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UNC Football Early Signing Day Primer: The Defense

UNC currently has 11 verbal commits on defense. Let’s get you prepped for Wednesday.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today we gave a brief overview of the 15 recruits that UNC is expected to sign on the offensive side of the ball. Now we’ll turn the focus to the defense. As Wednesday approaches, 11 defensive recruits have verbally committed to the Heels. The coaching staff expects all National Letters of Intent to be signed.

In the earlier primer, we had some fun with overall numbers for this class. Here's a more narrow breakdown of the defensive recruits.

  • 11 verbal commits
  • 7 from North Carolina
  • 7 four-star recruits as rated by either ESPN, Rivals, or 247Sports
  • 4 ESPN300 recruits

As with the offense, the previews are broken down by positions, with player rankings from the 247 Sports Composite rankings. The rankings give their “star” rating, followed by national, state, and positional rankings. On Wednesday, as each player’s commitment becomes official, we’ll provide real-time updates, expanded recruiting rankings, and give some limited analysis on each prospect

Secondary

Cameron Roseman-Sinclair – (Safety)
6-0/190, Charlotte, NC
247 Composite: 4-stars, #237, #11, #23

Ja’Qurious Conley – (Safety)
6-2/190, Jacksonville, NC
247 Composite: 4-stars, #160, #7, #13

Jayden Chalmers – (Cornerback)
6-0/160, Sanford, North Carolina
247 Composite: 3-stars, #1648, #59, #141

With almost the entire secondary returning next season, UNC didn’t throw a wide net at this position group. That didn’t stop them from landing a couple of immediate impact players. ESPN300 recruit Ja’Qurious Conley and borderline consensus top-10 in-state recruit Cameron Roseman-Sinclair will bring some competition to a backfield that lost Cam’Ron Kelly, Bryson Richardson, and Patrice Rene last year to season-ending injuries.

For reference, Conley’s 247Sports Composite rating is higher than Kelly’s was last season and Roseman-Sinclair is rated just below the former four-star Auburn transfer. Jayden Chalmers projects to be a long-term project, but is another in-state feather for Mack’s hat. He is also teammates with ESPN #2 overall prospect (and fellow UNC commit) Desmond Evans.

Linebacker

Ethan West
6-4/225, Midlothian, Virginia
247 Composite: 3-stars, #490, #12, #22

Cedric Gray – (Athlete/Wide Receiver/Outside Linebacker)
6-2/205, Charlotte, NC
247 Composite: 3-stars, #925, #28, #57

One of UNC’s most consistent positional weaknesses, only two linebacker targets might seem shortsighted. This mostly has to do with Jay Bateman’s scheme, which relies on hybrid defensive ends who can line up at multiple positions. One of them, Cedric Gray, is actually listed at three different recruiting positions by ESPN, Rivals, and 247Sports.

The staff spent the 2019 and 2020 recruiting classes loading up on an abundance of talent, handing out 15 of their 50 scholarships to eventual defensive linemen (11) or linebackers (4). That far outpaces the offensive line (8) or secondary (7). Positional-fits are still a work in progress. Some of the defensive ends listed below will likely slide back into linebacker roles once they get on campus.

Defensive Line

Desmond Evans
6-6/240, Sanford, NC
247 Composite: 4-stars, #32, #2, #2

Myles Murphy
6-6/240, Greensboro, NC
247 Composite: 4-stars, #122, #3, #6

Kedrick Bingley-Jones
6-4/266, Charlotte, NC
247 Composite: 4-stars, #142, #4, #13

AJ Beatty
6-5/250, Pittsburgh, PA
247 Composite: 3-stars, #917, #9, #48

Kaimon Rucker
6-1/240, Hartwell, GA
247 Composite: 3-stars, #1508, #151, #78

Clyde Pinder – (Defensive Tackle)
6-1/300, Seffner, FL
247 Composite: 3-stars, #439, #66, #41

This position group is where the recruiting class receives most of its headlines. Evidenced by Aaron Crawford and Jason Strowbridge regularly playing 60+ snaps, UNC is woefully thin at the line of scrimmage. To remedy that, Mack and crew placed an oversized emphasis in the trenches. (See above section about total scholarships given to front-seven players).

Desmond Evans, Myles Murphy, and Kedrick Bingley-Jones are ESPN300 recruits. Evans is ESPN’s #2 overall prospect, and joins Bingley-Jones and Murphy inside the top-10 of North Carolina high-school recruits. Clyde Pinder, the only definite interior lineman in the group, also holds a four-star rating from Rivals.

Aside from the overall talent level, the other takeaway is the overall size of the commits. Evans, Bingley-Jones, and Beatty are listed at 6-5 or taller. Only four of UNC’s current 12 defensive linemen reach that rarified air. Two of them are graduating. Clyde Pinder also reportedly tips the scales at 300 lbs. His arrival will automatically double the total of 300-pound linemen on the roster. (Note: Pinder took a last-minute official visit to Florida over the weekend. He received an offer from the Gators last month.)

For the defense, help is on the way.

Summary

For the better part of a decade, North Carolina has consistently struggled on defense. The reasons are multifaceted, but through two recruiting classes and using multiple transfers, Mack Brown has zeroed in on a wholesale makeover. Four ESPN-300 recruits and handful of additional four-star prospects will add a few bricks to that rebuild.

As with the offense, there was also a priority on in-state talent. Seven of the eleven defensive recruits come from North Carolina. Importantly, they come from every corner of the state. Sanford, Charlotte, Greensboro, and Jacksonville are all represented across six different high schools. That bodes well for future classes; especially 2021 which is loaded with top-tier in-state talent. With 26 scholarships accounted for in this cycle, North Carolina is most likely finished for 2020 and will start to solidify that 2021 class.

Of course, this is recruiting. Anything can happen between now and February.