Bernard Set to Visit UNC

Notre Dame verbal commitment Giovanni Bernard will take his final official visit this weekend to North Carolina.

"I just want to have a chance to see [UNC] and see if that place can be a right place for me," Bernard said. "I've heard [UNC offers a] great education program [and] great facilities. I just want to have a chance to witness it myself, instead of from other people's words."

After officially visiting Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oregon State, and Tennessee during the fall, Bernard verbally committed to the Fighting Irish. However, the 5-foot-9, 192-pound tailback from Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Aquinas began to sour on Notre Dame when head coach Charlie Weis was fired.

"I don't do all that ‘soft' (commitment) or whatever it may be," Bernard said. "But I'm committed right now."

Bernard says he's only considering signing with UNC, Notre Dame, and Oregon State.

"Right now, I'm really just trying to end this process ASAP, because it's hard balancing it with my schoolwork," Bernard said. "I'm really trying to get this process done as soon as possible.

"But, as soon as I know [I'll commit]. [I'm looking for] just that gut feeling – that's what I had when I originally committed to Notre Dame, but it just kind of slipped away."

The head coaching change had a lot to do with Bernard's change of feelings.

"I built a relationship with all the [coaches] before," Bernard said. "It was a situation I liked and then it was switched up."

Bernard's older brother, Yvenson, played running back for Oregon State from 2004-07.

"Most people perceive it that I just have them in the mix just because my brother went there," Bernard said. "But that place has a great opportunity for me to play there early. They have great coaches and I definitely can trust those coaches with everything."

A few weeks before committing to Notre Dame, Bernard began hearing from UNC. John Blake made initial contact with Bernard. Recently, though, Bernard speaks equally to Blake and Ken Browning, UNC's running backs coach.

"I really try to keep my relationship with Coach Browning," Bernard said. "I know [Blake] is the recruiter for down here, but he's the D-line coach and if I go down there I won't be coached by the D-line coach."

In December, Butch Davis made an in-home visit with Bernard.

"[He discussed] basically everything about the school and how he feels about me and my skills," Bernard said. "He talked about himself – when he first started coaching until now and how he wants to finish up his career as a coach.

"He really seemed like a good guy."

UNC is pitching Bernard early playing time.

"They have a couple of guys leaving next year and then they have a freshman right now," Bernard said. "They don't have too much depth.

"I'm going to hopefully hear all about it when I'm on my [official] visit."

This weekend's official visit will be Bernard first ever trip to Chapel Hill.

"[On this visit I'm hoping to discover] how much I feel that I can trust them as people away from football," Bernard said. "I want to get to know them in general and see how they walk around and portray themselves."

Until losing to Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee in the FHSAA 5A semifinals, St. Thomas Aquinas spent much of the season atop national polls. Its schedule included a nationally televised victory over Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes.

Bernard got off to a great start in the season opener, rushing for 118 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries (9.8-yard average). However, a hamstring injury in that game forced him to miss eight full games and only see limited action in five others. In barely six games, he accumulated 192 yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries (4.8-yard average).

As a junior, though, Bernard carried the ball 144 times for 1,371 yards (9.5-yard average) and 16 touchdowns.

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