Tar Heel safety Green has come a long way in a year
Sophomore safety Dom Green was easy to spot at North Carolina practices this summer. He was the one dancing on the sidelines between drills, joking with teammates, and otherwise doing what he can to keep spirits up during the grind of training camp.
“I like to bring energy out,” Green said. “I like to have fun and dance around to get people smiling. School always comes first and it kind of beats down on some athletes, so when we come out here we have to enjoy every moment because we’re doing something we love. I like to play that role.”
It wasn’t always like that, though. As a true freshman and a walk-on, Green let other people lead last year, even though he started all 13 games.
But Jabari Price and Tré Boston, fixtures in the secondary, graduated after last season. A group of rising seniors on the defense, including bandit Norkeithus Otis and cornerback-turned-safety Tim Scott, told Green that he needed to lead a suddenly young unit.
“They took me to the side and told me, ‘Green, you played last year, you know what it looked like, you can have as much say-so as we do,’” Green said.
Green took the words to heart — even if his leadership style wasn’t quite was Scott was expecting.
“Sometime his leadership can be funny with his dancing, trying to get everyone hyped, because he’s not that great of a dancer,” Scott said. “But it gets the defense ready to play.”
Coaches noticed right away how much Green has changed. Associate coach for defense Vic Koenning said Green went from someone who wouldn’t say anything last year to someone who is bouncing around before every play. And Fedora said that Green’s demeanor has also helped his play on the field.
“He is the guy that has brought the energy every single day,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said. “He enjoys playing and his confidence level is so much higher than it was last year at this time, it’s like two different people actually. Now he is not afraid to make a play or if he makes a mistake he knows he is okay and he can get it corrected.”
Part of Green’s exuberance may stem from the fact that he wasn’t guaranteed to play college football as recently as two years ago.
Green recorded 102 tackles and seven interceptions as a high school senior, helping lead 15-0 Scotland County to the 2011 state 4-A championship, but he didn’t receive any scholarship offers. After a semester at Hargrave Military Academy to improve his grades and test scores, he committed to Cincinnati, but changed his mind and walked on t UNC last January to be closer to his hometown of Laurinburg.
After a breakout performance in the spring game, he started from the first week alongside upperclassmen Boston, Price and Scott and recorded 59 tackles and three interceptions.
“It was a long journey,” Green said. “Being a walk-on always pushed me. I knew I had to work for it.”
Green isn’t the only player to go from walk-on to returning starter at UNC. Linebacker Jeff Schoettmer recorded 85 tackles last season, second on the team.
“I think it’s a testament to Dominique and myself. Hard work can get you a lot of a places,” Schoettmer said. “When he first got here he was a real quiet guy, and then he gets out on the football field and his energy explodes. You can tell he loves the game and has great confidence in himself.”
PRACTICE NOTES — Fedora said the heat this week did not affect his practice plans, since he doesn’t want his players to change the way they play based on the weather. “Whether it is cool or hot or raining or snowing or sleeting, there are two teams that are going to go out on the field and we have to compete no matter what it is,” Fedora said. “So, we try really hard not to think about the things that we don’t control.” … Fedora said the decision on whether Marquise Williams or Mitch Trubisky will start at quarterback could stretch into next week. “I really have not set a date that I feel like I have to do that. If I felt like it was going to affect our team one way or the other or any of those guys, then I would. But I don’t think it is going to.” … Fedora said if he had to pick one leader of the defense, it would be senior bandit Norkeithus Otis. … UNC started preparing for Liberty, its first opponent, this week, and had already installed 75 percent of the gameplan by Thursday.
Follow UNC beat writer Harold Gutmann on Twitter at @haroldgut.