CHAPEL HILL — For a while it was a running joke among UNC coaches about how much depth the Tar Heels had on defense.
Weve got them running out of our ears, Vic Koenning, the UNC defensive coordinator said earlier this week. Weve got plenty of guys. And then all of a sudden its like somebody shot a shotgun in there and got pellets in all of them.
The days of joking about plentiful depth are over for Koenning, whose defense has been decimated by injuries during the preseason. Sophomore Shakeel Rashad and sophomore safety Sam Smiley, two players who were vying for starting positions, have been lost for the season due to injuries.
And those two didnt count among the six defensive players who missed practice earlier this week for a variety of ailments, Koenning said. The numbers are so thin that tight end Jack Tabb has been working at linebacker, and Damien Washington, a former receiver, has been moved to safety.
The position changes and attrition due to injury have made it difficult for the Tar Heels defense to establish continuity and consistency. Koenning said the UNC defense is not even close to where he wants it.
Theres been a handful of times where Ive sat back and kind of started to get a feeling like, all right, weve got a chance to be pretty good, he said.
But then another injury strikes, or a mistake, and Koenning said he is reminded of how far the defense has to go.