Football Signing Day Press Conference

CHAPEL HILL, NC--Head University of North Carolina football coach John Bunting talked about the 22 signees in the 2002 high school recruiting class.

Opening Remarks:

"Recruiting was taking place all during the season, and it took place lots of different ways, as dictated by the NCAA rules – evauation periods, dead periods, quitet periods. It's hard to keep track of, but our coaching staff did one heck of a job putting together what is going to be a great recruiting class here.

"We are extremely excited about our 22 committments. We had 23 coming in today and 22 afterwards. We're really excited about those 22 good, good football players, many of which I think will become great players here at the University of North Carolina.

"We have chosen those that have great character, have great work ethics, who will be proud to be University of North Carolina Tar Heel graduates four or five years from now. I think we did a good job selecting these players, and I think all of these guys that have chosen to come to the University of North Carolina are going to sell out for this university, sell out for this program, and are going to make strong contributions to many, many winning seasons to come.

"I think the Stones came up with the expression, 'You don't always get what you want, but you get what you need.' I think we did a good job with most of that. Certainly, I think nobody can say they have the perfect class. We have a strong, strong class – very fast, very athletic, and in the D-line, O-line positions they are very physical. That is what we are looking for.

"I'm really pleased with the defensive ends we've got, pleased with the safeties and running backs we got. At the wide receivers, we got speed. I feel good about those positions.

"We certainly believe that there are a couple players that will be projections for us, due to the linebacker position, that have size and speed. We're looking forward to coaching those guys.

"With the staff I have at the University of North Carolina, there's no doubt in my mind that in a year or two, these guys will be very productive. I think we'll have a number of players from this class that will enter the field next year."

Who do you see having the best chance of participating right away?

"I think we should seeMahlon Carey, who is a running back but has also played safety, playing for us. I think we should see Ian Firestone out there. I think we should see Kendall High, who is a very physical football player. Alden Blizzard could play for us at defensive end. I believe between the Tommy Richardson's and the Rashaad Tindall's and the Xavier Raney's and the Brian Rackley's, these guys are going to get on the field.

"We know that we've lost a lot of defensive. I've named a lot of defensive guys right there that I think could impact both special teams and get on the field defensively for us.

"I think the offensive linemen we have are extremely good. They have great athleticism and certainly the size and speed to be on the field – if not this year right away – probably before that season is over. I don't look for those three offensive linemen to be red-shirt material. I think they'll be playing for us at some point."

How about down the road whose contributions might come in 2003 or later?

"The Lewis Burnham's of the world, a tight end who also plays defensive end and offensive tackle. The Michael Gilmore's – I think he's going to be a fantastic player for us. He probably could return kicks for us next year. I think Mickey Rice will get on the field, if not the first, certainly by the second year. Derrele Mitchell, by the way, will be with us, and I think he will be on the field right away as a wide out.

"Victor Worsley is going to be a tremendous, physcial, fast linebacker for us, and will probably see time on special teams for us his first year."

This is your first trip through the whole recruiting cycle. Can you give us an idea of what a verbal commitment mean to you?

"This is my second season, and this might go in my book later on. There certainly is some circus-type atmosphere out there. There are some high-wire acts – recruits going to see a governor, recruits being sent a jersey. A commitment can be as useful as the breath used to speak the words. That's how meaningful it can be. That's the way it is."

Did you raise any questions with the ACC Compliance office or the NCAA?

"I'll leave that up to the athletice director and the NCAA. That's not my strength."

When did you become aware that one player in particular was not coming?

"I don't know what time of day it was. That irrelevant. Nothing was confirmed, and I'm still wondering if it's true. You have to find that out from the other sources and not from me."

Did you find yourself waiting by the fax machine today?

"I think that's the way around every university in the country. Everybody gets in there early, everybody's all fired up, and the secretaries are here. The secretaries were here at 6:45. That's terrific. We're all fired up."

What do you think about the institution of the early signing period in football?

"I wonder if that would help. I'm not enough of a recruiting guru to be able to tell you if that would help the situation. I do know that a lot of those recruiting services love the fact that it goes on, and on, and on, because they get to keep talking about the guys and sell the papers. That's good for them.

"Some of those guys are right, and some of those guys are very, very wrong. They certainly tout players that are sometimes good and sometimes busts. But I think that our staff has done a great job of locating some great players. I trust their judgement over the recruiting services."

If a kid makes a commitment to another school, how does your staff treat that?

"I think we are always open to seeing if a young man might want to change his mind. I think if the opportunity is there to go to a better school and a better program, that young man should have that option up until he does sign on the dotted line. He may make a commitment early on and then find something that is better for him in his future."

Would you initiate that, or would you wait for him to initiate that – to come to you?

"I think when you are out recruiting at high school with all the different players, you get word that young man wants to speak to you. I encourage my staff that I want the players to come to us."

So if you hear that recruit "X" is going to university "Y,"--

(Sarcastically)"You're getting into algebra now. Give me a break, will ya? I had a hard time. I only took one year of math here. That's not one semester. That's one year."

So if a young man announces for a school other than the University of North Carolina, you are going to wait until you hear vibes?

"I encourage my staff to wait to hear if that young man really, in fact, is going to go there. If he hears from somebody else – this happens frequently. We hear that young man wants us to call him."

Let's say that I'm a recruit and I commit to another school on Tuesday, and you normally call on Wednesday, what then?

"OK, I call you on Wednesday. Do I know you've committed? I know? I don't know what I would do. That's a hypothetical."

Can you tell us a little bit about these guys?

"Alden Blizzard is a young player from Laural, Maryland that I think is going to grow. He has a high motor, long arms, and I think he's going to become a fine defensive end."

"Melik Brown is from the south Jersey area – Camden. He's a defensive end that I think will become an outstanding outside linebacker. He has also snapped in his career. He's got great instincts for the football – what you want in a linebacker.

"Lewis Burnham, of course his daddy and I played together with the Philadelphia Eagles. He is a very intense guy that we've seen in his years at Moorestown High School as an offensive tackle and a defensive end. We think he has the skills a and the athleticism to become a fine tight end."

"Mahlon Carey came to us about midway through the recruiting process, and he is an extremely instinctive runner. He's very, very bright, has good grades and high character, great family. He could play either side of the ball. He's a stud running back, but I wouldn't be surprised if, at some point, he gets over there on the defensive side. I think he makes a strong contribution to us on teams right away because he has great speed and athleticism.

"Whit Efird was an early commitment from Oakboro. I watched him in camp and saw him in some of the touch football leagues. I saw this guy throwing touchdown passes and doing back flips. I said, 'Who is that guy?' That guy is a heck of an athlete. We followed through on Whit, and because of the athleticism that he has, he can be a fine offensive linemen for us at the guard or center position.

"Duante Fields from Wellington, Florida is a very fine athlete. He's an excellent basketball player and is very speedy. He has a great vertical leap and great hands. He has a great upside for us on either side of the ball and also returning kicks.

"Ian Firestone is almost a duplicate here. He's extremely competitive and is from a good league in Pa. He catches the ball well – has really soft hands. He could help us on special teams right away.

"Michael Gilmore very much the same. He has great speed and athleticism. He has played both sides of the ball and returned kicks. He has a great upside for us. I think you'll see him starting before too long.

"Kendall High has played defensive end. He's got great size, 6-6, 250. He is growing. He has tremendous character, is working really hard in the classroom, and I think he is going to be an excellent student-athlete here. He could play defensive end or possibly grow into a defensive tackle. He has a great motor.

"Cedric Holt is another DB that we've seen play. He has great athleticism, great quickness, great instincts. He's got a ways to go academically, but we think he has a chance to make it. We hope so, but he is from a fine family. Cedric is out of Wadesboro.

"Derrele Mitchellcommitted to us last year and fell short the first time, but he is an honor student up at Hargraves, and we are extremely excited about his size and speed at the wide receiver position.

"Brian Rackley is a guy that we discovered down there in Tallahassee. We got to him kind of late, but he came up here and visited the University of North Carolina and absolutely loved it. He has, once again, a tremendous upside. I think he's bigger than 6-4 actually. He's more in the 6-5 to 6-6 range and has a physique that should fill out. He should play at 265 or 270 pounds before too long. He's very physical and great with his hands at the defensive end position.

"Xavier Rainey is maybe not quite 6-5, but he's all of 6-4. He playes defensive end right now at Stone Mountain. A great story on this young man – he has grown up living with his aunt and some other family and siblings. He wasn't raised by a mom or dad. He's had the tough times. He's an overachiever. He's got great SAT's, great academics from a fine school. He's a great kid very into school. I think he might be a fine linebacker. I'm going to try to convert him right away to a linebacker position and see how we go there. He was also a rush end and he snapped for them.

"Kyle Ralph came to us late. I think he, at one point, committed to Vanderbilt, and then when there was a coaching change there, he got in touch with us and said he was interested in being recruited by us. We were happy to oblige. He is very physical, very active, and athletic offensive tackle that can play right or possibly left. He's got that kind of athleticism, and he's got a little nasty streak in him, which I like about him, on the football field. He's a great kid, great grades, great academics, with a great family.

"Mickey Rice is really excited about being a Tar Heel. He's an inside player who has been playing outside. That's how athletic he is. We certainly will move into the three-technique or onto the center's head. He's a great kid with another great family. They were so excited to come up here and visit with us. He has tremendous strength, with a little bit of Ryan Sims in him.

"Tommy Richardson what a great visit that was when I went down there. They had a family of about 35, and we were all singing the 'North Carolina' song – 'North Carolina, take your shirt off and wrap it around your head like a helicoptor.' This guy, we had so much fun, we were all dancing around outside his house. He is a really fiery type player that I think will be either a safety or grow into a linebacker. I see him getting reps, at least on special teams. That is very important to me, as you know.

"Rashaad Tindall is the same type of guy. He's got a ways to go, right now, academically. I think he'll make it. I really do. He's doing great in the classroom. His guidance counselor loves him, and that whole school loves him. He's got a tremendous amount of respect with great character. He's got a twinkle in his eye, and he will fly around and strike people and knock them down. He plays both sides of the ball, and he shows up every place he gets on the field, whether it be at the linebacker position, a safety, or as a wide receiver making big plays. On teams, you have to watch out because he will knock you for a loop.

"D.J. Walker one of our first recruits, a running back/secondary guy. He's out near the Asheville area in western North Carolina [Pisgah Forest]. He's a special young man with great character. He has the ability to run the football, has great football instincts, and, once again has high character from a great family.

"Jacoby Watkins is a corner who we had in camp for a day last year and saw that he has some instincts about him. He had some good [40] times. We're very close to his head coach at Laurinburg, Mark Barnes, and we feel good about the fact that he can come in and help us right away, if not the first year, the second year at the corner position.

"Chris Woods is coached by my old teammate Bob Hannah down in Columbia. First of all, he's going to be competing for the heavy weight championship down there in the state of South Carolina. I think he was the runner-up last year. He has tremendous athleticism, being that big, and he is still 270-275 and very lean.

"David Woodridge is from another great family. We are tickled to have him. He has a strong leg as a kicker. He'll make Coach Webster's kick-off coverage that much better because they won't have to cover that much. He'll kick it through the end zone. He also has the ability to punt. He's only been doing that for a short period of time, but from what we've seen, he has tremendous potential to not only kick the ball deep, but to hang it high.

"Last is Victor Worsley, an early commitment to us, who is from another great family. He has great character – 'Yes, sir. No, sir.' He's a run-with-the-ball kind of guy who is going to come in here with great academics and come in here to play right away. Look for Victor to get on the field and play a lot of football this coming season."

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