By Eddy Landreth
Junior defensive back Jabari Price has shown he can be the kind of cornerback Carolinaâ€™s new coaching staff seeks.
â€œIâ€™ll take all the Jabari Prices we can get,â€ first-year head coach Larry Fedora said.
The Tar Heels will open the season on Sept. 1 at 12:30 p.m. against Elon at Kenan Stadium.
Price brings a combination of athleticism, experience, eagerness to learn, sound fundamentals and a willingness to be physical and force turnovers that Fedora loves.
â€œHe is that boundary corner who is going to be able to make a lot of plays for us with the coverages we play,â€ Fedora said. â€œAnd he is physical enough to do it.
â€œHeâ€™s made a bunch of plays in fall camp.â€
The Tar Heels held the final day of camp on Monday. Now the focus is on their game plan for the opener.
Fedora and his coaching staff brought new schemes â€“ or styles â€“ to the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. The basis for these new formations on defense is a relentless pursuit of the ball.
The Tar Heels sometimes played a sagging defense during the last few seasons, and it often hurt the team late in games. Price said this new philosophy of attacking should be more productive, and it is definitely more fun to play.
â€œI have to be aggressive,â€ Price said. â€œA lot of teams try to pick on the backside in the boundary. The coaches have faith in me to put me on the backside and trust me to make the right run fit or cover a guy man-to-man. I have to be confident in myself.
â€œIâ€™m not soft at all,â€ Price said. â€œI like to stick my nose in there and get it dirty. Iâ€™m not going to back down from anybody. I may be 195 pounds, but Iâ€™m going to bring it to anybody. Iâ€™m not going to run from a fight.â€
He showed this attitude is more than words. In an early scrimmage, he produced just what the coaching staff wants to see.
â€œI had nine tackles and a forced fumble,â€ Price said.
Some cornerbacks want to do little more than play basketball on the football field and cover receivers as they run around the field. Many of those guys shy from the contact.
Price admitted that he used to be that way, but he says he has changed his attitude dramatically.
â€œI refrain from the finesse-corner type,â€ Price said. â€œWhen I was in high school I didnâ€™t tackle as much. I just wanted to cover. Now Iâ€™m more physical, bump-and-run, in-your-face type of guy. Iâ€™m not shying away from contact, and Iâ€™m not going the other way.â€
His leadership is helping the entire secondary improve each day.
â€œEvery day weâ€™re getting a few more [interceptions],â€ Fedora said. â€œThat is what wins games, turnovers. The secondary has done a nice job of that.â€
Safety Tre Boston and Price are both from Florida, and each played as true freshmen for the Tar Heels. Boston is now a safety, but Price said their connection still works well for them on the field.
They have also encouraged one another to teach the younger guys and help them fast-forward their learning curve.
â€œThe good leaders are guys who do the right thing on and off the field, setting the right examples,â€ Price said. â€œThis summer, we took it upon ourselves to come out here on Saturdays and Sundays on Navy field and work on our weaknesses. We were just pushing each other.
â€œWe called the young guys and got everybody out here to all get better together,â€ Price said. â€œGuys like T.J. Jiles and Malik Simmons, they came in athletically gifted. But on the collegiate level you are going to need technique as well. So Iâ€™m helping the young guys further their game to the maximum.
â€œAnd I also try to lead by example and show the right way to do it â€“ that is how you want to make plays and how you want to set the tempo.â€