Spring Game: John Bunting

Excerpts from the head coach's post-game press conference.

Opening Remarks:

As I told the team, I'm pretty excited about the way we ran the football, and I was really excited by the way our secondary tackled. I think it's as good as we've tackled in the secondary since at least 2001--maybe even better. A lot of good things happened out there today.

I was a little nervous going into the game, relative to splitting the team up the way we did. I thought it could into a nightmare. But it was very competitive, they got excited, they had fun, which was the number one objective for this game--to have fun, get after each other, also to finish plays. I'll be anxious to watch the tape to see if we did finish some plays.

I think we are getting tougher. When you run the football it makes you tough. When you have runners like Ronnie McGill and Jacque Lewis, who know how to run the football behind the line and make plays, it's exciting.

Kareen Taylor stands out as a player today. Sensabaugh was tackling well. We got pressure on the quarterback at times. Khalif Mitchell is going to be a great player for us--we all know that.

The disappointing things were some of the penalties and the discipline things. The good news about the penalties is that we didn't any procedures [penalties]--maybe one offsides--which are the things you look for in spring. There was a late hit out of bounds by a young player who hasn't been on the field before. A personal foul here or there--I'm anxious to look at the Chase Page penalties. There are some things we can learn there from the tape.

It's important that we get through this game and get back to practice Monday and Wednesday, finish up the spring strong, and go from there. We have to find out who our back-up quarterback is. I think that's obvious, and Matt [Baker] didn't have the kind of day he would like to have, I'm sure. He's thrown the ball well all spring and didn't have a great day today, but give some credit to those other people who intercepted those balls.

All in all, I think it was a good day. People had a lot of fun.

You have said that you want your linebackers to make most of the plays. What did you see in that regard today?

Larry Edwards led the Blue Team, and Jacoby Watkins and Khalif Mitchell, and Quinton Person--two corners tackled well. They were aggressive out there. We tackled the catch very well.

At linebacker, I am concerned about who will be the front-line guys and who will be the back-up guys. Once again, we know that there is a lot of speed in this conference so we need to be able to tackle the catch, tackle people in space. It's very important that we have athletes that can think and run because that's where this thing is going.

Moving Tommy Richardson to linebacker has been a stroke [of genius]. I'm really excited about that young man. He's played well this spring. It's nice to see Larry Edwards make a lot of tackles. Fred Sparkman has done a lot of good things. We know Doug [Justice] is a very steady player for us. Joe Kedra did some good things today also. There are some exciting things happening with the linebackers.

Can you elaborate more on Tommy Richardson and what he brings to that position?

He's a bit of a natural. Being a safety, he has good vision. He sees and feels things. He has instincts. Coming from being a safety into the box area, if he can take blockers on--and he's a tough kid--he'll be able to play in our defense. We're not going to get up there and smash the tight end over and over again. We want him to get back off the line of scrimmage, walk out on the inside receiver, on the slot, and play coverage out there and make plays in space. He has that ability.

I'm anxious to see when we get Kyndraus Guy back at defensive end, Terry Hunter at defensive end. Terry Hunter is going to be a big-time player. Anybody who watches him play will see that he works so hard. He's really coachable and has a great future here. That's where the glaring weakness on defense last year were primarily on the perimeter at both DE positions and tackling from the corners. We had other deficiencies also, but that was primary. We're getting those things solved

What did you think of Kareen Taylor?

Like Ronnie McGill, he always has a smile on his face. He is a great young man and a pleasure to have in our football program. He's very fast and has great football instincts. We have played him at safety and corner. One reason we moved him to corner is so he could perhaps become our starting nickel back, since he will be a tremendous blitzer. He's a fierce competitor. What I like today is that he was right there with the receiver on some deep balls and was able to cover them, turn his head, get the timing down, and knock the ball down, along with making two interceptions.

You have said Khalif is very coachable. Where have you seen improvement with him?

We're just scratching the surface with him. Brad is going to sell his soul to the devil to get that guy to play, I'll tell you that. He has what it takes in terms of physical attributes. We have continued to work on his stance, his technique. He gives you everything he has on the practice field everyday--that's how you become good at this, not by just having talent alone. You become good at this by working at it day after day after day. That's what Khalif does, and he's another guy who has a big smile on his face all the time. He's a pleasure to be around.

What did you think when he hit Darian?

I thought that was great. Darian needed that.

You always have goals for spring. Where have you achieved those, and where are you not quite there yet?

I have some general goals and some specific goals. I want to develop more mental toughness. I think we are getting there. You get there by running the football and stopping the run. Our defensive coaches have done a terrific job introducing this defense. We are further along than I thought we'd be. I think between John Gutekunst and Marvin [Sanders], they are giving these kids a lot of confidence. It is important that we gain confidence this spring to get rid of this dark cloud that has been over us for a couple of years. I think we are getting rid of it. We have a long ways to go--we all know that.

Specifically, I wanted to develop the offensive line, and we are doing it. I wanted to find out if Madison [Hedgecock] could make the move back to fullback and Ricky Cook could back him up and compete with him. I wanted to see where we could go with Quinton Person, Kareen Taylor, and D.J. Walker in the secondary. Those guys are making an impact. We'd have loved to have Terry Hunter in the spring, but we don't. Kyndraus Guy rushed the passer the other day, so he got a few reps. He's going to be good. I need to continue to develop Shelton [Bynum] and 'Puff' [Thomas], and… inside. Chase Page had a very good spring so we are a little stouter there. The big question mark for me is still the linebacker position. Where are we going. At tight end, Scott Brumett comes in and does a good job, the ETSU transfer. Justin Phillips does a terrific job for us, a walk-on player out of Northwood H.S. out of Pittsboro. You talk about a grinder, he's an ultimate grinder. He's a great young man too who loves to play, a walk-on player.

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