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UNC Football: Desmond Evans, ESPN’s #2 recruit in the nation, commits to North Carolina

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Evans is ESPN’s #2 overall recruit. That seems like a good thing.

South Carolina v North Carolina Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

North Carolina has landed its crown jewel of the 2020 football recruiting class. On Friday afternoon, five-star defensive end Desmond Evans verbally committed to the Tar Heels. Evans, who has long been rumored to favor UNC, finally made it official after unofficially visiting Chapel Hill approximately 10 times in the past year. After attending the season opener in Charlotte where North Carolina dispatched the South Carolina Gamecocks on national television, Evans also visited Chapel Hill for the Clemson and Appalachian State games.

Just how big of a commitment is this for the Heels? ESPN ranks Evans as just one of 17 five-star prospects in their ESPN300 rankings. Here’s a breakdown of the three major recruiting services.

ESPN: 5-stars, #2 (national), #1 (position), #1 (state)
247 Sports composite: 5-stars, #22 (national) #2 (position), #1 (state)
Rivals: 4-stars, #48 (national), #3 (position), #2 (state)

Whichever service you prefer, there is no way to overstate the significance of this commitment. In the pantheon of coveted UNC recruits, the list is arguably Ronald Curry, Desmond Evans, Marvin Austin, and then everyone else. Since recruiting rankings have become mainstream and easily accessible, Evans joins Austin as one of the top-two rated defensive recruits to ever land at North Carolina. Different recruiting services differ on Austin and Evans’ overall rankings, but at this point, we’re all just splitting hairs. (ESPN lists Evans as the better prospect, while 247 Sports currently prefers Austin).

The 6-6, 240-pound defensive lineman out of Sanford, NC will undoubtedly be the cornerstone of the current defensive resurgence in Kenan Memorial Stadium. As a junior he accounted for 25 tackles for loss and 12 sacks. According to MaxPreps, in five games of action this season, Evans has tallied 27 Tackles, 10 TFLs, 4 Sacks, 6 QB hurries and forced a fumble. On offense, he’s grabbed seven receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown.

Evans projects to be the perfect hybrid OLB/DE for Jay Bateman’s fluid scheme, adding size and length that’s sorely missing from the defensive side of the ball. The official UNC football roster lists just two defensive players, DEs Nolan DeFranco (SR) and Wisdom Asaboro (FR), as being 6’6 or taller. Neither have played a single snap this season. Not to mention at least five seniors on the defensive line and linebacking corps will graduate. There will be ample opportunity for immediate playing time.

Evans also adds another brick to Mack Brown’s proverbial recruiting wall around the state. Of UNC’s 23 verbal commits, 13 are from the state of North Carolina. According to Rivals’ and 247 Sports’ organic rankings, Evans’ commitment gives UNC four of the top 10 players in the state of North Carolina for the 2020 cycle. ESPN puts that number at three of the top 10. Despite those differences, no other school has more than two of the state’s top 10 recruits according to any of the three primary recruiting services.

Evans picked UNC over Virginia Tech, Florida, South Carolina, and Tennessee. He never took an official visit to any of his top five schools, but recently took an unofficial trip down to Florida. He also scheduled an OV to Virginia Tech for this weekend’s game against North Carolina. It’s a safe assumption that Des will not be making it up to Blacksburg as a VIP guest of the Hokies.

North Carolina now owns a consensus top 20 recruiting class in the country and boasts six ESPN300 recruits. That is their highest total since ESPN expanded their rankings in 2012. The 2020 recruiting class is also on pace to be their highest ranked recruiting class since 2009 when Butch Davis’ third recruiting class finished at 9th (Rivals), 12th (247 Sports), and/or 13th (ESPN). That class included seven recruits on what was then the ESPN150.

This class isn’t quite to that level, but with six games left in the season UNC still has a few scholarships remaining. A few surprise commitments may still pop. As we mentioned on Monday, Mack flipped nine recruits in last year’s class and picked up three transfers in the offseason. Anything can happen in the next 60 days.

In the meantime, the coaching staff will put the finishing touches on 2020 and use that momentum for the 2021 class.