Bunting: ‘A giant missed opportunity'

John Bunting met with his offensive and defensive coordinators early Sunday, to break down the game tape of Saturday's 49-47, three-overtime loss to Syracuse. Later that evening he addressed the media.

"It was just a giant missed opportunity," Bunting said. "You don't want to have too many of those in your season or you will be very unsuccessful."

He then met with the team, especially to point out the strides that he saw from several special teams' members, including Larry Edwards, D.J. Walker, Michael Waddell.

"We did some good thing on ‘teams,' and we've got some things we need to clean up on ‘teams.'"

Bunting emphasized the need to get better this week in practice, referring to the upcoming bye week as a return to training camp for the defense.

"We certainly got better offensively, a little bit better on defense and we've gotten noticeably better on special teams," Bunting said. "We made a little bit of progress in the second week. We would have liked to have won; we would feel real good about that today."

Bunting said except for allowing two big plays, he saw the improvement on defense in the first half.

"That's basically it," Bunting said. "I'm not going to sit here and say it went well out there on defense.

"We were fairly well-coordinated in our efforts in force, fill and pursuit," he said. "But we gave up some bonehead plays. We have to be more disciplined. We've got to work on pass rush – the quarterback had too much time.

"It's just the big touchdown throws, the play that goes for a touchdown in overtime – the fake-belly pitch. We didn't have the right side of the edge of the defense aligned right. You can get beat by alignments. If you can't get lined up right, it's hard to play good defense. Sometimes due to inexperience, we take our eyes off our keys."

So it's back to basics and fundamentals with the defense this week. And Bunting said there is a possibility of some new starters emerging by the time the Tar Heels travel to Wisconsin on Sept. 20.

"We need to get the Doug Justice's better, the Jonas Seawrights better, the Chase Pages…but I also want to work with some of the younger players, like the Larry Edwards, the Fred Sparkmans, the Joe Kedras. They're going to get a lot of snaps this week."

As just about anyone who has seen the Tar Heels over the last two seasons can attest, the defense's overall lack of speed is its greatest shortcoming. Tacking has been sub par as well, but that can be taught; speed cannot.

However, Carolina has a wealth of defensive speed on its current roster – but primarily in the form of true freshmen. Bunting suggested that he might now be ready to sacrifice experience for that speed, and move the younger players along more quickly than he may have initially intended.

"Obviously I'm very tempted, but I've got to do what's best for our football team," he said. "We're going to try to give players opportunities to play. I want them to earn those opportunities and earn the right to play. Larry Edwards made dramatic improvement in just two weeks on special teams. That's a guy I would like to give an opportunity to. Joe Kedra has worked real hard – last week on the scout team, and then I moved him to the defensive side and I liked how he worked."

For the most part the offense will practice as normal this week, with an emphasis on developing the offensive scheme. Bunting said that offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill has some new ‘thoughts' in mind.

  • The following players were still recovering from injuries as of Sunday evening: Bobby Blizzard (ill), Mahlon Carey (lacerated finger), Tommy Davis (pulled hamstring), D.J. Walker (concussion), Michael Waddell (turf toe), Jawarski Pollock (sprained hip).

    All will be evaluated again on Monday, according to a UNC spokesperson.

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