Bunting updates 2003 class

GREENSBORO, Ga. – John Bunting spent a good deal of time talking about the status and potential of his highly regarded 2003 recruiting class while addressing the media at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff.

He confirmed that four will attend prep school in the fall, and that it has yet to be determined whether or not a fifth would have to delay entrance due to academic qualification. Bunting was likely referring to defensive back Lionell "Woobie" Green as the signee in question, though NCAA rules obviously prohibit him from naming names.

Defensive linemen Terry Hunter, Marcus Hands, Khalif Mitchell and Kenny Price will attend Hargrave Military Academy in the fall.

"We're waiting on one more to see what happens there," Bunting said. "We've got a guy who has some work to do and we'll find out if he gets it done. And we've got four guys who have some work to do and hopefully will get into Carolina.

"At least with two or three of those guys, it was that close," Bunting said holding his thumb and forefinger close together. When asked if one or more could become January enrollees, Bunting replied, "I'm hopeful.

"Some of these guys have had tough beginnings – ninth and tenth grade – but they have really worked hard here in their senior years, and I feel confident that they are going to be good students. And that's what we want, good students at Carolina."

Moving on to those who have qualified, Bunting said Isaiah "Puff" Thomas and some others could likely see early playing time, possibly in the Aug. 30 opener versus the preseason No. 1 Seminoles.

"Young guys are going to make an impact this year," Bunting said. "That's saying quite a lot for a guy that was playing for Carver against High Point Andrews and then could go play against Florida State."

Bunting added that Melik Brown, who he said won the starting job in the spring, will have to battle Clarence Gaddy to maintain it. He also said that Joe Kedra would be given every opportunity to earn early playing time as well in the sub-defense or 4-2 (nickel) package.

Of the 21 true freshmen that were eligible, only Charlston Gray did not workout with the team this summer.

"That has to be some kind of record," Bunting said. "The players were in Chapel Hill and working out most of June and July, and that is real good for us."

The third-year head coach is ecstatic about both the 2003 class as well as the Tar Heels' outlook for 2004.

"We nailed it in-state, and that's No. 1 with us: recruiting in-state," he said. "I think this year (2004) will be the best recruiting year in North Carolina. There are more players in North Carolina than there have ever been before, and we had a great year evaluating those players that are interested in our program.

"Out of state, we're switching some things around, particularly with regard to future of the ACC and the state of North Carolina and its academic requirements."

Finally, Bunting talked about what he most looks for in a potential UNC recruit:

"We did a terrific job of evaluating players. We evaluated early this year. Not only their growth and speed potential, but their character as well. That's something I learned from Dick Vermeil a long time ago, both as a player and a coach. Character is extremely important in football.

"We recruited a tremendous class. We got every position…the receiver position, the tight end position… I feel very good about our defensive tackles, I feel real good about the linebacker position and I feel great about our wideouts.

"Those guys have got speed, size and potential, but they also have character. When you have character, that potential transfers into playmaking ability."

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