Bunting played at UNC under Bill Dooley. He understands that change takes time, just like when he was a player.
After we lost to Duke my sophomore year," recalled Bunting, "when we started practice that year Bill Dooley said (in his best Bill Dooley voice), 'Hell, men. That Duke game left a bad taste in my mouth.' That only meant one thing: it was going to be a tough spring.
"The following year when we lost the Peach Bowl, as we entered spring, he repeated it, and that could only mean one thing: it was going to be a brutal spring. And each spring we got better. Eventually, we became ACC Champions. Certainly, the Maryland game has left a bad taste in my mouth, but we we're not going to dwell on it; we've got to move on."
The physical make-up of the team has already changed, thanks to strength and conditioning coach Jeff Connors. There's more room for improvement, but the change is evident; however, it may take longer to change the players on the inside than on the outside.
"The most disappointing thing to me," offerred Bunting, "and the number one thing I wanted to see change in this program was to win in the fourth quarter… I wanted the game to be close. I wanted to win in the fourth quarter. Just the opposite took place."
Football is a tough sport for tough young men. Bunting expects to see the toughest come to the fore and "step up"—and for those that can't to step aside. Anything less than success early can play upon the psyche. "It's like last year all over again," remarked one player after the 23-7 loss at Maryland on Saturday.
"It's always a danger [to lose confidence] when you get off to a slow start," explained UNC linebacker Merceda Perry, "but with the coaching staff we have, I don't think that will be so much of a danger as far as players getting a negative opinion about the team."
"That kind of got to me," said Bunting pointing to his chest of the openly expressed doubt following the loss to Maryland. "That kind of disappointed me because I don't think it's the same. I know it's not the same."
It's Bunting's first year, so he has no point of reference for this team. He only knows how to continue plugging along, and it's beginning to sink in—at least for some of the players.
"If you stop believing in anything, the bottom's going to fall out," remarked cornerback Errol Hood. "Whether we go 0-10 or 10-2, I think the fellas are going to keep their cool. No one's going to fall off."
"As far as I'm concerned, they don't have a choice in the matter," explained Bunting. "We're going 100 miles per hour, and they better stay on board."
For the most part, the players understand Bunting's approach. They want to win, and they want to be pushed to win. Merceda Perry appreciates what John Bunting has brought to the UNC football team
"We don't need a coach that is like 'We played hard, but oh well,'" declared the senior linebacker. "We need a coach to go out there and push us to our limit."
It's just going to take time.