Tar Heels to face familiar defensive coordinator

CorrespondentDecember 26, 2013 

Cincinnati defensive coordinator Art Kaufman doesn't believe it’s ironic that the Bearcats are playing North Carolina in the Belk Bowl.

As Kaufman put it, it’s just another part of being a long-time college football assistant coach.

“That’s kinda part of this business,” Kaufman said Thursday after Cincinnati’s practice at Charlotte Latin. “It’s not the first time it’s happened.”

Yet the irony is there – Kaufman spent three seasons with the Tar Heels, in 2009-2010 as linebackers coach under Butch Davis, then moving up to defensive coordinator in 2011 under interim head coach Everett Withers.

So when Kaufman – coaching in the 14th bowl of his 30-year career – looks across the field at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday, he’ll see plenty of familiar faces on North Carolina’s sideline.

“It’s been two years since I’ve been there (in Chapel Hill),” said Kaufman, who was also defensive coordinator at East Carolina for two years (2003-2004). “It’s been two different towns, two different universities since then for me.”

In Kaufman’s three years with the Tar Heels, the defense ranked among the top 40 in the nation – including 10th-best in 2009 – and either recruited or helped develop most of North Carolina’s current juniors and seniors on defense.

So when Larry Fedora was brought hired Tar Heels coach in December 2011, bringing with him a whole new staff of assistant coaches, Kaufman wasn’t out of job for long.

Bearcats coach Tommy Tuberville – then the coach at Texas Tech – was in need of a defensive coordinator, one that, in his words, “I didn’t have to put a lot of time in teaching what I needed.”

“Art and I, we’ve been on the same page a long time,” said Tuberville, who also worked with Kaufman when he was coach at Mississippi in 1995-1998. “We grew up running the same defense, running the same stuff and the same techniques.

“He’s a technique guy. I don’t like these young, fly-by-night guys who bring the house every down. That’s not football. You win with solid defense.”

Said Kaufman, who followed Tuberville to Cincinnati after the Red Raiders played in the 2012 Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas: “We had stayed in contact over the years. He had an opening, he called me about it, we talked. That was it.”

Still, while Kaufman and the Bearcats’ defensive coaches have spent the past month game-planning and preparing for Saturday’s game against North Carolina, that doesn’t mean he won’t take the time to catch up with some of his former players.

“A lot of those guys I haven’t seen since the bowl game down in Shreveport (La.) in 2011,” Kaufman said. “It's just good to see all those kids, see how much they’ve grown and how much they’ve changed and developed.

“It's kinda part of this business, but they’re guys I know and care about. So I’ll catch up with them, see how their families are doing and everything.”

Kiser: @BKiser_CLTObs.

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