As the dust settles on the drama that is college football's national signing day, UNC has reeled in yet another consensus top-20 recruiting class. The list of all 25 prospects who signed their letters of intent with UNC can be found here.
The biggest surprise on Tuesday was that Carolina landed Delvon Simmons, an All-American defensive lineman out of Pennsylvania. Simmons had not even taken an official visit to Chapel Hill but chose the Tar Heels over previous favorites Southern Cal and Oregon.
UNC addressed a number of positional needs in this class. In addition to Simmons, the Heels added junior college honorable mention All-American Sylvester Williams and SuperPrep All-Americans Devonte Brown of Fayetteville and Norkeithus Otis of Gastonia to the defensive line. Highlighting the linebackers and defensive backs is Virginia Beach's Travis Hughes, a consensus top-10 linebacker. The defensive backfield will be buoyed by top-50 or better-ranked Alex Dixon of Florida, Tim Scott of Virginia, and Brandon Ellerbe of Anson County.
On offense, three of the most highly-rated players in this class have already enrolled in Chapel Hill: QB Marquise Williams, WR T.J. Thorpe, and OL Landon Turner. Carolina also bolstered its offensive line with Kiaro Holts of Indiana, ranked in the top 10 linemen in the country by some services, and Jarrod James of Goldsboro, another top-50 prospect. The Heels helped their potentially thin running back situation by signing juco 1,000-yard rusher Stephen Houston and athlete Romar Morris of Salisbury.
In all, ESPN has UNC's class ranked #13, while Rivals ranks the Heels at #16 and Scout.com at #17.
The meme among the pundits and experts is that UNC has done an amazing job keeping the class together with the cloud of the NCAA investigation hanging over the program. There were intermittent rumors that prospects were wavering in light of what the program might face at the hands of the NCAA, chief among them Williams, Ellerbe, and Morris. But Williams erased all doubt by enrolling early and at the end of the day Ellerbe and Morris signed on as well.
The unsung hero of signing day might be UNC's new recruiting coordinator Allen Mogridge. Mogridge, a former Tar Heel player, took over in the wake of the John Blake mess and much of the credit for holding the class together goes to him.
Around the rest of the ACC, Carolina's class is 3rd best in the league, behind Florida State, who is generally considered to have a top-3 class, and surprising Clemson, who snuck in on signing day with a couple of huge, unexpected commitments. Of course, getting the talent in is only half the battle, as once they are there they have to be coached up. Just compare the recruiting rankings of the past couple of ACC champions (VT, GT, Wake Forest) with the rest of the league. Still, this is impressive work by Butch Davis, Allen Mogridge, and the rest of the UNC staff.