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UNC Football 2018 Recruiting: An Early Look

Can the Tar Heel football staff build on its recent momentum?

NCAA Basketball: Duke at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After a slow start to the 2018 football recruiting season, the Tar Heels have begun to heat up on the recruiting trail, most recently getting Monday’s commitment of Chris Collins, a consensus 3-star recruit from Richmond widely regarded as the best defensive end prospect in the state of Virginia (UNC’s best football teams have almost always included a significant Virginia contingent).

His commitment was preceded by commitments from 3 other elite recruits from within the Tar Heels’ home state: Payton Wilson, a 4-star linebacker from Hillsborough, NC; Dyami Brown, a 4-star athlete from Charlotte, NC (Gunter Brewer is killing it in Charlotte); Avery Jones, a 4-star guard from Havelock NC.

As we head into the long, hot, no-college-sports summer to come, it may be useful to have a handy reference for the prospects on UNC’s board in what is widely regarded as a deep year for North Carolina-area recruits (two 5-star players and 11 4-stars in North Carolina at this stage, compared to just eight 4-star players in 2017’s class). For the Tar Heels to grow towards their biggest football goals, getting a healthy share of elite local talent in deep years is essential.

With a new early signing period in football set to make things more interesting this year, keep an eye on these names:

  1. Rick Sandidge, 4 stars, DT, 6’5”, 273, Concord, NC. Sandidge is probably the highest-rated North Carolina player left on the UNC board, and he’s showing interest. UNC is in Sandidge’s list of his final 11 schools, (others include Florida, FSU, Georgia, LSU, Ohio State . . . your basic nightmare), but the Tar Heels have his interest—they were the first school to offer him a scholarship and he has been a frequent visitor to Chapel Hill.
  2. Dax Hollifield, 4 stars, LB, 6’1”, 220, Shelby, NC. Hollifield, combined with Wilson, would give the Tar Heels two NFL-caliber linebackers in this class, and he’s got an academic profile to match. Hollifield recently named North Carolina as one of his final eight, but again, there are big names to compete with: Stanford, LSU, Notre Dame, and FSU are all among his finalists.
  3. Tre Turner, 4 stars, WR, 6’4”, 185, Greensboro, NC. Turner fits the mold of successful Tar Heel receivers during the Fedora era: big, lanky guys who can go get a jump ball, akin to Bug Howard and Quinshad Davis. Turner has named the Tar Heels among his 10 finalists and many observers think his recruitment comes down to UNC and Virginia Tech.
  4. Jordyn Adams, 4 stars, ATH, 6’2”, 175, Cary, NC. If you haven’t already been told, Adams is the son of UNC defensive line coach Deke Adams, and moved from South Carolina, where his dad once coached, to Cary. You shouldn’t assume, though, that this makes Adams a lock to attend UNC. Although his father’s position on the UNC staff doesn’t assure that Adams will commit to the Tar Heels, a big part of the competition may come from the fact that Adams is also an elite baseball prospect, meaning he’ll be considering his potential to play baseball in college (hopefully he’s noticed what’s happening at the Bosh lately), or even pursuing the MLB draft.
  5. Alim McNeill 4 stars, DL, Raleigh, NC. McNeill has already indicated that UNC is sure to be among his finalists, but then again so is NC State. The Tar Heels and Wolfpack have gotten most of his attention, but Florida, Virginia Tech, FSU, Penn State, Tennessee, Clemson and others are prominently involved. Most observers think the Wolfpack and Hokies are the major competition for McNeil.
  6. Jordan Davis, DT, 4 stars, 6’6”, 300, Cary, NC. The departure of Tray Scott, who previously led this recruitment, seems not to have lessened Davis’ interest in a playing career at UNC. As you might expect from a kid his size, there are many suitors from major powers, but most seem to think this comes down to UNC or NCSU.
  7. Alan Tisdale, OLB, 4 stars, 6’3”, 208, Greensboro, NC. This looks like another battle with Virginia Tech. If Hollifield commits to UNC, is there room for a third 4 star linebacker?
  8. Jahmir Smith, RB, 6’0, 195, Sanford, NC. His mom works at UNC and he’s been a frequent visitor, apparently serious about academics.

These are the key names in the state of North Carolina that look like players UNC would take and who have serious interest. Landing even 3-4 of this list would establish a great foundation for 2018.

Beyond the state borders, here are some of the best prospects with apparent interest in UNC:

  1. Justin Rogers, QB, 4 stars, 6’4” 198, Bossier City, Louisiana. Could he follow Brandon Harris to UNC? A strong season from Harris might help a great deal.
  2. Mychale Salahuddin, RB, 3 stars, 5’ 10”, 193, Washington, DC.
  3. Dashaun Jerkins, S, 3 stars, 5’11”, 178, Woodbridge, VA. UNC is widely believed to lead. Jerkins is considered the #1 safety in Virginia.
  4. Tyneil Hopper, TE, 3 stars, 6’2”, 225, Roswell, GA
  5. William Barnes, OT, 4 stars, 6’4”, 291, Apopka, FL. UNC in a battle with Florida and holding its own.
  6. Rasheed Walker, OT, 6’6”, 4 stars, 295, Waldorf, MD. Can the Tar Heels pry him away from the home state Terrapins?
  7. Noah Boykin, 3 stars, 6’2”, 165, CB, Washington, DC. A teammate of Salahuddin reputed to have similar interest in coming to Chapel Hill.
  8. Donte Burkin, 3 stars, 5’11”, 172, CB, Lawrenceville, GA. A prior UNC commit that has cooled but is still on UNC’s board.
  9. DeMarcus Gregory, 3 stars, 6’3”, 196, WR, Duncan, SC. Reputed to be deciding between UNC, South Carolina, and Ole Miss.
  10. Donte Burton, 3 stars, 6’0”, 164, CB, Lawrenceville, GA. Another battle with the Hokies.

There are other prospects on the radar and (if this year is like most) some that have yet to appear, to say nothing of the now-vibrant grad transfer market that UNC has taken full advantage of, but if you need a fix this summer, this should serve as a pretty good roadmap to the targets that will determine whether Larry Fedora and his staff are successful in building on their recent recruiting wins.