Media Day: John Bunting Q&A

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina held its annual fall Photo and Media Day on Tuesday at the Kenan Football Center. Here is some of what UNC coach John Bunting had to say.

Opening Statement
"Well, there are lots of signals that training camp is upon us and the season is close by. I think I've told you before, when we leave Maine to come home, that's our signal. So, what else is there to do but tee it up and get after it. It's an exciting time here for me. All of our players seem to be in a great frame of mind as we begin camp. They were buzzing around on the practice field yesterday like I haven't seen them do before or in a long time. I'm hopeful that it's not just the weather. The weather has been absolutely beautiful, but we know we're going to have some tough days on the practice field. Hopefully we can keep that enthusiasm and have a great camp. And come out of camp with continued feelings of excitement about the opportunities, about how much we've progressed as a team since last season, and hopefully having some input on a few of these true freshmen that have come in here. Some of them are talented and mature enough to possibly help us, which will be exciting because we have to continue to build this team from the bottom – up. I think there are some talented guys here and we need to continue to build that talent level. But what I'm most excited about right now is the senior leadership on the squad. That has rung loud and clear with me throughout the spring and the summer, and we're counting on those guys to help us out. The staff is enthusiastic about getting started on every side of the ball, whether it's offense, defense or special teams. So today we'll go back out in shorts, and we look forward to putting the pads on tomorrow."

You said in your opening statement ‘they're buzzing around like I haven't seen' in how long? – Ken Tysiac, The Charlotte Observer
"Our players are faster. We haven't had this kind of speed since my first year; and in some cases, more than we had the first year. We had a fast corps of linebackers my first year here; a fast corps at secondary my first year and we had wide receivers that could run my first year. Now, we've got that back. There's a lot of speed out there. There's talent out there. So to put it in Marvin Sanders' terms, the talent is here that he has seen at Nebraska. It's just that sometimes those guys were third-, fourth- and fifth-year players. We've got guys that are very capable of playing big-time football. We've got to develop them in a hurry. And the younger players that have already been out in the field…we've got a real task at hand to develop their skills so they can execute and play with enthusiasm, and overcome all of the turbulence that comes during a football game."

What is the one thing you most need to instill in this team during training camp? – James Butler, WCHL
"Mentally, we need to really work hard to play together and believe in one another. That's the most important thing is to know that guy lined up next to you is going to sell out on every play, and know that he is a capable player. We have players that can play good football. Each one of them has got to take another step forward in their maturity level and in the emotional side of their athletic play – believe in themselves. We as coaches have to instill that in them, but at the end they have to believe in themselves. How do you do that? You do it right, over and over and over again in practice. Then, what you hope is that you go out in a game and you do it right. And when something goes wrong, you're able to overcome that wrong and do it right again. During training camp, we're going to go with a prescribed plan that Andre' Powell has put together and let that unfold. As training camp progresses and we get closer to the beginning of the season, that may change."

How are you going to handle the running back situation in camp? -- Dave Droschak, The Associated Press
"During training camp, we're going to go with a prescribed plan that Andre' Powell has put together. As training camp progresses, as we get closer to the beginning of the season, that may change."

What is that? Is that giving everybody equal opportunities? – Aaron Beard, The Associated Press
"Different days. On different days, guys get more opportunities on those days so they can get more carries in practice."

Have the changes that you've made in defensive schemes…are those things fluid to the extent that you will be tinkering with that concept after William & Mary comes through? – Caulton Tudor, The News & Observer
"We have a philosophy of defense that is a little bit new – a little bit different. So the philosophy is not going to change. The scheme itself is always going to be adjusted and tweaked throughout a season. But, the base defense – the basis of our defense, whether it is a sub-group – is going to be different from last year, and it's not going to change a great deal as we get into the season. It can't. You can tweak them and tinker with them a little bit week to week all you want to."

From what you've seen of Ronnie [McGill] since the spring; can he carry 25 or 30 times a game and become that dominant tailback that you want? – Bill Cole, The Winston-Salem Journal
"I would love to say, ‘yes,' but I don't know that answer. I don't know that answer. That remains to be seen. He has a situation where he will cramp at times during the course of a practice. It hasn't happened yet [this year], and we think because he has spent more time with us – and we've invested more time in trying to stay on top of his condition – that we'll be able to monitor it more closely and be aware of the signs of fatigue so that we can help him. Whether he's ever a 25 to 30-carry-per-game player, I don't have that answer. I don't have that ‘crystal ball.' I think you have seen that when he does carry the ball, he's very physical. He has a great attitude toward this game. He has great vision. He has great balance. He has everything you want in a running back. He can also break the big one; he did that last year against Wake Forest. There are a lot of great things about Ronnie McGill. But there is one thing there that we can't control. We just have to monitor it and do our best to respond."

Jonas [Seawright] said that he…. – Neil Amato, The Herald-Sun
"Who's this Jonas guy that you're talking about?
He's a different guy. I don't know if you recognized him.
"Did you recognize him? Wow, it's a beautiful thing isn't it?"
He said you pulled him aside and said 350 [pounds] wouldn't cut it. Did you think he was going to come through and get to where he is?
"I'm very proud of Jonas Seawright. I'm very, very proud of everything that he has done to try and prepare himself for his last year here at Carolina as a senior. I couldn't be more excited about what I've seen in him in terms of the way he looks, the way he practiced yesterday, and I just hope it continues. And I think he understands, that more importantly for him, the commitment that he made to himself and his teammates and how valuable that will be to him, not only now but for the rest of his life. That's remarkable that this young man has lost 40-some pounds. And he looks great and he's strong as an ox. Bigger is not always better."

Did you expect Hilee [Taylor] to come in a little bigger? Do you think he's big enough to play defensive end? – Andy Britt, Inside Carolina
"I think he has potential to play defensive end or linebacker. We have seen some things in him in the one-day that we hope we see in the days ahead. He has foot speed that we all know about, and he has agility that most of us that have watched him are aware of. But what we didn't know was how instinctive he might look in the first day. But it's just the first day and we've got a long way to go. He's a little different. He really loves to play. He's eager to please. He's a great young man from a great two-parent family that has cared a lot for this young man. Everything that people had told me about him is showing to be true – that he cares an awful lot for other people. That's kind of neat to have on your football team. He puts the team first and the individual second, which is nice."

What has impressed you about Khalif Mitchell so far? – Robbi Pickeral, The News & Observer
"Going back to the spring is where we have most of our evaluation from. He did some things that I had never seen on the football field in terms of his athletic ability. His ability to change direction with a 295-pound, 6-foot-5-frame is unbelievable. I've not seen that. I've not seen Julius Peppers do that. Now he is very green; he is raw; he's got a ton of things to learn. We've got to do an excellent job training him, and as I told him yesterday, he has got to want to be coached. And you know his words back to me were, ‘Coach me, Coach.' And we're going to coach him hard, because he gives us a great opportunity to have a great player. We've got to get him on the field. He's going to make some mistakes, but hopefully we can overcome those mistakes."

How has your experience prepared you for the opportunity to turn this tough situation around? -- Butler, WCHL
"Well, I've seen tough situations turned around. I've seen them turn around in time and I've seen them turn around in a year. I believe that we started to turn the situation around as a football program last year. How? By recruiting, by developing some toughness in some athletes that didn't play on offense or defense but were out there on special teams, by having winning attitudes. What I've learned is that it can be done, and with the right people it will get done. I have the right staff with me, the right players with me. I've learned from some of the best. We'll get it turned."

Where does Joe Kedra stand entering camp? -- Eddy Landreth, The Chapel Hill News
"Joe Kedra played a lot of football last year, primarily, obviously, on special teams. He's somebody we hope will continue to develop as a linebacker. He's got a long ways to go, but I think he'll get lots more opportunities this training camp than last to be out there on the defensive field and participate. He has a lot more feel for the game, he's more experienced, he knows what it takes to succeed at the Division I level and he's working toward that end. He's far from being a finished product. His best years are ahead of him. He'll play on special teams and will contribute there. He may, as training camp progresses, develop on defense."

What is Mike Mason's status after his spring injury?
"Mike Mason is back, ready to go, full of spunk and energy. We hope he grows as a player because he has a lot of ability and he has a lot of the things that it takes to be a great player. He loves to play, he loves to practice, he wants to get better, he studies the game a lot. When he's not doing his schoolwork he's working to get better. He loves the game."

UNC Athletic Communications contributed to this report.

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