Season Wrapup: D.J. Bunn

Sporting two Division I-A prospects in UNC commitments D.J. Bunn and Justin Dixon, Smithfield (N.C.) Smithfield-Selma faced high expectations coming into the 2008 season. However, inconsistency led to a 6-6 campaign that ended in a first round playoff loss.

"Just because we had Division I players, people were expecting 11, 12 wins," Smithfield-Selma assistant coach Chris Martin said. "It put a lot of pressure on the kids, but they weathered the storm pretty well."

While the expectations were high, Smithfield-Selma's roster count was low.

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"I think the biggest problem for us was just numbers," Martin said. "We're a 4A high school playing with 1A numbers. We're playing teams that are able to two-platoon – they just have more athletes. Every player we were playing played both sides of the ball."

Most high schools classified as 4A, the largest classification in the NCHSAA, have the luxury of fielding separate offensive and defensive starters. Smithfield-Selma didn't have that ability. Thus, players like Bunn, a 5-foot-11, 187-pounder, started on both sides of the ball and returned kickoffs – and rarely received rest during a game.

"Since I'm going to play defense in college, [the coaches] were thinking about just having me play defense," Bunn said. "But the team, they needed me on both sides of the ball. So I was a key on both sides of the ball."

On offense, Bunn played wingback in a backfield that included Dixon at fullback and Josh Snead at the other wingback position. Bunn ended the season with 508 yards and nine touchdowns on 81 carries. He also had 165 yards and three touchdowns in receptions, and threw a touchdown pass.

"Snead and D.J. could make things happen with their speed," Martin said. "Our offensive line was young, but with the three ‘backs we had, it made it easier.

"At the same time, all three ‘backs were so reliable and productive, that it took away from the others' production."

For much of Bunn's career, he has played safety with run support as his primary responsibility. However this past season, he split time equally between playing safety and cornerback.

"We moved him to corner just to give him some experience at corner," Martin said. "That's what [UNC] said they were recruiting him as. And it worked out, because a lot of times we put him on their bigger receiver and not a lot of people threw over D.J. a whole lot."

Bunn collected 78 tackles, an interception, and nine pass breakups.

"He didn't like it as much, because a lot of times people did go away from him," Martin said. "He liked being at safety so he could be more in the middle of the action."

"I think I'm still a safety man," Bunn said. "I like being back there and getting to see the whole field. I feel most comfortable at safety."

Regardless, the experience at cornerback helped in Bunn's improved defensive awareness.

"I think he grew a lot in understanding his coverages," Martin said. "… Recognizing the coverages and understanding what the offense was trying to do, I think he grew a little bit."

In the meantime, UNC's coaching staff is now having second thoughts on where to play Bunn.

"They're recruiting him as a cornerback. But I think after he went to the camp this year and worked out with Coach [Everett] Withers, they got him on the depth chart for safety," Martin said.

"I've talked to them about it recently, and now they don't know really between safety and corner," Bunn said. "It depends what they need when I get there."

Tommy Thigpen began recruiting Bunn for UNC and earned his verbal commitment last spring. However, Bunn's recent communication with UNC has been with John Shoop.

"I talk to him every two weeks," Bunn said. "We just talk about how we're doing and what we're going to do next year. He just tells me to stay running and stay focused on the school year."

Bunn will officially visit UNC during the weekend of Jan. 30. He had planned to visit the weekend prior, but he's scheduled to take the SAT that Saturday.

D.J. Bunn Profile

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