Bunting Press Conference

CHAPEL HILL -- University of North Carolina head football coach John Bunting held his first weekly press conference of the season on Tuesday at the Kenan Football Center. The Tar Heels open their 2003 season on Saturday night when they host Florida State at 8 p.m. in Chapel Hill.

Bunting's Opening Statement: "I said this sometime ago when we came off the first practice field about how excited I am to getting started. Our whole staff is that way. And now we get to play for real, the bullets are real Saturday night.

"We are excited for this game for multiple reasons. The biggest one being this is our first game of the season. We are excited about playing a great football program. Based on what I have seen we are a better football team then we were last year at this time. I think in part because we ran a real good training camp, and in part because I think our players are better. Our coaches have done a good job coaching them, and we hope that it is reflected in the way we play.

"As I said to all of you before, this is a game-by-game season. Most coaches will say that old coaching cliché, but it's more true than ever with this team. I think we can win some games on our schedule. But I know it will be hard to win them all. Each week, whether it's a win or a loss, we have to regroup and put that game aside and go on to the next one with the hope that we can win that game.

"How many things do we have in our control? We control the effort that we can give. We control some of the parts of the great game of football that we get to play. The bounce of the ball, the officials, sometimes we don't have control over those things. But we have control over our effort. We have control over the way we think prior to the game. We have control over the poise that we display during the game. That is going to be very important, I think throughout the year, that we continue to stay levelheaded throughout this entire season. It is very important for our team to do that this year more than ever.

"We are still very young. We have some quality players on both sides of the ball. Most notably, obviously our quarterback and our offensive line. Question marks still remain at wide receiver, and to an extent at running back and to an extent, backup tight ends. Defensively you know, we have got to be better, we all know that. The secondary I think will be better. Still, there are question marks. Who is the strong safety? Who are the backup corners? What rotation will we use, if any, against Florida State?

"But, there have been some surprises in our camp. Jonas Seawright has had an outstanding camp, at defensive tackle. I'm really happy for that young man. And I hope it continues into this game and on into this season. Our linebacker situation is somewhat better I think, because Clarence Gaddy has a year of playing under his belt. Jeff Longhany has game experience. Doug Justice has game experience. With the defensive line, Madison Hedgecock has a full training camp at defensive end, and he is going to play a lot of football for us this year. I think our punters will both punt this game, that's my intention. John Lafferty is the starter right now, but David Wooldridge will get in the game, that's my intention. The field goal kicker right now is Danny Orner, but Topher Roberts is giving him a run.

"With that in mind, its great for me, one of the fun things that happens in coaching sometimes is that you get to reward people. Its fun to win, we all know that. But its fun sometimes to see certain little things happen, small wins in this game. We are going to reward a couple players with scholarships. Obviously the big rewards we get is win we win football games, but more importantly when we see our kids graduate. And do well in school.

"We are going to reward Greg Warren with a scholarship and Topher Roberts. Topher, of course has just one year left in school. I promised Greg at one point that I would try to get him on scholarship and we have chosen to do so at this time. This is his third year as the starting snapper and Topher has given us great competition kicking field goals and extra points and of course has been our starting kickoff man and still has that job. He has a year left in school and we are going to reward him with a scholarship. That's fun to do. Believe me, you don't know how fun that is to do."

Question: The running back situation, what are you going to do there?

Answer: "I see all four playing. I see them playing different roles during the course of this game. It will probably have to do with down and distance and personnel. Willie Parker I see as our number one back right now."

Q: Some of the guys had injuries, why did Willie win the job? Partly because of that?

A: "Partly because of that, Parker's been there the whole time. And I say winning the job, I mean like I said all four players can play, and that's all subject to change during the course of the game. We are ready to go with the guy that has the hot hand. We are ready to go next week with the guy that has the hot hand from this game. It is nice to have that competition. What we didn't get in this training camp was the full complement of competition, due to injury. That I had anticipated."

Q: Could you elaborate on some of the specifics that you have seen out of Willie this fall, versus what you have seen from him since you have been coach here?

A: Number one is durability, two is his ability to see the cutback or the inside running lane, and take it as opposed to stuttering before taking the hole. See it and hit it. That's different. There's the timing of offensive line play, the timing of the offensive play called, the positioning of the defensive line, stunts and the way the linebackers fill holes. The timing has to be correct. He is timing plays up better by him hitting it faster, not hesitating."

Q: If you believe this team will be better at stopping the run, can you tell us why this will be the case.

A: We are better up front. We are stronger up front. Chase Page is 25 pounds heavier. Jonas Seawright is learning how to play football. Isaac Mooring had a very good spring, but hasn't practiced much, but I'm counting on him helping us some in there. Jermicus Banks has helped us inside. We are counting on a freshman Shelton Bynum to provide us with some backup in there. And then I think our middle linebacker, and our linebackers in general have a much better idea on how to fit plays.

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