Defensive line coach Keith Gilmore joins the Carolina coaching staff after four years at Illinois.
Defensive line coach Keith Gilmore joins the Carolina coaching staff after four years at Illinois.
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Turner's Take: Gilmore Hits The Ground Running
Release: 02/07/2013

By Turner Walston 

Keith Gilmore didn’t have time to get comfortable in his new office in the Kenan Football Center. Carolina’s new defensive line coach was on the job less than two weeks before National Signing Day. Larry Fedora acted quickly to hire Gilmore, knowing that the timing - just ahead of Signing Day and before the spring practice period - was crucial. It was a combination of factors that led Gilmore to Carolina. He called Fedora a “dynamic leader,” and Tar Heel football “a program on the rise,” and appreciated the opportunity to reunite with Dan Disch and Vic Koenning, who he’d worked with at Illinois. Chapel Hill too did its part in attracting Gilmore. “Look at this weather,” he said. “It’s beautiful here.”

By the time the dust settled Wednesday, Gilmore had not yet had a chance to evaluate the players already on the Tar Heel roster. “That’s the first thing on the agenda for next week,” he said Wednesday afternoon, “look at some tape and find out the strengths and weaknesses of these guys and be able to help them out and make them better football players.”

When he evaluates the returning Tar Heels, Gilmore will find a solid group that will look for leaders in 2013. Gilmore must replace Sylvester Williams, who led the defensive front with 42 tackles a year ago. A talented group returns up front, and Gilmore will tap his leaders soon enough. With 28 years of coaching experience, he knows what he’s looking for. “We’re going to come off the football,” he said. “I want to see guys come off with great pad level, and be physical and tough, and those sorts of things.” The coaching staff will use the spring to nail down fundamentals. “We’re going to hit the sleds, and we’re going to do some pounding, and we’re going to learn how to play the game in the trenches, and that’s where we’re going to start.”

From his time with Disch and Koenning, Gilmore is familiar with the system utilized by Carolina’s defensive staff. “When you look at the 4-2-5, it’s a multiple front, and it has the ability to convert into a 3-4,” he said. “We’ve had the type of players at our bandit position that have the ability to be a four-down defensive end, or flex out and be a 3-4 linebacker and that’s the gist of the defense.”

With the multiple fronts and multiple blitzes that the coaching staff wants to bring on Saturdays, Gilmore recognizes that he’ll need to develop depth up front. “I always talk about ‘a pair and a spare,’” he said. “I want to have at least two guys, and a fifth guy, at every position. That way I think we can have a good football team.”

On Signing Day, Carolina added five defensive linemen, including bandit Marquis Haynes. Gilmore was familiar with New Jersey natives Greg Webb and Dajaun Drennon from his time at Illinois. He got up to speed quickly on Haynes, Mikey Bart and Nazair Jones. “After I looked at the tape, I was even more excited. I found out for myself that they are good football players.”

Gilmore’s first chance to see his group of defensive linemen in action comes later this month with the Blue Dawn conditioning period. He’s eager to get a look. “I want to see how they move,” he said. “Can they change direction, and can they push themselves?” he said. “It’s  a tough time. You’re talking about getting up at 6 a.m. in the morning, and guys being pushed to the limit. I want to see who’s got that little extra heartbeat that going to take it to the next step.”

Turner Walston is the managing editor of Tar Heel Monthly.
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