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December 30, 2011

A Closer Look: Offensive Staff

North Carolina's new head football coach Larry Fedora will officially announce his new coaching staff on Tuesday, and the past couple of weeks have been all about putting together the pieces of his 2012 UNC staff while also preparing for his final game at Southern Miss---a victory over Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve.

Now that he's in Chapel Hill and officially on the job at UNC, Fedora is finalizing things in preparation for Tuesday's official announcement of his new staff.

Fedora is mostly taking his current coaching staff with him from Southern Miss, as six of his nine allotted assistant coaching positions appear to be headed to members of his prior staff in Hattiesburg.

Carolina's new head coach is rewarding loyalty by bringing men with him to Chapel Hill who he trusts and who he's had success working with in the past.

Fedora is bringing three coaches with him from Southern Miss who were with him all four years in Hattiesburg---offensive line coach/running game coordinator Chris Kapilovic, linebackers coach/do-defensive coordinator David Duggan, and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Blake Anderson.

The other three Southern Miss coaches coming to Chapel Hill spent a combined six seasons working under Fedora in Hattiesburg.

UNC's new defensive line coach Deke Adams spent three seasons working under Fedora, while new secondary coach/co-defensive coordinator Dan Disch and tight ends coach Walt Bell coached at Southern Miss in 2011. Bell was also a graduate assistant for the Golden Eagles in 2010.

Two other assistants---co-defensive coordinator Vic Koenning and wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer, come from outside programs but have experience working with Fedora.

Fedora's decision to bring most of his Southern Miss staff with him to UNC made it impossible for him numbers-wise to retain former members of Carolina's coaching staff, including people such as Allen Mogridge and Ken Browning.

While nothing is official until all of the hires are made and it's announced Tuesday, it's a surprise to the staff of Tar Heel Illustrated that it appears neither Browning nor Mogridge are coming back to UNC based on conversations we had with people close to the program.

But Fedora has made the independent decision, without any influence from the Chancellor, Athletics Director, or anyone else, to remove all the prior UNC assistants and bring along the people he's most comfortable with---the people who helped him build Southern Miss into a 12-game winner this fall.

The only position that appears remaining to be filled is running backs coach, and that could go in a number of different directions. We understand that a couple of former UNC running backs, Randy Jordan and Chad Scott, could be strong possibilities, but we haven't gotten definitive word yet.

Jordan parlayed a successful career at UNC in the early '90s into a nine-year career in the pros, followed by a solid career coaching in college at places like Nebraska and Texas A&M. 
Jordan was recently let go at A&M, opening up the potential opportunity at UNC.

As Fedora was recommended for the UNC job by Mack Brown, we wouldn't be surprised if Brown has also endorsed his former player for the current opening at UNC.

There's rumors that Jordan has verbally agreed to take the UNC job, but Tar Heel Illustrated is not yet in a position to confirm that, although we do believe he has interviewed and is a prime candidate for the job.

If not Jordan, UNC's next RBs coach may very well be Scott, whose memorable game against Miami back in 2004 won't soon be forgotten by Tar Heel fans.

Scott was a grad assistant at UNC under Bunting and Butch Davis in 2006 and 2007 before getting his first position coach job at Troy in 2008. He spent two seasons at Troy before spending the last two seasons as running backs coach at Texas Tech.

Running backs is the last position coach to be confirmed for UNC at this time.

Provided below is a more extensive breakdown of the offensive coaches that we expect to be announced as part of UNC's new staff on Tuesday, including more details about each coach's background, his ties to Coach Fedora, and how he might make an impact at North Carolina.


BLAKE ANDERSON


North Carolina's new offensive coordinator is no stranger to Coach Fedora, having worked on the same team with him now going back four years.

Anderson first worked under Fedora as Southern Miss's quarterbacks coach in 2008 after being hired away from Louisiana-Lafayette after the 2007 season, a year in which the Cajuns produced the first 3,000-yard rushing season in the history of the Sun Belt Conference and a pair of 1,000-yard rushers.

Prior to that Anderson worked at Middle Tennessee State and New Mexico, among others.

Like Fedora, Anderson is a Texas native, and played his college ball at Baylor and Sam Houston State in the late '80s and early '90s before embarking on his coaching journey.

After two solid seasons as Southern Miss's quarterbacks coach---including the 2008 season in which the Golden Eagles set a new school record for total offensive yards (5.636)---Anderson took over the reigns as offensive coordinator in 2010.

Southern Miss's 2010 offense broke the 2008 record by compiling 5,894 total offensive yards and an average of 453 yards per game, and then the Golden Eagles shattered the record again in 2011, producing 6,459 total offensive yards, 461.4 per game.

Although Southern Miss played one more game than Carolina and its competition paled in comparison to UNC's this past season, the Southern Miss offense produced 1,300 yards more in total offense and ran over 200 more plays than the Tar Heels did in 2011.

The Tar Heels averaged 62.53 plays per game (813 plays in 13 games) in 2011, but under Coaches Fedora and Anderson, the Southern Miss offense averaged 74.42 plays per game (1042 in 14 games).

While UNC actually averaged slightly more yards per play than Southern Miss---6.3 yards to 6.2 yards---the fact that Southern Miss was averaging roughly a dozen more offensive plays per game helps explain why the Golden Eagles were statistically much more productive.

In the most important area of statistical research---scoring---Anderson's offense at Southern Miss averaged 36.9 points per game, compared to 28.0 points per game by UNC.

Again, Southern Miss didn't play nearly as good of defenses as North Carolina played, but these statistical references show how productive Anderson has been leading Southern Miss's offense.

With the talent he'll have at his disposal in Chapel Hill, Anderson should be thrilled to be getting started at UNC.


CHRIS KAPILOVIC


Coach Fedora took a chance on Kapilovic back in 2008, hiring him on his first staff at Southern Miss even though he hadn't to that point ever served as a position coach at the major Division I level.

But coming off a solid run at Missouri State, and Alabama State before that, where he worked with future NFL quarterback Tavaris Jackson, Kapilovic came to Hattiesburg and immediately made his presence felt.

Running behind the offensive lines Kapilovic built, Southern Miss produced 2,000 rushing seasons all four of his seasons in Hattiesburg, including a stellar 2,872 rushing yards (205.1 yards per game) this past season with Kapilovic coordinating the running game.

UNC can only hope to put up numbers on the ground resembling what Southern Miss has put up in recent years behind Kapilovic's offensive lines. The Tar Heels averaged a full rushing yard less per play than Southern Miss this fall (4.1 to 5.2), even with standout Giovani Bernard in the backfield.

In addition, Carolina rushed for nearly 70 yards less per game (138.8 for UNC to 205.1 for Southern Miss), and got off over a hundred fewer rushing plays over the course of the season (442 for UNC to 553 for Southern Miss).

Kapilovic will have an interesting spring season on his hands getting UNC's returning offensive linemen to adjust to the 'spread' scheme.

They won't always put their hands on the ground and they'll have to do a lot of different things in terms of movement and pass protection, but Kapilovic should have lots of solid players to work with, including as many as four returning starters from the 2011 UNC squad.

Plus, if Kapilovic resumes as running game coordinator under Fedora he'll have Bernard---one of the top returning running backs in the Atlantic Coast Conference---to showcase.


GUNTER BREWER


Brewer is a familiar name for Tar Heel fans, having spent four seasons (2001-2004) as part of John Bunting's staff at UNC. He earned a reputation as a solid recruiter, helping lure talent such as Adarius Bowman, Jesse Holley, and Brandon Tate to Chapel Hill, as well as a solid position coach who helped Jawarski Pollock set several UNC school receiving records early last decade before guys like Hakeem Nicks and Dwight Jones arrived in town.

Prior to his first stint in Chapel Hill Brewer worked at Marshall for four seasons, where he worked with Thundering Herd legends Chad Pennington and Randy Moss. After leaving UNC following the '04 season he headed to Oklahoma State, where he first worked with Coach Fedora.

At Oklahoma State Brewer was reunited with Bowman, who was kicked off the team at UNC under Bunting but had 1,000-yard seasons in 2006 and 2007. Brewer also worked with standouts such as Dez Bryant and Justin Blackmon, among others, during his time in Stillwater.

In all, Brewer has had 16 of his former position understudies go on to play in the National Football League.

This past season Brewer worked at Ole Miss, and he became available for the UNC job after the termination of Houston Nutt and the Rebels staff.

The fact that Brewer worked three seasons under Fedora at Oklahoma State and four seasons prior to that at UNC made him an ideal fit for Fedora's 2012 staff at Carolina.

Brewer still has friends from the recruiting trail around the state of North Carolina, and he should be able to pick up where he left off under the Bunting regime. He's also got a lot of friends still in Chapel Hill, which should make the transition back into the Kenan Football Center a little bit easier.

One player who should be particularly thrilled about Brewer and this entire coaching regime coming aboard at UNC is Jheranie Boyd, whose talents haven't been fully exploited in three years in Carolina's pro-style offense.

Boyd will have a chance to blow up in his senior season in 2012 within the new offense, and T.J. Thorpe also has a chance to grow tremendously as well. Erik Highsmith also figures to have more balls thrown his way his senior season with all the extra plays the UNC offense will be running.


WALT BELL


Bell is perhaps the biggest surprise hire on Fedora's new UNC staff, not only because of who he's replacing (Mogridge), but also because he's not even thirty years old yet.

A 2005 graduate of Middle Tennessee State, Bell was initially recruited to play at MTSU when Coach Fedora was an assistant coach for the Blue Raiders.

Bell worked briefly at Oklahoma State---another former Fedora coaching stop---before heading to Hattiesburg in 2010, where he served as a graduate offensive assistant and wide receivers coach for the Golden Eagles during its record-breaking run the last two seasons.

Although Bell led the wide receivers at Southern Miss, he is expected to lead the tight ends at UNC.

Bell will bring youthful energy to UNC's coaching staff, like Mogridge did, and he'll have a chance to make an impact right off the bat on the recruiting trail. He's already reached out to one of his new players that we know of, Eric Ebron.


Stay tuned for our feature on UNC's new defensive coaches, which will run New Year's Eve.



 

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