Freddie Kitchens is one of many new faces in UNC’s football offices, and before spring practices are finished, he won’t even be the newest addition to the staff.
It’s by no means a rebuilding year for the Tar Heels, but there’s a lot of renovating going on, both on and off the field.
UNC coach Mack Brown officially introduced Kitchens as the new tights ends coach Wednesday while the sounds of drills and hammers constructing a new players’ lounge and training room resonated through the walls.
Brown said that construction phase should be finished by the summer, and a new weight room and expanded locker room will be the next phases in improving Kenan Stadium.
Kitchens joins Chip Lindsey (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks), Randy Clements (offensive line), and Jason Jones (cornerbacks) as the fourth new coach Brown has brought in since the season ended.
Kitchens replaced John Lilly, who left to join Frank Reich’s staff with the Carolina Panthers. He spent last season as a senior football analyst at South Carolina after spending 16 years in the NFL ranks.
“I came back initially to gain more knowledge in RPO and the run-advantage throw game, and then I really enjoyed myself last year,” Kitchens said. “And I came to North Carolina because one, I think the world of Coach Brown. He’s highly respected in this industry and this business and I mean, What’s there not to love about North Carolina? North Carolina is one of the best jobs in the country and I feel very fortunate to be here.”
Kitchens has known Lindsey since high school, when both attended football camps at Alabama. But he admitted he’ll have a learning curve early on when it comes to the terminology the offense uses.
Brown also announced Monday that Clyde Christensen, who spent the past two seasons coaching Tom Brady as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterbacks coach, will be joining the staff as a volunteer analyst.
Christensen, who lettered at UNC in 1977-78, cannot coach rising sophomore quarterback Drake Maye directly under current NCAA rules. But he can make his observations and suggestions known to Lindsey. The rule concerning analysts could change before the spring is out, allowing those added staff members to coach on the field, too.
“He has coached quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston and Tom Brady, and he’s won two Super Bowls,” Brown said. “So when you can take that kind of experience, along with Freddie Kitchens, into your offensive meeting room, it gives you some of the best coaches in the country and a lot of expertise moving forward.”
Brown said his staff will have “one of the strongest offensive rooms in the country.” And it’ll help that they have one of the best quarterback prospects to run the offense. Maye is looking to improve his footwork and his presence in the pocket, and it appears that the offensive hires Brown made can all help his development.
Maye is in a much different position entering this spring from a year ago, when he was locked in a competition to be the starter.
“Until you’re the boss, it’s hard to lead and since he’s gotten the starting job and he’s become one of the best football players in the country, his leadership has just grown,” Brown said. “You can see it now, the players just gravitate to him and I’m really excited about him moving forward.”
Brown will look to add a defensive analyst with NFL experience who can help improve their pass rush before the spring is over. The new staff members come in addition to 19 new players — either transfers or early enrolled freshmen — who will also take the field as spring drills begin Sunday.
The Tar Heels return 10 offensive and 11 defensive starters from their finale against Oregon in the Holiday Bowl. They’ll need that experience to navigate what Brown called “probably … the hardest schedule next year that I’ve ever been around — especially since we’ve been here.”
“That’s a great challenge for our guys,” Brown said. “The message to them is, if we want to be national, we got to be better, and you got to be better in everything you do.”
C.L. Brown covers the University of North Carolina for The News & Observer. Brown brings more than two decades of reporting experience including stints as the beat writer on Indiana University and the University of Louisville. After a long stay at the Louisville Courier-Journal, where he earned an APSE award, he’s had stops at ESPN.com, The Athletic and even tried his hand at running his own website, clbrownhoops.com.