Bunting: 'We Were Right'

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Before the season began, who would have thought North Carolina would tie for third place in the newly expanded Atlantic Coast Conference and be scheduled to have its Christmas dinner in Charlotte, in advance of a meeting with Boston College in the Continental Tire Bowl?

Click here to listen to audio from Tuesday's press conference.

"The only people that gave us any credit were us, the team, everybody on the staff and the die-hard Carolina fans," said senior Jonas Seawright, who along with UNC coach John Bunting and several players, met with the media on Tuesday.

And for those who doubted his methods or ability, and especially those coaches whom Bunting says he knows participated in negative recruiting tactics when discussing UNC with prospects, the fourth-year head coach would like to offer up a tantalizing dish of crow.

"They were wrong and we were right," Bunting said. "That feels pretty good to me.

"I've been with these guys through the sorrow and despair. But I said to them going into this year that this was the best blend of talent and leadership that we have had here."

Bunting said he didn't want to discuss the possibility of a bowl during a season in which the Tar Heels' victorious opponents finished with a 47-9 combined record.

"I wanted them to focus on the week to week," he said. "I knew we were not good enough to just walk through this schedule. Those were some great teams, but we're not a great team, yet."

  • Following UNC's regular season ending win over Duke, Bunting made sure to find junior quarterback Matt Baker – the ‘apparent heir apparent' to Darian Durant's throne. He told him to make sure offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill knew how bad he wanted him to return.

    Baker and Bunting got their wishes, as the 64-year-old Tranquill put aside any speculation that he might retire, by signing on for another year with the Tar Heels.

    "We found out yesterday," Bunting said. "I'm extremely excited about that. This guy is a genius.

    "I know Matt Baker is thrilled he'll be back. He got that excitement communicated and I know the quarterbacks coming in here are excited about him coming back."

    However, Bunting said he was surprised to hear of a published report listing assistant head coach and special teams coordinator James Webster as an "applicant" for the head coaching vacancy at Tennessee State.

    "That's news to me," Bunting said. "I expect all of my assistants to be back next season."

    Bunting clarified afterward through a UNC spokesperson that he didn't mean he was not aware that Webster has and does apply for other coaching positions.

  • Because of the late addition of Boston College as UNC's upcoming match-up, the coaches have been limited in their scouting of the Eagles. However, Bunting and some of the players did discuss their early appreciation for what will become a virtually annual opponent.

    "They have a defense that is physical and big," Bunting said. "They've got some young linebackers that are very fast. They're very, very well coached. That staff has been there forever. Their offense has got some similarities to ours. I have a great deal of respect for their head coach and coordinators.

    "I was excited about getting BC in [the ACC]. They're a great program. If we play home-and-homes with them, it's a great trip for our players. It's a great place to visit."

  • The Tar Heels will arrive in Charlotte the evening of Dec. 25. They will then practice at Charlotte Country Day School in the days leading up to the game on Dec. 30. So far, 30,000 UNC fans have bought tickets.

    "I'm not surprised; our fans have been great," Bunting said. "I love playing in Charlotte. Charlotte Country Day is a great facility, and I know the coach down there real well. I'm real excited about that."

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