After a slow start to the class, Mack Brown and UNC recruiting are picking up steam. Edge rusher Rico Walker, from Hickory, North Carolina, pledged to the Tar Heels today, making him the fourth four-star recruit to pick the Heels... in the month of July 2022. Walker picked UNC over Auburn, Tennessee, Maryland, and Florida, making the announcement on social media at 4:00 Eastern. You can see it here:
Walker’s athleticism stands out immediately in his profile, let alone when watching him play. Not only does he excel on both sides of the ball, as an edge rusher and as a tight end/wide receiver, but he’s also a two-sport athlete who does okay for himself as a basketball player in addition to his football chops. On tape, his closing speed and pursuit skills really pop; he chases down quarterbacks and ball-carriers behind the line of scrimmage with ease and finishes violently. He’s got legit size and length that he uses to great effect whether it’s as a pass-catcher or pass rusher, though he does look more natural on defense and I expect that’ll be the position where he sticks once he moves to the college level. This is apparent especially when looking at his footwork and change of direction. He’s got great lower body flexibility and bend as a pass rusher and redirects well in response to a play moving away from him. On the other hand, as a receiver, his releases are fairly slow and he wins a lot more with speed and catch radius than with shiftiness and route running. I think he’ll also benefit from playing as a down lineman rather than as a linebacker as his already impressive 6’3, 230-pound frame fills out with continued age and a college weight training program.
Walker is the 15th player to commit to UNC’s 2023 class, the 6th North Carolinian, and the 6th four-star prospect overall (and, as mentioned earlier, the fourth four-star this month). The commitment moves the Heels to 20th in the 2023 class rankings per 247’s Composite, up from 24th before it. There’s a lot of time left for things to change in either direction, but after a disappointing season and a slow start to recruiting this cycle, things are looking much better in the recruiting department for Mack Brown than they were a couple of months ago. Hopefully, the trend stays positive as we head into the fall and the beginning of both UNC’s and high schools’ football seasons.