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UNC Football: What to watch for at the Freak Show this year

UNC’s Saturday night recruiting spectacular has a history of results.

Not long after he became the North Carolina football coach, Larry Fedora founded a summer tradition that is designed to be the centerpiece of the summer recruiting season: the Freak Show.

The Freak Show is a Saturday night gathering of as many Tar Heel prospects as the staff can gather, including everyone from the solid commits to the high-demand uncommitted to the long shots. The event is a high-energy combination of instruction, drills and just plain fun with UNC coaches and alumni, and comes complete with its own hype videos. The Freak Show has a history of producing commitments from the emotion and energy of the event.

So, yes, you should keep an eye on your Twitter feed come Saturday night. Here’s a list of some key uncommitted 2018 names to watch out for:

1. Zamir White, 5 stars, RB, 6’1, 205, Laurinburg, NC. He’s the best high school running back in the country, and as we’ve previously posted, the Tar Heels are developing some momentum. But he’s already said his announcement will be on his mother’s birthday, June 27, so don’t get your hopes up. On the other hand, if by some miracle he gets swept up in the moment and commits, then you should scream and embrace the person immediately next to you regardless of the social consequences.

2. Dax Hollifield, 4 stars, LB, 6’1”, 220, Shelby, NC. The Tar Heels are hoping to pair him with current commit Payton Wilson (who will also be there) to stock the linebacker position with NFL talent. He’s being recruited by a slew of serious competitors, but of in-state schools, UNC seems to be his preference. If home and manning the position with Wilson is a big pull for him, he might pull the trigger, but this one feels like we have a way to go.

3. Jordyn Adams, 4 stars, ATH, 6’2”, 175, Cary, NC. Son of UNC defensive line coach Deke Adams. Although neither Adams nor his father have ever given any indication that their relationship will dictate his commitment (and it shouldn’t as the life of an assistant involves changes – this is Deke’s second tour at North Carolina), the trend seems to favor UNC. Don’t be surprised if he pulls the trigger.

4. Alim McNeill 4 stars, DL, Raleigh, NC. This is broadly perceived as a battle between UNC and NCSU, with VT playing a spoiler role. A Freak Show commitment from McNeill would not only be a big boost on an increasingly deep defensive line, but break some hearts in Raleigh. That’s an event well worth rooting for.

5. Jahmir Smith, RB, 6’0, 195, Sanford, NC. Smith is a serious student with a mom who’s a UNC employee. He’s a good candidate to commit Saturday night, if he’s ready.

6. Dashaun Jerkins, S, 3 stars, 5’11”, 178, Woodbridge, VA. The #1 safety in Virginia is said to favor UNC, and if that perception is right, the Freak Show may be the right time.

7. William Barnes, OT, 4 stars, 6’4”, 291, Apopka, FL. Barnes’ recruitment seems to have come down to a decision about whether he wants to leave his home state. If he does, UNC seems to be in great position. Apopka is an elite program that has produced a number of excellent players, so this would be a big win for the Tar Heels if they could pull it off. The guess here is that Barnes isn’t quite ready to declare.

8. Donte Burton, 3 stars, 6’0”, 164, CB, Lawrenceville, GA. No clear leader has emerged as between UNC and VT, believed to be the primary contenders.

9. Daniel George, 4 stars, 6’1”, WR, Oxon Hill, MD. It’s encouraging that George is making the trip given his proximity to Maryland and Penn State, who are also pursuing him. But those pulls are probably too strong to expect a Saturday night commitment.

10. Azeez Ojulari, 4 stars, 6’4” 224, DE, Marietta, GA. This would be a huge recruiting coup for the Tar Heels, and his appearance on the Freak Show roster is a bit of a pleasant surprise. Ojulari has offers from Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and others, and the probably the most optimistic hope is that UNC makes an impression that makes inroads.

11. Jace Ruder, 3 stars, 6’3, 205, QB, Norton, KS. He recently spent three days at UNC and reportedly showed well. Ruder is a former Tulsa commitment from a town in Kansas so small that it likely hurts his overall rating. His interest in North Carolina is serious, and he may be ready to end his search, which would come as welcome news to a staff looking for a QB to anchor the 2018 class. They don’t do Freak Show in Kansas...so who knows what happens when he sees one.

12. Warren Thompson, 4 stars, 6’4”, 196, WR, Seffner, FL. Like Ojulari, his presence on Saturday is great news for the Tar Heels. Also like Ojulari, UNC will have to overcome offers from major competitors, including all of the major Florida programs who will try to keep him home. Hope he has a great experience, but don’t count on a commitment right now.

13. Jordan Davis, and Rick Sandidge. Two major 4-star recruits from North Carolina whose appearance at the Freak Show is uncertain. But they’re local, they’re interested, and if they show up, you never know.