"We've played three of the ACC's best defenses in these last four games - that says something, and says something a little bit about ... there are some things that still aren't where we want them offensively. We've got three new guys at center, guard and tackle, and they're working with a new coach. And the redshirt freshman quarterback is going to be a really good player. That takes a little bit of time, too. The receivers take a big hit this week, as we're not playing Hakeem Nicks ... Brooks Foster and Jesse Holley have to pick up the slack."
On the possiblity of Nicks returning in time for next Thursday's game at Virginia -
"There's a chance of that - absolutely. Hakeem is a very, very strong-minded individual and strong individual. If anybody had a chance, it'd be this young man. I think he's got a great chance of playing up at UVa."
On maintaining the team's positive attitude in light of 1-4 start -
"No. 1, you want to continue to show the good things that they're doing. And I've got an opportunity every Monday following game, win or lose, to show them highlights from the game. Usually when we win, it's controlled a lot by Chris Allen, who does a terrific job with our video staff and he shows a whole bunch of highlights with a whole lot of music - it's a real jam session. When we lose we don't have that type of highlight situation, I work off plays that I think were significant. I'm able to show them where we did some great things and we did some things where we didn't execute that well. Emphasize the positive things that are happening, show them how things can get better and continue to preach along those lines. These are tough kids, they're resilient - always have been since we've been here. When I go out, and the Sundays have been tough - we're hurt and upset. But when I see the kids on Monday, it all goes away. We go out on the practice field and get back into a great frame of mind."
On the article this week by Andrew Jones in the Wilmington Star-News that called on Bunting to resign if UNC lost to South Florida, and regarding season's goals that are still attainable -
"I know who Andrew Jones is, he comes to our press conferences and I know he has a job to do. Most of his job is to try and sell newspapers and I think that's fine. That's his job. My job is to run this football team. I have this job I'm going to complete the mission - that's what I'm here for.
"I do believe that we can win on Saturday, I believe we can win other games that we play on the schedule. And I think we can have a lot of goals met by season's end and that's what we'll be working towards every single week for the rest of the season."
On the play of the secondary and the redshirt status of Kendric Burney -
"We're playing some guys that have played a lot of football for us there ... there was a point in time that Coach Sanders and I challenged them and they challenges themselves about being more aggressive. We need to continue in that light. Last week, for the most part, I thought we were more aggressive in the secondary and we need to continue that way.
"With Kendric Burney, you saw in the scrimmages that he has a lot of instincts and a lot of football savvy ... We felt as if, experience-wise, this guy would be so much better in his third, fourth and fifth year if we were able to get a redshirt on him. We have been so close to putting him on the field ... but we've said that about two or three other players as well. What we're trying to do for the first time since I've been here, is redshirt the majority of this class. That'll make them that much better two, three years from now. Kendric probably will play baseball this spring and we'll work that schedule around with Coach Fox."
On recruiting and the scholarship situation -
"Last year's recruiting class that came in, we had 28 players signed, which is three over the limit of what you can bring in - 25 is the max - but we knew there were a couple grade issues and we knew we had an injured player that would probably come in January. There were a number of players that wanted to come here that we had to tell we didn't have room at this point. The recruiting class we're recruiting right now is very, very high [quality], maybe one of the highest it's been since I've been here, and there are a number of good players that are verball committed. We are limited scholarship-wise this year and we'll probably not be able to go over the number of 18-19 scholarships.
"Right now, this is another recruiting weekend, we have a number of recruits in that are very important to us and we'll be working extremely hard on Saturday and Sunday to continue to try and improve the recruiting class we have right now. It's absolutely critical that we continue to improve the personnel in the program and get good, quality character kids - but we also want to have great football players coming in the program and we've got a number of them right now."
On recruiting amidst media and fan criticism right now -
"There's no question that our opponents are using this situation against us. There's no doubt we're getting beat up by a lot of universities out there. Absolutely, and we know that. But here's the deal - recruiting, for the most part, is about two things. It's about the university and it's about relationships. The recruits are interested in North Carolina because they are interested in this university and they believe in the coaches and want to play for them. That's something that's easy for me and easy for the rest of my staff to continue to communicate. Every single day, despite anything negative that is said, we're going to have our very best, positive face and outlook on this program and on this season ..."
John Bunting Live airs Thursday evenings on Tar Heel Sports Network affiliates.