For the third time in 72 hours, and fourth time in the past six days, North Carolina’s football program has added a commitment for 2021. On Sunday afternoon, offensive lineman Eli Sutton verbally committed to the Tar Heels. He joins Keeshawn Silver, who committed on Tuesday night, Drake Maye, who flipped from Alabama on Friday, and Kobe Paysour who committed on Saturday. Sutton is UNC’s first commit from outside the state of North Carolina. He made his announcement via Twitter.
The 6-7, 285-pound lineman plays for Brentwood Academy in Brentwood, TN. Currently a junior, he is considered a top-5 talent in Tennessee by both 247 Sports and Rivals. It should just be a matter of time before ESPN catches up. Check out his overall ratings at this moment in time. Rankings often fluctuate between the junior and senior seasons, so these will almost certainly change.
Rivals: OT, 4-stars, 153 (national), #21 (position), #4 (state)
ESPN: OT, 3-stars, Not yet evaluated
247 Sports (organic): OT, 4-stars, #192 (national), #21 (position), #5 (state)
247 Sports (composite): OT, 4-stars, #168 (national), #21 (position), #4 (state)
The big takeaway here is that even though UNC finally went outside of North Carolina for a player, they still landed one of the best players in a neighboring (and arguably rival) state. It is definitely a different approach than what UNC fans witnessed for the better part of last decade. This year’s class in Tennessee’s doesn’t quite equal the depth in North Carolina, so it’s no small feat to take a prime SEC target out of SEC country.
Most importantly, the four-star lineman is another piece for UNC’s overhaul in the trenches. Last year’s roster listed 21 offensive lineman, but only 14 were scholarship athletes. A whopping 18 of those 21 were underclassmen. Despite that youth, Mack’s crew signed four more offensive lineman this past recruiting cycle. After last year’s constant injury-riddled roulette wheel in front of Sam Howell, it’s hard to fault that logic. Sutton is the Heels’ first lineman for 2021.
Additionally, Sutton continues the staff’s efforts to increase the overall size along the front five. According to the 2019 roster, only three returning linemen are above 6-5. The 2020 recruiting class also added two players, Cayden Baker and Trey Zimmerman, who are listed in the 6-6 range. At last spring’s The Opening Regional camp, Sutton was measured at 6-6.5.
Sutton took his official visit to Chapel Heel in January, and selected the Heels over Penn State, Miami, Kentucky, Northwestern, Duke and Georgia Tech, among others.
He is UNC’s ninth recruit of the cycle, and the fourth on the offensive side of the ball. According to the 247Sports Composite, eight of nine recruits hold four-star evaluations. Last year’s class finished with nine recruits holding that rating. After this week’s flurry of activity, the Heels currently hold the fourth-best recruiting class for 2021.