John Bunting Q&A

North Carolina head coach John Bunting addressed the media Tuesday, and here is what he had to say...

Opening Statement:

Coming off the bye week we are now preparing for our trip to Madison to play a traditionally great football team, a powerhouse. A team that some people counted on possibly making a run at the Big Ten title. A top 15 team, they struggled a bit last week. That was a bit of a bump in the road for them. We are continuing to work on our season long objectives, which is to try and be better each week. As I told you guys before, our expectations are high. I don't want to assume anything though. We want to try and get better with each game. As I told you after the game last time we played, we got a little better, I saw that, a lot of other people saw that.

I was encouraged by that. We went to try and get even better in our bye week by going back to training camp which is what we anticipated doing anyway, which is what a lot of people do during their bye week, but it was very important for us to continue training camp. We did get a little better I believe and I hope it will show itself, particularly on defense in the form of tackling and not giving up big plays.

We have not worked on Wisconsin really, until this week. We started yesterday. The players were off over the weekend. We are anticipating getting up there early Friday depending upon the hurricane. We have about 26 players from eastern North Carolina and South Carolina in the path of Isabel. We will be talking to them later today to make sure we have a good reference point on phone numbers and communication with their families. Making sure they can get in touch with us and we can get in touch with them.

There are some players that are obviously playing very well for us. Durant and Dexter Reid and Jaworski Pollock is leading the ACC right now. Ronnie McGill and Willie Parker have each done some good things in the first two games. Our offensive line has done some very, very good things. Chase Page and Seawright have played very well up front. We have played some young players in the first two games and we anticipate playing another this week. A young player, a freshman-type player. Michael Waddell, I think is leading the ACC in punt returns right now. That's encouraging, that's a step up in our special teams. We were not very good in our special teams last year. I see some signs that we are getting better. I am very encouraged by some of the things that I have seen as I have told you prior. Our expectations and our goals remain the same, our objectives remain the same, to get better each week. I think we will be a better football team at the halfway mark. I have also said that, that we were at the beginning of the season.

That is based on the way we work, our hard we work, our coaching staff and the way our players react to the coaching. We hope that's what the case will be. We are going to find out a little bit more about ourselves when we go to Wisconsin. One thing that I have said, that is a little bit new to the players is that I want to get back to what I brought into this program about playing hard, playing fast and playing smart, that was added about halfway through the 2001 season, smart. Playing for 60 minutes.

I think we are going to accomplish most of those goals with the exception of playing a little smarter. We have to keep working on that. That's all of us working together. That was the additional thing that I have said to them, is to make sure we are working together on all of this. Some people might try to tear us apart a little bit, critique us a little bit, but we are going to hang together and I know our staff believes that. I believe our players firmly believe that, we have a great senior class. They are working hard to get this team better as we move along.

Q: Can you talk a little about playing a third team in a row that likes to run the ball? A: I said this a few times when people have asked me about Wisconsin, this is bludgeon football now. They are about as good as they get at running the football and that is their mentality. We are going to have to be very, very good at reacting off blocks, about making tackles, making sure the runner doesn't fall forward for extra yards. Make open field tackles, try and prevent explosive plays when they do run the ball. They have a great runner in number 28, Anthony Davis. The other two guys that come in and run are very good too, number 30 and number 32. They have a mentality about running the ball.

Q: Any changes that will be made to the defense? Scheme-wise or personnel-wise? A: Each week you tweak your scheme. Each week you try to do something you haven't shown. Each week you try and do something a little different. But you don't reinvent the wheel in the middle of the season or the beginning of the season. That is very, very hard to do. I know people have tried to do that and they are not very successful doing it. We are tweaking our scheme. We are playing a couple different players each week. Some other players will get on the field this week and play for the first time. How much? I don't know at this point. Dave Huxtable and I will sit down and plan that a little bit later on.

Q: How do you teach these guys to win? A: Winning is very important to me. I really hate to lose. It is just not in my mentality to lose much. I don't like it at all. But at the same time our focus has been in this season, I never gave you guys a number of wins. I never talked to anybody about how many wins we are going to get. I have only talked in terms of trying to get better. That is the way I am going to continue to talk. I know it gets boring and I know a lot of people want to talk about the wins. I am going to talk about our team trying to get better each week, as a staff, as a team. That includes each and every one of us. I know where we stand and I feel very good about where we are going. I hope we continue in the positive vein that we have since the opening game. We got better against Syracuse.

Q: What kind of wrinkles have you tried to implement on offense? A: Well, we are not doing any wrinkles. What we are trying to do offensively is what we have been trying to do all along. Which is, trying to continue to run the ball. There were some signs that we started to run the ball a little more effectively against Syracuse. Willie Parker had some good runs. We are going to continue to try and do that. Continue to refine our passing game. We are going to try and minimize penalties.

Q: How is Bobby Blizzard? A: Bobby Blizzard is doing better. I spoke with him over the weekend. He has been for the most part at home recovering from this viral illness. He was in the hospital, and then he got out of the hospital and went back home and has not been back to class. He has not been around here until today. I told his mom, all I care about right now is to see Bobby Blizzard smile. I do not think about Bobby playing football right now. All I care about is him getting well. I think he is starting to get well and when he does, we'll start to talk about football.

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