The Final Words before Kick-off

ATLANTA, GA -- The "similar teams" theory again dominated Sunday's press conference with Carolina head coach John Bunting and Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville.

The question came up, inevitably, and this was Coach Bunting's response:

"To a large extent I think there is a lot of similarity, even to the suspended wide receivers," said Bunting.

"I got mine earlier though," quipped Coach Tuberville.

Not to be outdone, Coach Bunting retorted,"I don't think you've had a sick coach though, maybe we can arrange that."

Defensive experience

But seriously, folks — Coach Bunting went on to add, "There is a lot of good talent at Auburn, they are young in some areas, we're young, obviously in some areas we have some experience, obviously on defense. We are counting on that to play a major part in the game."

The difference in experience is notable, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. On Auburn's entire roster, there are only 11 seniors. The two-deep on the Auburn defense contains the names of only four seniors. There are thirteen freshmen, red-shirt freshmen, or sophomores on the defensive two-deep.

In contrast, there are eight senior starters on the Tar Heel defense, two junior starters, and four junior reserves on the UNC defensive two-deep. There are only six players on the two-deep defensive chart that are freshmen, red-shirt freshmen, or sophomores.

Coach Tuberville added,"We are very similar defensively, both Coach [Bunting] and I are defensive coaches, and very aggressive defensively, do different things with our four-man fronts, move them around and do a lot of things with our defensive fronts and are very athletic. Obviously they have got some guys that can make some plays and we have had to prepare for that.".

Return of Coach Tranquill

Offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill, who recently underwent surgery required by a pulmonary infection, may be back in the press box Monday night. In practices in the Georgia Dome, Tranquill has made his presence felt.

"During the third or fourth period of practice, we actually saw him throw his hat," said Bunting, " [Tranquill] Stomped, yelled, screamed, and maybe even, cursed, and the players rallied. They were jumping up and down, -- they knew that Tranquill was back."

"This morning," continued Bunting, "I think he even snapped on me at one point. I think Gary is ready," concluded Bunting, "He is raring to go."

Preparing for two quarterbacks

North Carolina will use two quarterbacks in the game, with senior Ronald Curry and red-shirt freshman Darian Durant alternating every two possessions. Does this pose any special problems for the Tigers?

"Really, the thing you can do is to try to know who is in the game, "said Coach Tuberville, "You prepare for the offense more than you do for the quarterback. Sometimes if you have one that is a lot more athletic than the other, obviously, you have to really be prepared for that, but both of these guys are pretty athletic and do a lot of similar things, so it is not that big a transition."

Bunting on Ronald Curry

"Being around Ronald this year has been an absolute pleasure for me," said Bunting. "When we asked him to give Darian [Durant] time, he respected that and took it like a man. What has been really been great for me, what makes me feel good is to see him smile when he is out there on the practice field.

"To see him laugh when we have something funny happen out there on the field. To see him into it like he is and to know that he has truly contributed so much for us to be in the position we are in right now and give us an opportunity to play in the Peach Bowl. It makes me feel good about his effort and everything he has done here at Carolina over the four years."

"I hope he gets a chance to play at the next level, I am going to do everything I possibly can to help him," added Bunting. "I think Ronald's best days could be ahead of him as a quarterback."

"Ronald has the type of arm strength and athleticism that, put in the right situation, I think can play at quarterback. He needs to work in one system, that would help him."

Will Ronald play basketball? "He will have to make that decision," said Bunting, "I think I have heard him say more times than not that he is probably not going to play hoops, but maybe he will. Maybe he will want to do that, I know how loyal he is his teammates that are out there right now playing right now at Carolina."

On Darian Durant

Coach Bunting also had some comments about his red-shirt freshman quarterback. "I think Darian has learned a great deal relative to ups and downs -- crisis, and crisis management. His offensive players have rallied around him when he has come into the game, I think he feels that, appreciates that."

"At the same time, he knows how loyal this football team is to Ronald Curry. I think it is something that is good for a young person like that to be able to experience and see it, and really live it on a daily basis. Here is a guy who is a starter, here is guy who has given Carolina everything he has to two different sports -- not just one, but two. Here I am getting an opportunity to take part of his time. I think he has developed a real meaningful respect for both the game of football and how it is played, and how many people are required on each and every individual play to contribute to making that play successful, or if it is a failure, he is a part of it."

"As much of a gamer, as much success has this young man had in several sports in high school, I think he has grown a lot at this next level, the college game, as to how what it really and truly takes on every play and how much he respects each position and what everybody contributes to make the play successful."

Time to play football

The "Coach Bunting Show" will air Sunday evening at 6:00 PM from Atlanta, but beyond that the talk is over and it is time to play football.

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