. What an incredible presence on him. He will be successful in everything he does.”

Pat Suddes is also in his first few months as general manager of the football program, taking on Billy High. As GM, much of Suddes’ responsibilities involve roster management, recruiting, and all the finer points of NIL. Suddes acknowledged that the art of recruiting is very different than it was a few years ago.

“Ten or 15 years ago they hardly put on a jersey. Now it’s a full production,” Suddes said. “You do a video for them, now you do photos with cars, you do streetwear. It’s just changed. With that, you need larger staff to handle these recruiting pieces because the coaching staff doesn’t want to do that. I think as the rules have changed and evolved you’ve seen how staff sizes, roles like mine, have changed along with them.

But the most famous of the new assistants is defense coordinator Gene Chizik. Like Mack Brown a few years ago, Chizik is back for a second stint at UNC after spending several years at ESPN. Chizik has won national championships as both defensive coordinator and head coach and will look to reverse a UNC defense that has struggled mightily in 2021. He said the key to doing this was removing the grey.

“It’s all about consistency, right? We talk to them all the time about great teachers and great coaches who just have the ability to remove the grey,” Chizik said. “And that’s what we’re really focusing on this summer. Go back to spring training, look at the things we’ve done, and your job as a player is to ask the questions that remove the grey, let us know when they’re unclear on something, and then it’s our job as coaches to be able to provide the information so we can remove the grey.”

It’s not exactly a rallying cry for the season, but if the removal of the gray tar heels brings a few more wins, Carolina fans will be in for 2022.

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