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August 18, 2011UNC head coach Everett Withers spoke about several topics following Thursday afternoon's practice.
While the majority of the discussion focused on the situation in the secondary, Withers also touched on several other topics, including new defensive coordinator Art Kaufman.
Like a lot of connections throughout the sport, Withers and other UNC staff members such as Joe Robinson knew of Kaufman before they all got to Chapel Hill through relationships they had with other college coaches.
"I knew of Art. Art was at East Carolina with John Thompson, and I had worked with John Thompson at Southern Miss. Joe Robinson and Art have a connection," Withers said.
"Sometimes in Conference USA---which we all have been a part of at one point in time---you kind of get familiar with each other. So I've known Art."
Withers says the transition away from defensive coordinator and passing the reigns to Kaufman has been a simple one so far.
"It's been easy. Art is doing what I would do on defense. I've got all the confidence in the world he's going to do a good job. He's doing fine," he said.
The Tar Heels are banged up in several different places right now, and Withers spoke about a couple of the guys who aren't fully practicing, including sophomore wide receiver Joshua Adams and senior running back Ryan Houston.
"Our sports medicine staff has got him (Adams) under their care," Withers said. "He's basically day-to-day handling his injuries. (When he returns), that's up to the sports medicine staff."
While Adams' status is more uncertain, Withers expressed optimism that Houston will take the field September 3 against James Madison and play in the season opener.
"Ryan's been playing a lot of ball around here. When Ryan's ready---hopefully right before kickoff we can get him out there and he'll be rolling," he said.
Not having Houston in camp this summer hasn't necessarily been the worst thing.
The UNC staff already knows what Houston can do back there, and his absence has opened up repetitions for guys like A.J. Blue and Travis Riley, among others.
"I think the more experience a guy has---the more knocks he's already taken in his career----the less you need to see him doing in two-a-days. Obviously you like for your running backs to take some pounding and that kind of deal," Withers said.
"But we trust Ryan, and really we trust all those guys. We're getting enough work out of those guys that we'll feel comfortable game week."
When asked which player has really been impressing him so far in training camp, Withers mentioned a veteran defensive tackle who is fighting for a starting job.
"I tell you a guy on the defensive line is Jordan Nix. Jordan Nix is pushing Tydreke Powell right now really hard," Withers said.
"Jordan, we didn't really know what we were getting from Jordan this year, but he's been a pleasant surprise. He will help us."
Although UNC will only have two defensive tackles on the field at a time in its 4-3 scheme, Withers said that the coaches consider Powell, Nix, and Sylvester Williams to be the team's top three interior defenders up front.
Williams has gotten praise from his coaches and teammates alike from the time he arrived on campus in January.
"Yeah, so far he (Williams) has done everything he asked," Withers said.
Powell, Nix, and Williams will likely get a similar amount of game reps rotating in and out for each other.
"We consider Jordan a starter right now---a third starter at D-tackle right now," Withers said.
Coach Withers continued by breaking down the situation at quarterback with the competition behind Bryn Renner.
The current plan is to have Braden Hanson serve as the No. 2 quarterback behind Renner with Marquise Williams taking a redshirt year.
Withers likes the energy and attitude those players have working together this summer.
"I think Braden's doing good. I think he and Marquise are battling," Withers said. "It's a good room (the quarterback position meeting room). "It's fun to be in there listening to those guys, but I think they've got a lot of competition out on the field."
"I've had a chance to be in that quarterback room, and they all help each other. It's a good room. They're all helping each other, teaching each other. It's probably as good a room as any in our building, because they all kind of work together," the UNC coach added.
Withers briefly touched on his first personnel hire as charge of North Carolina's football program---former UNC standout David Thornton.
Withers coached Thornton in the NFL, and believes his story can be one of inspiration for his players.
"I think David is a great example for our kids. A walk-on that came here that had academic problems early, and then came out of that, became an All-ACC linebacker, drafted, and is now is a retired NFL player," he said.
"To me, if our kids will learn from guys like David Thornton, it's worth every bit having David around."
Withers concluded his discussion by commenting on the story that has gripped the college football world the last 48 hours---the NCAA nightmare in Miami.
"(I've been following it) a little bit, you know. When you're in two-a-days you have some of your own issues," Withers said about the Miami situation. "I think all of this stuff for college football is lessons to learn about a lot of things."
"We have our own issues. Basically we're trying to deal with our issues and get ready for our season," Withers continued. "But one of our mottos is those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it. So we're trying to learn from our issues and we'll take whatever comes out of the Miami issue and we'll try to teach and learn from that so we don't make those mistakes."