Tomorrow the 2018 football recruiting season reaches its unofficial conclusion. Sure, there will be one or two players that become available through the spring, or a few graduate transfers that may catch the interest of the UNC staff. However, for all intents and purposes, UNC is looking to close this year’s class with a strong push across the finish line.
They need to.
After the first sigining day in December (this is the first year there have been two signing days), the Heels did not have the haul they had expected. Two promininent decommittments from quarterback Tyler Shough and in-state linebacker Payton Wilson added insult to (literal) injuries. After a frustrating season, the program limped into 2018. Their recruiting rankings reflected this reality. below are UNC recruiting rankings as this week.
ESPN: 35th nationally, 7th ACC
Rivals: 41st nationally, 7th ACC
Scout/247: 34th nationally, 7th ACC
Needless to say, those are underwhelming numbers. They are also well below Fedora’s historical average at North Carolina. In the previous five years, with the now defunct NCAA investigation and additional sanctions from 2011 still serving as obstacles, Fedora’s classes had still remained in the top-30.
I’m confident fans and the staff were looking forward to finally capitalizing on the 2015 ACC chamopnships game and last year’s successful NFL draft. Tomorrow, they may see the first real signs of the tide finally turning.
As they head into the second signing day on tomorrow, the Heels have 17 committments that are either signed, enrolled, verbally committed, or some combination of the two. That leaves eight open scholarships for recruits to snag. Below are who is left as a main target for UNC.
Committed, Not Signed
Outside Linebacker, 6-1, 215, 3-Stars
Scout Ranking: 567th Nationally, 36th at position
One of the more interesting recruiting stories this seaosn, Flint is currently enrolled at UNC despite not signing in December. Flint visited UNC in mid-January, flipped from Tennessee to UNC, and moved into a dorm that weekend. Most of the credit can go to former UNC linebacker and current coach Tommy Thigpen. Flint will hopefully not be the last UT commit that flips to the Heels.
Offensive Tackle, 6-5, 295, 3-Stars
Scout Ranking: 880th nationally, 74th at position
Another lineman to add depth, Ezedeu committed shortly after visiting UNC in mid-January. Perhaps somewhat of a “late bloomer”, Ezeudu added multiple Power 5 scholarship offers as his senior season came to a close. He joins Avery Jones as the only current UNC committment on the offensive line.
Cornerback, 6-2, 172, 3-stars
Scout Ranking: 1594th nationally, 150th at position
Committed since last summer, Hollins did not sign in December as he preferred to sign with the rest of his teammates at a special ceremony on Wednesday. There hasn’t been any reason to think Hollins will sign with another program, and will continue the trend of adding depth and size in the secondary. UNC already has three other players signed who are expected to contribute in the defensive backfield.
Offensive Tackle, 6-4, 325, 4-Stars
Scout Ranking: 53rd overall, 5th at position
Offensive Guard, 6-2, 288, 3-Stars
Scout Ranking: 563rd overall, 24th at position
Teammates from Apopka High School in Florida, these two are highly believed to be a package deal. While Barnes is obviously the more highly ranked player, both would be excellent additions to an offensive line that needs reinforcements and is rebuilding. With the coaching turnover at Florida muddying that recruitment and a cancelled visit to Ole Miss, the duo are expected to be Heels.
Wide Receiver, 6-2, 195, 4-Stars
Scout Ranking: 349th overall, 59th at position
Stealing him from the state of Forida may be a tall task. However, with 4-sar WRs Jordyn Adams and Dyami Brown already signed with the Heels, the trio would arguably be one of the best receiving classes UNC has ever signed. Depending on who you ask (or read), Green seems to be trending towards UNC, but Florida State and Georgia are still in the running.
Defensive Tackle, 6-2, 258, 3-Stars
Scout Ranking: 505th nationally, 35th at position
A former Tennessee committ, Chatman reopened his recruitment when Butch Jones was fired. He’s narrowed his list down to UNC, Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Miami. He most recently took a visit down to Miami, and is believed to be trending towards the Canes. A great addition to Chapel Hill if he comes, but the liklihood is low.
Running Back, 5-11, 200, 3-Stars
Scout Ranking: 401st nationally, 17th at position
Currently still “committed” to Tennessee, he could still flip on signing day. A recent visit to Florida State impressed Grant so much that he said that the ‘Noles were “at the top” of his list. He’ll have a few days to come down off the high that often accompanies these visits and at one point UNC was thought to be in the lead. Even with a loaded RB depth chart, Grant’s comittment would be a huge coup.
Defensive Tackle, 6-4, 275, 3-stars
Scout Ranking: 1397th nationally, 105th at position
At first glance, Lewis is not the most “impressive” recruit. Don’t let that fool you. He did represent Alabama in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game. Also remember, 2018 Super Bowl champion Mack Hollins started as a walk-on. The defensive line needs depth, and if UNC maintains the same operating procedures Lewis would likely be a long-term project. Nonetheless, when recruiting, development and longterm rewards are common goals. Lewis would fit that mold. Down to UNC and UCLA, expect Lewis to come to Chapel Hill.
Inside Linebacker, 6-2, 236, 4-Stars
Scout Ranking: 150th nationally, 8th at position
A commitment from Dax will make UNC fans say, “Payton Wilson? Who?” Andre Smith’s decision to declare for the NFL draft left a huge hole in the middle of the field, and Dax would benefit from immediate playing time. The staff has done everything in their power to woo Dax including offering his younegr brother a scholarship two weeks ago. Down to VT, Stanford, Clemson, and UNC, the Hollifield family has played the entire recruitment close to the vest.
What to expect
Guessing what 18 year old young men are going to decide is an exercise in futility. They tell coaches one thing and then do another. Many of these recruits are also out of state and may wake up on Wednesday morning desiring to stay closer to home. Others may be lured by more traditional football powerhouses, even if they won’t get the same playing opportunities that UNC will afford them.
However, If UNC can lock down William Barnes, Ed Montilus, Antoine Green, and Gavin Lewis to join already commited Joshua Ezedeu, DeAndre Hollins, and Matthew Flint then Tar Heel fans should rejoice. Those signings alone could realistically push UNC into a top-25 recruiting class, which would have been considered a miracle in December.
If they can land any combination of Anthony Grant, Jamarcus Chatman, and/or Dax Hollifield, then a top-20 class is not impossible. While those three players are currently wildcards, signing day is all about maintaining some hope and optimism. Wednesday should give UNC fans plenty of both.