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National Signing Day Review: Looking to the Class of 2018

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at North Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

With one National Signing Day behind us, it’s naturally time to look ahead 51 weeks into the future and ponder the decisions of current high school juniors on Signing Day 2018. It is good to have a bit of everything in each recruiting class to establish depth across each position and to account for players leaving the program for various reasons. However, some positions will always be of more need than others both due to their importance and to the state of the roster right now. So when looking to the future some positions on the Carolina roster look in much better shape than others.

All Good Here: Offensive Line, Kicker, Punter, Running Back

The class of 2017 happens to conveniently have two guards, a center and two offensive tackles for a complete offensive line in and of itself. Carolina has a history of quality offensive line play and depth, so there will definitely be a few linemen in the class of 2018, however the coaches do not need to focus on this group for 2018.

The Heels also went out and signed a kicker in 2017 and with Tom Sheldon starting as a freshman punter, the Heels seem fine with those two positions as well.

Running back is the other position that the Heels are set at. Under Coach Fedora the Heels typically have two players per class who can play running back at a minimum and this has resulted in a large amount of depth at the position on the roster.

If top 5 national recruit and NC native Zamir White comes to Chapel Hill, the coaches should live in his hometown of Laurinburg until the man is enrolled in classes. Otherwise, this is not a position of the upmost focus for the Class of 2018.

Smart Additions Needed: Defensive Back, Wide Receiver, Tight End

Defensive back is a position where it is hard to have too many players. The Heels have also done a good job of developing talent in this position group over the past two years and the coaches can use that to their advantage in recruiting. The Class of 2017 has 3 defensive backs in it and therefore this is not a huge need for 2018, but the Heels should try to go after top talents at this position to help the program make the leap to the next level by improving their athletes across the secondary when they can.

With the departure of a ton of talent at the wide receiver position, the Heels are faced with a lot of unknowns going into the 2017 season. Wide receiver and tight end will be a big focus for Carolina in training camp this year as they try to figure out the depth chart. If the struggle to find reliable options, then the coaches should try to find two or three players who can make an immediate impact with a quick injection of talent into the to program at the pass catching positions.

Required Targets: Quarterback, Defensive Line, Linebacker

These are the must-haves in the Class of 2018, if the coaches can knock out these three positional groups then the program might truly be able to take the next step forward. At no position is there a more obvious ability to capitalize on the positive steps the program has taken under Coach Fedora than at quarterback.

In Mitch Trubisky, the Heels appear to have the first quarterback off the board in the 2017 NFL Draft, this will be noticed by players across the country and will be an invaluable asset in recruiting. With no clear star at the position behind Trubisky on the depth chart, the Heels should be able to pursue the top High School passers in the country with a promise of immediate playing time and a coaching staff that has shown an ability to turn quarterbacks into first round picks.

It has still been only a bit more than a year since the Heels were pushed around in the ACC title game by Clemson and then mauled by a Baylor team for whom the Heels had no answer inside the tackles.

The coaches tried to start addressing this with the class of 2017, going out and getting two (physically) huge defensive tackles. The Heels are also bulking up on the offensive line to put out athletes just as big and powerful as any team in the country. With the defensive line, the Heels need to keep up the good work.

Carolina needs more muscle in the trenches and it would be great if Coach Chizik could reach into his back pocket and pull out, say, a Nick Fairly type or two to take this group to a level where the Heels can be on a level playing field with the top teams of the ACC.

The last group where the Heels will need to look to in 2018 will be their linebackers. This is due to the fact that the Heels’ projected starters for next year at linebacker are almost exclusively upperclassmen. The team will need to bring in depth to replace these players when they are gone in a few years and there is no simpler way to do that than to hit the recruiting trail after top talent.

Linebacker has been a position of historic strength for the Heels and after a few years of NCAA-sanction induced shortages at the position, it is time to remind some high schoolers that, yes, Lawrence Taylor and Julius Peppers each went here and you can too.