GREENSBORO, N.C. -- North Carolina linebacker Kevin Reddick has done his homework all summer, watching countless hours of the Southern Miss defense and the way it took to the unconventional 4-2-5 scheme the Tar Heels are now being asked to run.
Not only did he learn what coordinator Dan Disch likes his players to do. He also got a big helping of confidence, believing the style is the perfect fit for him and his teammates headed into his senior season.
"I haven’t seen anything like that in a while, everybody flying around, making plays," Reddick said at ACC media days. "I’m glad they bought their defense to us because I’m thinking the same thing. We need to be where they were. I think they have good athletes, but I feel we have a lot better athletes, so I feel like we should be able to do that."
Southern Miss was one of the best surprises of last season, especially after pulling a huge upset of Houston in the Conference USA championship game. A big reason for the success was the play of the defense, under Disch. Southern Miss set an FBS record with 11 interceptions returned for touchdowns and finished No. 29 in the nation in total defense -- 18 spots better than 2010.
It just so happened to be the first and only year Disch coached the Southern Miss defense. Now he and North Carolina coach Larry Fedora are in Chapel Hill, hoping for the same instant results they got from the Golden Eagles defense. Generally speaking, it takes at least a season for players to adapt to a radical scheme shift.
So hearing that Southern Miss did so well in Year 1 under Disch made Reddick even happier.
"That makes me smile more," Reddick said. "I can’t wait to play in it. I look back at that and I watch film now from practice and I see things opening up, blitzes or packages or whatever we do. I know it’s going to do wonders for us."
Last season, Reddick finished second on the team with 71 tackles playing in a more traditional 4-3 set. But after Fedora was hired and sanctions were handed down to the program, Reddick says he was contacted by coaches at other schools to see if he would be interested in transferring.
He declined, because he saw the opportunities Disch will give him in this new defensive scheme. Reddick will play inside, but he will also be used to blitz from the outside, something he has not been asked to do previously.
"There's going to be a lot of plays for me, I just have to make them," he said. "That’s why I stayed. I had an opportunity to go to other colleges but I stayed. I wanted to experience this. I like this defense, and I feel it was based a little around me."
Reddick also believes the new scheme will help mitigate the loss of leading tackler Zach Brown, first-round pick Quinton Couples and four other starters. Because other players will be put into positions to do different things, versatility will be emphasized more. As an example, Reddick mentioned defensive end Dion Guy can line up with his hand on the ground but also drop back into coverage as a third linebacker at times.
In order to really prepare for his new and expanded role, Reddick took to watching lots of game tape, while also studying plays on his computer. So why does he think North Carolina has an opportunity to make an impact with a scheme that is is not among the most popular?
"For us, being that other teams are used to seeing the pro-style defense from us and we’re going to bring this different defense to them, it’s going to be a shock to them," he said. "As far as guys seeing things coming from different places it’s going to be a shock to other teams in the league."