UNC football holding open practice in Kenan Stadium, acclimating new players in new roles

Robert Willett/rwillett@newsobserver.com

North Carolina will hold an open football practice in Kenan Stadium on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. It’s just the sixth practice of spring drills, but it will offer the first glimpse of many of the offseason changes the Tar Heels have made.

Head coach Mack Brown wants this season — and this team — to redefine what North Carolina football has been during his second tenure in Chapel Hill.

“We’re in a position now where we’ve got to change the narrative,” Brown said. “The narrative is we’re soft on defense, and we couldn’t stop the run. Offensively, the narrative nationally is that we can score a lot of points and we’re pretty and we can outrun people, but we haven’t been tough in the red zone.”

He’ll rely on some new coaching staff additions to help change those narratives. Chip Lindsey replaced Phil Longo, who left to go to Wisconsin, as offensive coordinator. Randy Clements took over for as offensive line coach. Freddie Kitchens, a former NFL head coach, is the new tight ends coach. And Jason Jones replaced Dre Bly, who joined the Detroit Lions staff, as cornerbacks coach.

Brown is especially excited about Lindsey and volunteer offensive analyst Clyde Christensen, who coached Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Andrew Luck during his time in the NFL, to help starting quarterback Drake Maye sharpen his skills in what Brown expects to be his final season before turning pro.

Maye has two new targets at receiver to keep an eye on in Georgia Tech transfer Nate McCollum and Kent State transfer and Charlotte native Tez Walker. Both will look to supplement the loss of leading receiver Josh Downs, who skipped his senior season in order to enter the NFL draft.

In all, the Heels welcome 19 players — 11 transfers and eight early enrollees — to the roster this spring. It’s all designed by Brown for the Heels to take the next step as a program.

“We’re in a business where you got to really push these guys to try to get them to win more games,” Brown said. “We won nine, we’re not happy with nine, that’s unacceptable. Better than where we were, but not where we want to go.”

Those planning on attending can parking in the Bell Tower Deck and can enter Kenan Stadium via Gate 5. It’s open seating in the lower bowl.

The Tar Heels will play their Spring Game on Saturday, April 15.