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North Carolina Football Recruiting: A post ‘Freak Show’ look at the 2018 class

The train’s filling up quick.

North Carolina v Connecticut Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

As of the time I opened this page to start writing, Carolina’s 2018 recruiting class sat at nine members. It’s now at 10, and with the way Larry Fedora and Co. are recruiting right now, don’t be surprised if there are more edits to come.

With the Freak Show out of the way, the Tar Heels go into the summer with some big needs filled— and plenty of big fish out there left to land. Quarterback and defensive back are all but shored up, and the talented players remaining listing Carolina high on their list are numerous. Let’s take a look at how this class may shake out:

QB (2): Jace Ruder and Tyler Shough

Given where the quarterback recruiting outlook stood a week ago, this is ridiculous. Just securing the commitment of one of these guys is strong. Both, and you’re talking about two guys who will end up the highest-rated recruits at the position since Mitch Trubisky.

With Caleb Henderson’s early departure last summer, QB became a huge need for this class. They’ll battle Chazz Surratt and Logan Byrd— and either is talented enough to contend for the 2018 job if they arrive on campus in the spring.

Ruder, who committed yesterday, is considered more of a dual-threat, while Shough is more of a pocket passer. Larry Fedora and Keith Heckendorf have proven that they can work magic with either.

RB (0): likely to sign two.

The first major domino will fall next Tuesday when Zamir White announces his destination. At this point, it appears more and more likely the nation’s top running back chooses between Carolina and Georgia.

Beyond White, there are plenty of irons in the fire. Sanford RB Jahmir Smith was on The Ellen Show for being such a great student and athlete, and as such will force Carolina to compete with the Stanfords and Vanderbilts of the world. Delaware RB (and 4-star WVU commit) Leddie Brown was a surprise visitor to the Freak Show.

My conservative guess is that the Heels end up with Smith and someone else off the board. White would be HUGE, but I won’t dare predict he ends up in Chapel Hill. While there is no established RB set for 2018 yet, the backfield will be crowded with Jordon Brown, Stanton Truitt, Michael Carter, and Antwuan Branch getting reps this fall.

WR (1): Dyami Brown, likely to sign 2-3 total.

Oddly enough, Brown represents the first consensus 4-star WR recruit of the Fedora era. Quinshad Davis and Ryan Switzer were both rated highly on some services, but not all.

Chances are Brown is joined in that distinction by Jordyn Adams, who chooses between Clemson and UNC on July 3rd.

Regardless of whether or not Adams does indeed pop for the Heels, I still expect the Heels to seek a slot guy in the Switzer/Austin Proehl mold— outside of Toe Groves (who is injured), the Heels lack a young A-back.

Tight End (0): probably not going to sign one.

The Heels are deep at TE, with Brandon Fritts, Carl Tucker, Noah Turner, and Garrett Walston all set to return for 2018.

However, Roswell (GA) TE Tyneil Hopper, younger brother of UNC linebacker Tyrone, came to the Freak Show to ‘force’ the staff to take one in this class.

I love that attitude, and I hope they find room for him.

Offensive Line (1): Avery Jones, likely to sign 4 total.

With the way this class has grown over the past month, Jones has become somewhat of a forgotten man. 247 still ranks him the third-best player in the group thus far, and he impressed at tackle during the Freak Show although all indications are that he’ll play guard in Chapel Hill.

The Heels are in on too many OL to count. Of note, Florida T William Barnes’ mother went to Carolina, and Mebane OL Gabriel Gonzalez was teammates with incoming OG Jonah Melton.

I’d consider Gonzalez a mortal lock to end up at Carolina once the dust settles with a couple of higher-rated guys. OL coach Chris Kapilovic has never struggled to fill his unit with talent.

Defensive Line (1): Chris Collins, likely to sign 3-4.

Collins was boosted to 4-star status by at least one service in the last month, and the 6’5, 215 pounder should make for a heck of a strong side DE as he fills out.

The prognosis for the rest of the DL class? Extremely promising. I’m not one to watch much high school tape, but Alim McNeill (who lists Carolina among his final six) reminds me of Sun Bowl dominator Solomon Thomas. DT’s Rick Sandidge and Jordan Davis both mention the Heels prominently.

If Carolina were to land three (or all) of those four, it would piggyback the standout ‘17 class of Xach Gill, Jake Lawler, and Jordon Riley, and make those painful gashings of the run D a thing of the past.

Linebacker (1): Payton Wilson, likely to sign 2.

Wilson is the crown jewel of the class thus far, and outside of Elijah Hood is the highest-rated commit in Fedora’s time at UNC. He’s a stud.

For the other spot, the Heels are all in on Shelby’s Dax Hollifield. Competition from South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Florida State, and Clemson is stiff, but I will drive to Shelby and Facebook Live a meal at Bridges’ BBQ if the Heels land Hollifield.

Defensive back (4): Trey Morrison, Javon Terry, Bryson Richardson, DeAndre Hollins. May sign one more.

Boy, did that escalate quickly. Richardson committed a couple of weeks back, and the Buford (GA) product projects as a big, rangy safety. The former Tennessee commit was a good start to the continued overhaul of the defensive backfield.

Then...the Freak Show happened. With Terry, the Heels have more of a free safety as well. In Hollins, they have the tall corner DC John Papuchis and DB coach Terry Joseph seem to prefer. In Morrison, they have another playmaker from Georgia.

All in all, one could reasonably shut the book on DB’s, but the Heels are considered the leader for VA 4-star Dashaun Jerkins, and other guys always seem to emerge later in the cycle (see: Patrice Rene, 2016, Tre Shaw, 2017).

On Balance

The Heels currently sit 24th in 247’s composite rankings with their 10 commits. As currently constituted, the group’s average overall rating of 0.8778 (out of 1) would not only rank higher than any class inked by Fedora, but would trump any in the 247 era (going back to 2006). Adams and White could boost the percentile ranking in the next two weeks, allowing the Heels to fill out the class with big fish across the board.

An obvious caveat to watch is the ongoing NCAA saga. While it is clear to national pundits (shoutout to Jay Bilas) that the Heels have an easy defense if the book is thrown at them, further sanctions could derail Fedora’s efforts in the short-term.

The class is currently comprised of four 4-stars and six 3-stars, but many of the 3-stars (namely Ruder and Collins) may move up.