CHAPEL HILL – Unlike most freshmen, Tyreece “T.J.” Jiles enrolled during the first summer session in Chapel Hill and the extra time at UNC has paid off in early playing time.
Jiles is backing up fellow Florida native Jabari Price at cornerback
Head coach Larry Fedora listed the Cape Coral (Fla.) native on the two-deep depth chart against Louisville and expects his time on the field to increase.
“T.J. played in the opening game, he played more (against Wake Forest) and he’ll likely play more (against Louisville),” Fedora explained. “He’s involved in almost every special teams and he’s getting some time on the field. He’s just coming along. He’s getting better and better and he’s gaining more confidence.”
However, the transition from his home in the Sunshine State to the Old North State wasn’t exactly easy for the cornerback.
“It was a big transition and kind of tough coming into it,” Jiles said. “But after a few days I got into it with the other guys and starting going with the motions so it ended up being good.
“I missed the family and friends but I’m up here to do something positive – something better – so I really didn’t pay no mind to it.”
Also having several current defensive backs from Florida helped although the physical expectations took some getting used to.
“It helped having guys I was familiar with up here like Tre Boston and that kind of takes away some of the home sickness. I’ve learned mostly everything from the older players. When I make small, freshmen mistakes they’ll tell me about it. As long as you listen and learn then you’ll pick up on the little things.
“Academically I was already pretty strong so that wasn’t a big transition but mostly it was the physical thing. I never had to wake up at 6 o’clock for a lift and then go run right after. That was a big transition.”
But the hard work has paid off already as Jiles has added close to 10-pounds since arriving in Chapel Hill and early playing time on the field has been one of the payoffs.
“I came in at 173 and I’m at 182 right now. In about the middle of training camp, I saw what some of the other guys were doing I realized that if I worked just as hard or harder then I would be able to contribute.
“I didn’t think I would be in this position (to play early). I thought it would be much harder learning the plays but [defensive coordinator and defensive backs] Coach (Dan) Disch really teaches and installs it in you. I’m actually able to play faster while learning the plays.”
Jiles later clarifies that although he’s adapted well to the coaching staff’s expectations the learning curve and actual process wasn’t that easy at all.
“It is hard,” Jiles says emphatically. “It’s extremely hard and actually the hardest thing I’ve done in my life so far.”