Senior linebacker Kevin Reddick promised to take charge this season, and his actions during the preseason have proven he is a man of his word.
"Kevin had a great camp," Coach Larry Fedora said. "You can see it in him. You can see it in him each and every day, whether it's in the meeting room or on the field. He carries himself the way he is supposed to carry himself.
"He carries himself as a leader. The defense follows him. It's his defense. He leads that defense. So it's good to see him doing what he is doing."
After one of the Tar Heels' scrimmages, Fedora said Reddick was "all over the field making plays."
Reddick said he has no intention of stopping now as the Tar Heels enter game week for the season-opener against Elon.
UNC and the Phoenix will play on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Kenan Stadium in Fedora's first game as head coach.
The staff watched how Reddick reacted from the first day Fedora spoke to the team, and the result was the coaches placed a lot of responsibility and trust in him from the outset.
"It is very important to me, the coaches putting it in my hands, letting me take over the show and letting me guide the defense in the right way," Reddick said. "The coaches tell me the defense is going to feed off me. So whatever I do, that is what is going to happen with the defense.
"I like that because it makes me even hungrier to make that play, to spark the defense."
Reddick had a decision to make when Fedora took the job as head coach after the 2011 regular-season. He could turn pro and leave, or he could come back and help to resurrect a wounded program.
Reddick chose to start fresh with the new coaching staff.
"I just want to be part of something new again, when they came in," Reddick said. "I like the attitude of the coaches when they came in, Coach Fedora and his staff."
Since then, Reddick said that he has come to love the new 4-2-5 scheme and the attitude the coaches have implanted with it. There is no more laying back, reading and reacting. The Tar Heels are going to be an attacking defense, and Reddick has every intention of being the spearhead of the attack.
"I felt like the defense, I belonged on it," Reddick said. "It will let me make a lot of plays. It's a fun scheme. It's different. It's not your average defense. A lot of teams don't run this. It's going to be fun for us. We have a lot of zone blitzes coming.
"I think it lets the linebackers roam a lot more. We have guys standing up. It's fun seeing the things you see NFL teams do, and now we get to do that."
Reddick said that he worked especially hard in the spring and summer to learn as much as possible so he could return to just playing naturally on the field in camp. This is another reason his play gathered such attention in camp.
He turned his passion loose.
"I've become a better blitzer, better on coverage," Reddick said. "I'm just faster on the field, and I'm running to the ball a lot more. As you get older, you stop thinking and react. The spring was my time to think. In the summertime, I worked at it and worked at it.
"I came out here in training camp and I just ran it. I'm trying not to think and just play."
Senior place-kicker Casey Barth had the perfect vantage point in camp. When he was not working on his kicking, he got to watch the offense and the defense perform, and he said Reddick made a serious impact every day.
"He is a dominant force," Barth said. "He is so smart. He knows every position out there. He is like a general. It's nice to watch him play and see him help all the younger guys out around him."