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Recruitcap: Football Staff Update, Top 2019 In-State Targets

A Gunter Brewer replacement is all but official, and the Heels appear to yet again be behind on a lot of top NC targets.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina’s 2019 recruiting haul is off to an acceptable start, with three defensive commitments on board. All three (Va. DE Hakeem Beamon, Fl. CB Jayden Curry, and NC S Coleman Reich) committed last summer, and while it’ll be a battle to hold on to the 4-star Beamon...it's better to have them on the commit list than to not.

Coaching Staff Updates

With the post-Signing Day departures of WR coach Gunter Brewer (Philadelphia Eagles) and RB coach DeAndre Scott, the Heels staff was left wanting for accomplished recruiters. Former UNC GA Luke Paschall was brought back from Arkansas State, where he followed former OC Blake Anderson for a full-time position. Paschall was initially named the RB’s coach, but some movement behind the scenes would suggest he’s going to coach receivers.

Akil touched on this last week, but former Tennessee RB coach Robert Gillespie is counting down the mandatory 30-day job posting period for public schools before he is named to the same position at Carolina. He has been at spring practice in Chapel Hill working on a volunteer (no pun intended) basis, and would/will be a major addition to the staff. With Tommy Thigpen already making in-roads as the 10th assistant, the Heels poached two of the top recruiters from Tennessee’s erstwhile staff.

UPDATE: The Heels made the Gillespie hire official about the time this post went live.

Thigpen appears to be taking over Brewer’s departed Charlotte territory— a huge one for the Heels due to competition in the area, and the amount of talent in the 704. Gillespie’s assignment is unknown, but his connections in the state of Georgia make him a logical fit to take over the Atlanta area, where UNC has made significant in-roads in the Larry Fedora era.

An early look at the top 2019 guys in NC

Its another banner year for in-state recruiting. The state boasts two top-25 players, the #83 player, and 8 of the top 250 as a whole as of the current rankings. 13 players have been given at least a 4-star ranking, so the question becomes: who does North Carolina have a legit shot at landing?

  1. Quavaris Crouch, RB/LB, Charlotte: Ranked the #1 overall player in the country by Rivals, Crouch has stated publicly that the only way he sees himself at Carolina is as a linebacker. Thigpen will have an uphill battle to land Crouch, but his openness to playing defense gives the Heels a sliver of hope (though he could play either way at favorites with a pro-style scheme, such as Georgia, Alabama, and Michigan).
  2. Savion Jackson, DE, Clayton: Clayton has been N.C. State territory for a while, but an InsideCarolina report from this morning stated that he has at least been receptive to UNC— even getting back on campus last weekend. Bookending him with Beamon would be a huge win for the Tar Heels, but the Heels appear to be behind State, Virginia Tech, and South Carolina, among others. Embarrassing, really.
  3. Sam Howell, QB, Monroe: The quarterback has offers from everyone, and has been a mainstay on Carolina’s campus since he was a freshman. Crystal Ball tells us he’s 100% to Clemson, but given their 5-star QB depth, I don’t see it. Gun to my head, I think the in-state Heels would win out in the long run, but they have some catching up to do.
  4. Khafre Brown, RB/WR, Charlotte: His brother, Dyami, enrolled at UNC in the spring and is apparently turning heads early. The younger Brown should fit into the Ryan Switzer A-back role very well— the Heels just need him to go ahead and commit to the good guys.
  5. Anthony Harris, S, Durham: Rumor has it that Carolina ‘offered’ one of Harris’ teammates, only not to take his commitment. We’ve heard this story before with high-profile guys, and makes this writer wonder when the Heels will re-think the communication policy behind commitable offers. Allegedly, Harris didn’t take too kindly to that news. The Heels do have Avery Jones, another Havelock alum, on campus, so hopefully the Heels can stem the negative tide and get back in the driver’s seat. He is 100% to UNC on Crystal Ball at the moment.
  6. Traevon Kenion, WR, Monroe: The Heels are recruiting Kenion as a tight end. Given that they haven’t taken one in the last two cycles, Kenion is a high priority.
  7. Osita Ekwonu, DE/LB, Charlotte: Currently a 100% CB to Notre Dame, as the Charlotte private school pipeline to the Irish would appear to still be strong.
  8. Tyus Fields, CB, Cornelius: The Heels are in the mix, the Crystal Balls say Clemson. This should be a high-profile battle, as he also lists Ohio State and Penn State very high.
  9. Joshua Harris, DT, Roxboro: Too early to get a good read on his recruitment, though 3 of the last 4 articles mentioning him come from a Virginia Tech site.
  10. C.J. Clark, DT, New London: Clark has been back to UNC twice in the past three or so weeks. While he’s stopped short of naming the Heels as his leader, it appears that he is at least trending in the right direction. We could say this for every defensive or Charlotte-area guy on this list, but Thigpen will play a MAJOR role in this recruitment.
  11. J.R. Walker, ATH, Elizabeth City: To my knowledge, the last Elizabeth City recruit the Heels plucked was Jacque Lewis back during the Bunting era. That doesn’t bode well, and he doesn’t list UNC prominently.
  12. Zonovan Knight, RB, Bailey: Committed to Duke while the Blue Devils were beating the Heels in basketball. Insult to injury right there.
  13. Traevon Freshwater, LB, Elizabeth City: Like Walker, it appears the ENC-to-Chapel Hill failures may bite the Heels— and what a shame, I want this guy for name alone. Apparently, N.C. State and Virginia Tech are the teams to beat for Mr. Freshwater’s services.

We’ll take a deeper look into NC and at some of the out-of-state players the Heels are targeting in coming weeks, but for now an optimistic approach would have Carolina landing no more than 3-4 of the 4-star guys in-state. Hopefully Thigpen and Gillespie can team up and change that tune in the coming months.

Basketball Recruiting

No more news worth reporting on 2018 big E.J. Montgomery, but it would appear its him or bust to round out next year’s freshman class. Speaking of Georgia 5-stars, PG Ashton Hagans— who decommitted from Georgia recently— will NOT be reclassifying to 2018, but the Heels may still need to dig up a grad transfer point guard in the wake of Jalek Felton’s departure.

On a brighter note, 2018 signee Rechon ‘Leaky’ Black and his Cox Mill teammates won the 3A state championship, 65-63, over Jacksonville Northside. Black contributed 9 points and 6 steals to the winning effort.

Til next week...