Bunting Talks Football in the Off-Season

CHAPEL HILL, NC -- It's June, when most sports fans have their minds on the baseball. Football is always at the fore in UNC football coach John Bunting's mind, and he's already thinking about the upcoming season.

"We're excited. Our football camps are just about over. Our coaches are going to take a short break. It's well-deserved. They've worked really, really hard and had a great off-season of spring ball, recruiting, and evaluation in the Month of May. We've had a number of very fine players – both of the high school and some of the junior players who have come into our camps. It's been really exciting around here.

We're looking forward to the short break and then getting back here to start training camp. We obviously feel good about the way the kids are working with Coach Connors. We feel good about the way the Will Champmans of the world are coming back from injury. We feel good about the good players coming back on offense, the development of the defense that took place during the spring."

"We're excited about Dave Huxtable and what he's done with our guys. Hal Hunter is everything I believed he'd be as a coach. Jim Fleming has done a great job with our secondary. We're off and running. We'll take a short break here coming up for the next three to four weeks and then it will be back to work to start training camp. Our first first day is August 8th, but I think the young players come in the 1st or 2nd of August."

Could you tell us where Will Chapman is and where Anthony was at the same time last year?

"Talking with Scott Oliaro yesterday, he says Will is well on his way. He will be fine when we start camp."

How will the process for evaluating the quarterbacks work? Are you going to have a big role in that or leave that up to Gary Tranquill?

"It will be a decision that Gary and I come to an agreement on. We're obviously looking at quarterbacks now. It's been fun to sit and chat with Gary about the various quarterbacks that we're looking at. I learn more and more each time I talk with the guy. He's really, really sharp, obviously. At the same time, we will, just like we did last year – we came to grips with what we were doing with the quarterbacks last year. We were both in agreement with what we did, and we will do the same this year."

If you have a similar situation to last year, will you play two guys, rotating? Will that be OK with you?

"I don't wish for that to happen, but if it has to happen, it happens. Many people have said to me – most recently too – that two-headed quarterback threw some defenses off. I'm not sure why that would happen.

"They are two different types of quarterbacks. In part, that's because Darian is so different. Darian is not the runner that Ronald Curry was. C.J. Stephens has an ability to run. Darian, on the other hand, is a tremendous run-to-throw guy, and I've been around those quarterbacks. Those, probably, are the most dangerous. He can run, but he runs to throw. That's what really hurts defenses because they want to come off the coverage. They see a guy start to bolt, they come off the coverage, and then he dumps it over their heads."

When you do your evaluation, will it be largely predicated on how they do in pre-season scrimmages?

"No. It will be a daily evaluation."

Last year, you had David Thornton come out of nowhere. Are there people that you have to have do that because of they losses on defense, and who are some of the prime candidates?

"What we need to do defensively is learn to play with consistency. They whole football team needs to learn to play with consistency. Last year, we talked about playing hard and fast for 60 minutes. After the third game, we said that we'd better play a little smarter too. We had to add that. We were lacking that.

"This year, with the youth, the next step is learning how to win, and that means playing consistently. Our defense needs to learn how to play consistently, because I think we will have playmakers. And a guy from the same hometown as David Thornton is Malcome Stewart, who can be a real playmaker for us. The other piece is coming together and playing with consistency and it will start in the back with the secondary. We have the kind of players back there to play with a tremendous amount of consistency. They demonstrated that in the spring. Now, we have to continue to grow upon that in the summer and, hopefully, start that way against the University of Miami of Ohio."

You don't have the experience at linebacker that you had last year, but do you have the athleticism you had last year?

"I think that we have the athleticism. Quincy Monk was a very fine athlete. Doug Justice is a good athlete, also. Malcolm is as good of an athlete as anybody on our football team. Clarence Gaddy is a very fine athlete. The athleticism, I think, is equal to [last year]. The speed is equal to or better than we had last year. Now, neither David nor Quincy, to my recollection, ever started a game before last year. My point being there were very few starts between those two players. That situation is very similar as we start the season. Dave Huxtable has done a great job with those kids."

Have you decided how you will divide the special teams duties, or is there going to be just one person?

"Jim Fleming will be our special teams coordinator. Andre Powell is going to handle the punt team. Jim Fleming will handle the puntreturn team. James Webster, as he did last year, will handle the kick-off team.Gunter Brewer, as he did last year, will handle the kick-off return. Hal (Hunter) and Rod Broadway will be involved heavily in their respective units of field goal and field goal block. Jim Fleming will coordinate the special teams."

Why did you pick Fleming?

"I think Fleming, because of his background as a coordinator on defense and head coach of a collegiate football team, a double-A program. He's got a tremendous amount of energy. I think it worked out best for all of us to have him coordinate that. He has a very good way with the players, in part because of his head coaching experience, so he will be the person who will communicate most frequently with the special teams units."

Darian came back half-way through the spring after going through the whole "I'm leaving, I'm not leaving." I'm assuming that part is settled. What have you seen from him, what has his attitude been like this summer, and how is he different that he was last summer?

"I think he's a lot more focused, and it's a lot clearer to him what he needs to do in preparation for the fall. I think, perhaps, last late spring and summer – as I've said before Darian gets a little distracted when he's not playing a game. He loves to play. I think he's a lot more focused. He's a year older. He's been this business of being on the edge and being on the fence. I think he's off the fence, and the players are excited about the fact that he's commited to competing and helping us win football games."

Could you talk about his conditioning? Is he in better shape than he was this time last year?

"I think there's no doubt that he's in better shape."

Will he be here through the summer?

"Yes, as far as I know."

You've got a pretty tough early season schedule. How will last year help you this season?

"I think the players that return can learn from last year's experience. It was a very difficult schedule. We played well, at times. We didn't play well at other times. The offense started slow. The defense was a very experience group and carried us as I thought they would. Special teams were inconsistent. I think they know how consistent we need to be when we start the opener. And I think we will be, in large part because our offense will be that much further ahead. And I think because of our year and spring together that the players know how important special teams are to me and it is to our success.

"Defensively, we are what we are. We've just got to work really hard in the summer to become a consistent team. We'll have some playmakers. We've got to become consistent. We have to give special attention to our incoming freshmen to give them extra rep time, because they are going to have to play. A number of them will have to play. We'll figure that out as we go along to see how well they adapt to their new environment."

Do you worry about the expectations of the fans?

"I think that, because of my experience as a player for a long time at college and the pro level and my experience at both levels as coach that I anticipate that fans have high expectations, no matter what. We want to contiue to improve this football program. We're still building the foundation that I talked about last year. We know where our weaknesses are, and we think we can have a great training camp and come out of the chute fast. We think we can be a very good football team this year, and, if we're not, I'm going to be extremely disappointed, along with the fans. My expectations are high."

Bunting, Part II

Stay tuned to Inside Carolina for more from John Bunting and UNC's football players in the upcoming days.

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