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North Carolina hires Gene Chizik as defensive coordinator

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  • Gene Chizik
    American college football coach
  • Mack Brown
    Football coach

Mack Brown has added a familiar face to his coaching staff at North Carolina.

Brown announced Sunday that he has hired Gene Chizik as UNC’s defensive coordinator, replacing Jay Bateman. Chizik, most known for winning a national championship as the head coach at Auburn in 2010, hasn’t coached since 2016. Since stepping away from coaching, Chizik has been working as an analyst for ESPN. His most recent coaching gig came with the Tar Heels when he was Larry Fedora’s defensive coordinator in 2015 and 2016.

The 60-year-old Chizik, who coached under Brown at Texas, will be tasked with helping turn around a UNC defense that struggled mightily in 2021. UNC entered the season ranked No. 10 in the AP poll but ended up finishing 6-7 despite having a potential first-round draft choice at quarterback in Sam Howell. The main culprit was a defense that ranked No. 95 nationally in total defense and No. 105 in both scoring defense and yards per play allowed.

"Gene is one of college football's great defensive minds and we're excited that he's returning to lead our unit. He's spent the last five years in the media studying college football, so like me, he's had a chance to look at a number of different schemes, while staying on top of how the game has evolved over the last few years,” Brown said. “Gene has been approached a number of times for head coach or defensive coordinator jobs during that time, but decided this was the best opportunity at the right time for him.”

CHAPEL HILL, NC - OCTOBER 24:  Coach Gene Chizik of the North Carolina Tar Heels against the Virginia Cavaliers during their game at Kenan Stadium on October 24, 2015 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. North Carolina won 26-13.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Coach Gene Chizik of the North Carolina Tar Heels against the Virginia Cavaliers during their game at Kenan Stadium on October 24, 2015 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. North Carolina won 26-13. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Chizik was a defensive assistant at UCF, Auburn and Texas before first becoming a head coach at Iowa State in 2007. He later returned to Auburn and coached the Cam Newton-led Tigers to a national title in 2010. Auburn went 14-0 that season. In Chizik’s other three seasons as head coach, the Tigers had a combined 19-19 record with a 7-17 mark in SEC play.

Chizik spent several years out of coaching before resurfacing at UNC in 2015. He helped lead a significant defensive improvement back then, and Brown is hopeful he can do the same in 2022.

In addition to Chizik, Brown also announced the addition of Charlton Warren as co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach. Warren, who coached at UNC with Chizik in 2015 and 2016, spent the 2021 season as the DC at Indiana. He has previous stops at Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Nebraska and Air Force.

Brown is in his second stint as the head coach at North Carolina. He coached the Tar Heels from 1988 to 1997 before moving on to Texas, where he spent 16 seasons and won a national title in 2005. In his three seasons back in Chapel Hill, UNC has gone 21-17 overall with a 14-12 ACC record.