UNC's John Bunting Press Conference on Clemson
North Carolina Head Coach John Bunting:
We're playing a good team this week. The players are excited. The coaches are excited. Going down to Death Valley has been a fun experience for me. I hadn't been down there in a long time until I went down there in '01.... It's a great place to play, a great environment. Coach Bowden has done a terrific job with his program over the last seven years, now entering his eighth, I guess. They've made improvements to those facilities. It's a big stadium, a big crowd. They've done a terrific job with recruiting the last couple years. I know that they've got some really good coaches, because they've had a lot coaching changes, but they have a staff now in place. Both coordinators are guys that I was interested in myself - talked with one of them three years ago.... The other one was certainly someone I was extremely interested in prior to him taking the job last year. They do a terrific job.
Their players are good. On defense, their players are young but playing extremely well. Obviously, they've done a really good job recruiting. It looks like son has a great handle on dad - with them beating Florida State three out of the past four years. That's a great job by them. They had a barnburner up there in Boston, and they of course had a blocked kick that prevented them from wining that ball game. So they could easily be 3-0.
Our players, who are the focus of this week's practice again, have got to get better. I hope to see improvement on defense especially, particularly in the back end in terms of the passing game. We're done playing the wishbone offense at least for the time being - until somebody wants to draw that in the dirt again. [Furman] did a terrific job last week. I won't spend much time talking about what Furman did, but they did an outstanding job. Some people have made fun of them because they are [Division I-AA], but I certainly never did and won't. They were really, really dynamic on offense.
But [Clemson's] is a different style of offense.... Multiple personnel groups and the quarterback is playing well for them. They've got three good runners. All three of them play. They have tall, big receivers that make great catches, similar to our guys, who are making some big plays for us now. Their offensive line is as good as we've played against in total. The five of them working extremely well together allows them to do a lot of different things with their personnel groupings.... They are all over the place. They are really going to challenge you early in the game, and they will see how you adjust to things, and then they'll game plan off you. Their defense can run and they're in multiple fronts and multiple coverages....
I'm hoping that Cam can play well again. I'd like to play Joe again - that hasn't changed. We're going to need our special teams to play as well as they did the other night. Our kickoff coverage has done a terrific job. I hope we kick it off a lot; it would be great to see them operate. Our kickoff return is always a dangerous return with those two guys back there - Nicks and, of course, Brandon Tate. I hope that our punt coverage and punt protection was at least what it was last week. We've got to get better at that. I'm not satisfied with that at all. We'll see how the punters go this week in terms of who we'll punt in this game. I'm pleased with Cam getting [ACC] Co-Rookie of the Week, and I'm obviously pleased with the way Ronnie and Barrington played. Hopefully, they can do it again. That will be key for Barrington - to do it again.
On his biggest concerns from last week's defensive performance:
I've mentioned the passing game. I didn't think we were as competitive as we needed to be back there in the back end. We need to go make some plays, and I don't think we did a good enough job. I think we as a staff needed to help them more during the game, and we've got to do a better job of that as we continue to grow as a staff.... The line of scrimmage was fine for the most part inside. It was the perimeter where we really got burned a lot. When you have that type of design of offense - the fullback like they have - they're going to pick up three and four [yards], and occasionally they're going to get five. As I pointed out to the team yesterday and I've said before, this third-down thing, third-and-five-plus - you don't convert that against an option team, you're in big trouble. Third-and-five-plus, there's at least five or six examples I pointed out yesterday where we didn't convert third-and-five. You've got to do that against an option team.
On some possible personnel changes on defense this week:
I feel like we've got, and Marvin feels the same way, we've got talented guys sitting on the bench over there. The only thing that's wrong with them is that they haven't played. Jermaine Strong, Jordan Hemby, Bryan Dixon - three redshirt freshmen. I look down through this roster of Clemson, it just reminds me these guys are young on defense, too, with the exception of a few players.... I think when our guys become sophomores they're going to be really great players, but they may be playing before then. I'm all about opportunity. I've been that way since I've been here. I had to play young players, too many true freshmen on defense, at times in the past. It's not that case right now, but those redshirt freshmen I just mentioned, those three at least, and then a true freshman like Kendrick Burney - those guys have some talent. We're going to have to perhaps pull that trigger at some point. Put them out there, let them play. Because they are going to be really good players.
On what role those players may have against Clemson:
I don't know. They got equal reps or almost-equal reps in yesterday's practice, and we will do the same today.
On whether he thinks this team can do some damage in the ACC:
You know me well enough that I always think we can do some damage. I really believe we can get very good before this year is over. I can't sit here and bemoan the fact that I was really looking forward to three home games and we're 1-2. In my mind, clearly, we could be 3-0. At the end of the season, I hope that I don't have to look back and say, "Gah! How about that?" I want to keep getting better. I want to look forward, and we'll do that. This is the first road game. We've got another road game before we get back. I'm looking forward to the two. I'm really looking forward to this one because this is the one this week.