On Thursday’s practice -
"Today was a weird day – the first day with classes and football. It was a kind of bizarre day, things didn’t go right here or there … but we’ve had a great camp and we’ll get it right back together tomorrow. But today was different, it really was.
"Defensively we’re still flying around. Offensively, Chacos did not practice today – he rested because of his back. He has so much impact on our team … we really need him out there. And then Larry had a ding on his shoulder and was out for 10 minutes … Durrell Mapp isn’t back yet and I’m disappointed that hasn’t progressed. … What a camp we’ve had. It’s been fun."
On Aleric Mullins’ qualifying situation -
"Today we learned from the NCAA Clearinghouse that Aleric Mullins has been cleared, but there is an asterisk on it. He’s been cleared to attend North Carolina and practice at North Carolina, but we have to wait a year for him to play. It’s a rule we didn’t quite know about. They’ve gotten rid of the partial qualifier rule but there is apparently something similar to it and so he’ll be able to attend school this year and then he can play a year from now. After three years if he’s met certain academic requirements … he’ll be able to get his fourth year back."
On this Saturday’s planned game simulation -
"We’re somewhat still in training camp mode. … Saturday we will have a game, it won’t be exactly like a game, but we’ll start the clock like we’ve got a 3:30 kickoff versus Rutgers. We’ll have a short breakfast, early morning meetings, pregame meal, start the clock at 90 minutes just like they do on game day … and then we’ll go out and we’ll do some work for a half an hour – we’ll run real, real hard. Then we’ll take 15-20 minutes off and then we’re going to go out and play a second half of football. We’ll script every single kicking situation, every down and distance, there will be sudden change plays to get the players aware of how a game goes and I want them worn out before halftime … because you know how important that second half is.
"Last year we’ were in 10 of 11 games at halftime. We were ahead in seven, tied in one, and behind by less than four points in the two others. We were in a position to win – we’ve got to get in the same position this year and then win those games."
On Rutgers –
"This football team we’re playing in the opening contest has come a long ways. Greg Schiano has done a great job with the program. They went to their first bowl game last season in a long, long time [27 years] … they have played competitive football, and played Arizona State competitive in the bowl game. Their strengths, I think, are they have an offensive line that is good, they have two great backs, they have speed in returns and speed receivers, defensively they do a lot of different things – Schiano will run that defense. They are a team that we’ll have to play very good football to beat, it’s as simple as that. …
"They’ve got some weapons, they’ll load the box and come after our quarterback. So it’s going to be a game. Some people believe that they’ll beat us – wouldn’t you know Jeff Connors has all the bulletin board material he can get right now and he’s putting it all up there."
On 2007 recruiting –
"Our staff is the best it's ever been in recruiting right now. Frank Cignetti is a bear and he never stops. We’re getting into areas now that he’s from – that Pittsburgh area. We gave Dave Brock a mandate when he first came on board that we’ve got to find a big-time quarterback and he has done a great job finding those players and now he’s in charge of all of recruiting. Our entire staff worked together so well, and the organization and orchestration by Dave Brock has really helped us out a great deal.
"We’re almost full – we’ve got five or maybe six spots left. So, as I’ve been saying, everything is in place, we’ve just now got to win some ball games. That’s what we need to do."
On the offensive line –
"It’s coming along well. Mark Weber has made a tremendous impression on these players – they are working extremely hard and doing things they probably never knew existed in terms of training. I think we’re going to be tougher, and I know that’s coming to our football program real soon – toughness at the offensive line. They do a great job running down field, pushing piles. Without Brian Chacos and Charlston Gray, we don’t have many players that have played a lot of games, so that’s the one thing that’s still unknown. How will we perform in the opener and how much better will we get throughout the season?"
On uniform changes –
"There is no chance [our team will wear blue pants this year] because I haven’t ordered any blue pants in two years. But I am ordering them for ’07 and we’ll probably go back to blue pants on the road with the white jerseys. That blue on blue, not going to happen on my watch."
On new faces expected to contribute this season -
“Boy has [E.J. Wilson] turned up the heat. It is a dream come true for us because we need one more defensive end to play, so we’ve switched him over to where we recruited him for – defensive end/linebacker. … He is coming into his own as a defensive end. Tremendous amount of talent, so look for him to play some football for us and get better.
“As for the true freshmen, Hakeem Nicks has had a tremendous camp, he’s going to be a big-time player. Anybody that’s walked on our practice field has seen him snatch that ball, he’s got great hands and an unbelievable work ethic. And what I like about him is he doesn’t say anything, he just goes out there and plays. We also have Wesley Flagg that will get out and play special teams for us – he can run, he’s big, strong, physical. Kendric Burney has been a tremendous athlete for us out there, Ryan Taylor is having a great camp and really wants to play, he can help us on special teams. Then there are a couple guys, now that we know Aleric can’t play this year, we’ll give Tavares Brown some looks there and I’m still waiting to see if Darius Powell can help us on pass rush or special teams.
“Three definites [freshmen who will play] – four, five, possibly six. If they’re not going to play a lot of football and help us out a lot, we’re going to redshirt them. This will be the first time since I’ve been here that I feel comfortable about where we’re at in terms of personnel and we’ll be able to redshirt more of this class, which will help us down the road.”
On the running game -
“We all know that if we’d ran the ball better [last year], we’d have thrown the ball better … But here’s where we stand right now. Last year when we got started we had no Ronnie McGill and Barrington Edwards hadn’t played football in two years. So we didn’t see him at his best, right now I believe Barrington can help us a great deal. He’s been very upbeat, been doing things right off the field and he’s running the ball well. So we’re starting this season with two running backs. And our receiving corps is young, but it’s the best it’s been since we’ve been here. … So with those receivers, and the quarterbacks will play well, and I really believe we’ll be able to run the football this year. It’s important we get that done.”
On Brooks Foster -
“He has emerged on the practice field. He’s probably the most athletic wide receiver out there. He can catch the ball. He’s still learning how to be a football player day after day, and that’s the one thing he lacks right now. But he is going to play, play a lot and he’ll become a playmaker for us.”
On Jordan Hemby -
“He’s done fine, he’s battling for playing time and I’m hopeful that real soon he’ll be totally healthy. He had shin problems during the spring and now the other shin is bothering him somewhat. We’re giving him orthotics to help him with that. He loves to play, he’s a great kid and he’ll be a good player for us.”
John Bunting Live airs Thursday evenings on Tar Heel Sports Network affiliates.