ACC Kickoff: John Bunting Q&A

GREENSBORO, N.C. – UNC coach John Bunting spent well over an hour with the league's sportswriters late Monday afternoon. Here are some excerpts from what he had to say.

"I have a trivia question for you. How many major universities have scheduled Miami for their homecoming game? I know the answer to that one."

Chase Page said he thought you might have calmed down a bit.
"I'm very motivated every day I go to work – from the time I get in, to the time I get home. I don't think I've toned myself down at all. I'm excited about training camp and I'm excited about this great season that we have upon us."

Do you see this as a crossroads year in some ways?
"I'm really excited about the direction of our football program. We've had Top 20 recruiting classes two years in a row. We have a great home schedule. And I want to see improvement in our football program. You know I came back to college coaching from the NFL, and I wanted to do something special; and I wanted to do it at the place where I went to school."

Was there a weariness last season, and how has that changed?
"Nobody likes to lose. Nobody likes to do that. So the frustration of so many close games and being on the verge of winning some of those and the way we closed out the year. Chase is still a young player, and I think he felt a special burden, just as we as a staff felt a special burden. I think it was important for us to look at all the good things that took place, and then try to enhance them by getting additional positive people involved. And that's why I hired Marvin Sanders and John Gutekunst and these guys have done a tremendous job. I've seen the difference already. Therefore, I have a lot of confidence going into this season. I've seen the difference already. Therefore, I have a lot of confidence going into this season."

How has the defense been simplified?
"We're not going to be switching guys on and off like we did last year. That's big for the young guys. We tried to scheme a lot last year. We tried to get the best personnel match-up we could with somebody else's personnel match-up – depending on what they had on down and distance. We tried to be too perfect. We're faster now on defense. We have more football savvy now because we've played a lot more players. Are we a fourth- or fifth-year defensive team? No, we're not there yet. But we're going to be much improved. And that will come, I think, because we are more simplified. Because we are mentally tougher. We're faster and we're simpler."

How about switching the guys around like Madison Hedgecock?
"I told Madison when he agreed to move to defensive end to help us get better at that position, that he would eventually move back to fullback. I'm excited for him. It also means we're better at the defensive end position with Kyndraus Guy healthy, with Khalif Mitchell coming into play, and Tommy Davis has another year in the program. Alden Blizzard and Brian Rackley…we expect those guys to provide us with some good stats this year."

How is Kyndraus' shoulder?
"Kyndraus Guy is completely healthy. He has been an absolute workaholic in the weight room. The kids already look up to his work ethic. He's remarkable. I'm really excited about his future, as I am about a lot of our young players."

Has he put on any weight?
"Kyndraus Guy has gone from about 255 pounds to 275 pounds. He has tremendous explosiveness and quickness."

Is it possible to show improvement, but it not show in the win-loss column?
"I think we'll see improvement in this football program this year. I think we'll see us be much more competitive this year, and we were close last year; everybody that follows us knows that. And it starts with No. 1, we've got to be better from a tactical standpoint. We've got to do better with our turnover ratio. That means the offense, the defense and the special teams have got to work together to get more turnovers and protect that ball. That's one thing we have not done very well at all in my three years here. We've got to get better there first and foremost. And secondly, we all know that we need to be more competitive on defense. We need to slow teams down. We can't give up big plays. And I think with the people that we have coming in, I think we will.

Your opinion of being picked to finish tenth in the league?
"I've read a lot of polls over the years. It's all about results. Our players know how hard they have worked. Our staff knows how much better we've gotten over the spring. What I've seen what we've done over the last two years in recruiting, and what I've seen us do over the last two years as far as developing players and their attitudes and their toughness – that's what's important to me. I think we'll see those results when we take the field against William & Mary and in the rest of games to come."

Do you give any thought to how important this season is to you and your future at UNC?
"Once again, our focus has been on improving this football program. And improving recruiting. And improving retention. And improving the results. I'm really anxious to see that continue to take place. I know that our retention is much better than when I got here. I know that our recruiting is much better than when I got here. So, now we're really hopeful for the results. We will see noticeable improvement in the way we play and the way we compete."

How about pressure?
"I've been involved in sports all of my life. I enjoy the pressure. I enjoy the competition. I enjoy the challenge. So I'm real excited about possibility of this year."

Is the improved speed significant enough?
"I think it is. I really believe our corners will be faster. Our safeties will be as fast or faster. Our defensive line play should be noticeably improved. I know the first unit of linebackers that we put out there now will be faster. You know, being fast and playing fast are two different things. So we've really got to have a great training camp, particularly with our linebackers, to get them smart enough to play in this league and simplified so they can turn it loose in our physical play. I don't think we'll be playing just three guys. I think we'll be playing four of five linebackers. We're still extremely young there. You've got to have a lot of football savvy, and you can't be wearing out in the fourth quarter. We still have to have enough players to play. I don't want to have seven guys running on and off, but for us to have more depth than we've had. So, I'm excited about speed, I'm excited about the depth and I'm excited about the way these kids have practiced over the spring."

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