ACC Recruiting Breakdowns: North Carolina

UNC will have Sam Howell, who may turn out to be the best QB in school history, for 2 more years. That is what we in the sports world like to call a "championship window". I know what you're saying to yourself. "Man, UNC isn't gonna win any championship. No way can the beat Clemson and they certainly can't make it through a college football playoff !" I agree with you, but that doesn't make either of us right. If a top 5 QB in the nation, a Hall of Fame coach, and a team full of blue chips can't take down Clemson, then what can?

Let's look into what the Tar Heels brought in for the 2020 class that can help them live up to this year's hype. Because, contrary to what most of the media and twitter thinks, the class of 2021 will not be on the field this fall for the Tar Heels.

2020 Class:
ACC Rank: 3
National Rank: 19
# of Signees: 26
Average Recruit Rating: 0.8849
Top Recruit: Desmond Evans, EDGE, Sandford NC, (0.9777)

Biggest Need: Offensive Line

UNC has wasted good talent in the past because they so often lack a consistent offensive flow. I'm looking at you, Larry Fedora. If you rely on big plays are sporadic formations, tempo, and identity, it's going to be tough to win football games at a high level throughout a season. Much of this issue is down to an offensive line that the coaching staff just doesn't trust. A good example with the current Carolina staff would be the game against Wake Forest last season, where Carlos Basham was in the backfield almost every play, but UNC had to pass almost every down because they were losing by multiple touchdowns and couldn't get a running game going. Sam Howell got benched in that game he was so bad, by the way.
For this season, and the next few seasons to come, to be the success that so many around the country are expecting, UNC will have to be a better blocking team.

In this class, UNC grabbed 4 linemen: Trey Zimmerman (0.8709), Jonothan Adorno (0.8626), Cayden Baker (0.8789), and Malik McGowen (0.8418). That's a pretty good haul. Zimmerman and Baker look like guys that could contribute right away, while Adorno and McGowen are good bets for the future. In my opinion, offensive line is the toughest position group to grade in highschool. You don't see these guys being tested very often. Most higher ranked linemen simply push the guy across from them to the ground every play, you don't see a real battle. Because of that, schools look to bring in 3-4 guys in every class nowadays. You never know which one will really succeed in the weight room and adapt well to the huge jump in speed of the game. Getting 4 3-star guys, 3 of whom being top 50 in the nation for their respective positions, has to be labeled as getting the job done.

Most Exciting Recruit: Josh Downs, WR, Suwanee GA, (0.9565)

In this class, UNC signed 7 wide receivers. That's good because all of those guys are high 3-4 star prospects. That can be bad because if you think that even half of those guys will play a snap for UNC you haven't been paying a lot of attention to college football recently.

Josh Downs will most likely be one to stick in Chapel Hill. The 5'10" speedster project to excel in the slot and shows really nice footwork at the line of scrimmage. He also has great catch radius for a player his size, which is why he was rated as a top 20 WR in the nation. He's a guy that can make an impact for Howell's offense in year one, if called upon.

Early Contributor: Kedrick Bingley-Jones, DT, Charlotte NC, (0.9335)

If there's a major weak spot with UNC this season, it most likely will be the defensive front 7. Outside of all-ACC linebacker Chazz Surrat, there's not much there. UNC lost two starting defensive tackles last season in Aaron Crawford and Jason Strawbridge, so an influx of talent is paramount.

Bingley-Jones comes in with the physical frame and athleticism to play this fall. He's light on his feet for a guy that's 6'4 265. That will allow him to drop back on zone blitzes as well as execute hard slants as a run stopper, both of which are major parts of the UNC defensive scheme.

Transfer Portal: Grayson Atkins, K, Furman

Tar Heels got one guy in the Portal, and it's a good one. Atkins is an all-american specialist from Furman. He does field goals, punts, and kick-offs.
Last season, Atkins was 48/50 on PATs, 13/15 on FGs (including a 55 yarder), and punted with an average of 43.5 yards with 19/69 ending up inside the 20 yard line. He had no kicks blocked last season. UNC likes to play in close games, and this guy could be a major player in their quest to win the Coastal and challenge Clemson.

Sam's Grade: A

It doesn't come as a shock that UNC is recruiting at a high level with the return of Mack Brown. I can go on a tirade about how brand recognition has taken over college recruiting, but I'll leave that for the comment section. I will say this, there's just something about that Carolina Blue that draws you in.

UNC is yet to prove anything. Last season, the only team they beat with a winning record was Temple in the bowl game. Sam Howell was spectacular down the stretch, but the gun slinger style of quarterback can catch up on you real fast.

UNC needed to get better in the trenches, and they did so with this class. Last season, UNC had issues with depth on the defensive secondary. 4 star safeties Cameron Roseman-Sinclair and Ja'Qurious Conley will help beef up that lineup on day 1. And Jacoby Criswell, the 4 star dual QB out of Arkansas, is in a perfect position to learn from Sam Howell over the next two seasons before taking the helm.

We'll see how well this staff does with roster management, as it seems like every offer they throw out there is getting an early commitment. That's great for momentum on the trail, but can make rosters a bit lopsided if the chips don't fall in the right way. For now, UNC is stockpiling talent in a division known for scrappy 3 stars.

ACC Grades:
Syracuse – C
Boston College – B
Pittsburgh – B+
Louisville – B-
Virginia – B-
Virginia Tech – C
Wake Forest – B
Duke – C+
North Carolina - A

DISCLAIMER: Forum topics may not have been written or edited by The Key Play staff.



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Josh Downs was a .9565 on the composite.

The best part of their 2020 class imo was the DL haul:

- WDE Desmond Evans (.9777) 6-6 240
- SDE Myles Murphy (.9342) 6-4 280
- DT Kedrick Bingley-Jones (.9335) 6-4.5 266
- DT Clyde Pinder Jr (.8960) 6-.05 303

- SDE Kaimon Rucker (.84ish) 6-1 243 (upside project and VT target)

You build long term consistent success on the lines of scrimmage (raise the floor). This haul plus their current recruiting class has them looking very solid. Between Sam Howell and current commit Drake Maye, it seems they are keeping the potential for the ceiling to raised as well (elite QB play).

The question will be can they develop these guys into a dominant-style football team?

you're right, that was left over from the Duke article. thanks for the catch

Their DL is going to be unbelievable in a few years. Been recruiting that area as well as anyone in the country across the last two cycles.

It certainly looks good on paper. They needed to recruit DL/DE hard because Fedora just flat out didn't try. I'm still not a believer in Evans, I'm curious to see how he does. He certainly didn't look like a dominant DE prospect in HS. There were games where no-name dudes held their own against him and he didn't dominate games on film like I'm used to seeing with a recruit rated that high.

There's a reason Evans dropped from a 5* to a high 4*. He has all the tools/upside, but didn't flash that fire every down and produce like you'd expect from a guy like that. However, like you said he will be one to watch because all the talent is there, and I imagine he will he used in a hybrid stand up (Jack LB) type role in Bateman's odd fronts.

I think Murphy, Pinder, KBJ, all fit the down linemen positions well in Bateman's system.

Evans is a dude who if you get him to figure it out he's a first round pick, not a lot of dudes out there like him physically. If he patters around he'll transfer in like two seasons. Going to be interesting to see how they find snaps for all the dudes they're bringing in, Evans, Murphy, Pinder, KBJ, Ritzee, Silver, Stephens, and presumably George Wilson are all 4 star guys who play the down line positions and Jack/whatever they call it. Thats 8 front four 4 stars in 2 classes. Plus some other non 4 star guys. Someone is not going to be happy.

As an aside, Downs scares me. Dude was uncoverable at the Army All American game last year.

Evans played in a pretty good conference in NC. I know it isn't what it used to be, but it's still pretty darn good. I think he pans out and makes a pretty good name for himself in the ACC.

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My man got dominated by dudes who are probably working at the Amazon Distribution Center in Garner. And I would have had the same concerns if this dude came to VT.

I just looked... For some reason I thought Lee County still played in the same conference with Scottland Co., Richmond Co., Pinecrest, and a hand full of the quality Fayetteville schools. Looking at the Hudl lists, he's not playing against a single D-1 athlete I suspect.

Is coronavirus over yet?

There's a difference between blue chips and true freshman blue chips though. In two years when these classes have grown up they'll be downright nasty. I think they'll be good this year but they ain't winning a championship

I agree with you, i think the 2021 season is their best shot at an ACC title. But if they get to the game in Charlotte who knows what can happen.

They'll just ice their own kicker and lose so no reason to think they'll win a title.

Throwback to when we could talk this type of shit to UVA 😳

Man UNC is picking people up..Looks like Grimes is also headed there

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Yeah I'd say Grimes is Ohio State or UNC. Mack Brown is quite the sweet talker and that Carolina Blue can sing.

This article has been posted 7 hours and there are only 15 comments? Yet half of TKP recruiting threads only discuss this subject. I don't get it.

Thanks for the breakdown Sam.

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Hey, I just do my best to keep everyone informed on what the other guys are doing.

Official, Grimes to UNC

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I get everyone is worried and upset about UNC but this isn't new to that school or the current HC. I'll hold judgement until they have done something on the field.

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I'm not worried that they'll start winning the conference or anything crazy, but I am worried that we won't be able to compete with them based on our recent recruiting compared to theirs

I just sit on my couch and b*tch. - HokieChemE2016

People like you said the exact same damn thing about Clemson around 2010, burying their head in the sand because they had always recruited decently but couldn't quite put it together. Well, once they put it together, they left us in the damn dust and never looked back, and we've been stuck in irrelevant no man's land ever since.

UNC is a sleeping dragon we don't want to wake up. Period. Their budget puts us under the table, and its well within our best interests to make sure they never get their shit together by out recruiting them in our own territory and continually beating their ass on the field. Last year it took 6OTs to beat them in our own house when they had a brand new staff trying to implement a brand new scheme. And we've followed that up with some god awful recruiting while they are absolutely raking in whoever they want whenever they want. And they have a guy running things who won a National Championship at the biggest football school in the nation, so don't give me this crap that they don't have the people in place to eventually figure this shit out.

Mark my words, what is going on at UNC right now is very, very bad news for the short and possibly medium term future of Virginia Tech football. And if you don't think they are actively targeting VT to not just beat us but to hurt us to keep us down once they open up a gap, you're not paying attention to their social media presence lately.

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Got to be tough to type so much when you're clutching your pearls so hard

I hear you, but a high school football coach could roll out onto the field with a roster full of 4* and 5* recruits, along with the leagues 2nd best (maybe best) QB, and win the Coastal Division (sort of kidding... sort of serious). I suspect 2022 will be a banner year for the Tarheels football team, and that will be just the moment that the VT recruiting woes will begin to affect the VT football program in a negative way.

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Thank you. This is the point.

We may beat UNC this year (provided there is a season). But truthfully, if you look at the S&P+ we probably won't be favored even this year.

But come the '21 and 22' seasons when their excellent recruiting classes are becoming seasoned, its pretty hard to see how they will not be a prohibitive favorite in the Coastal.

Simply relying on "well they're UNC, they always screw it up" seems pretty foolhardy at this point. They have absolutely killed it in recruiting, nearly completely shutdown our recruiting efforts in NC, have good coordinators on both sides of the ball, and plenty of money to play with.

Yes, their Coach is old and was a goof on ESPN, but I'm going to need more than thay to convince me they are going to fall flat.

He took the 6th,3rd,8th and 6th classes and won 5 games with them. Again let's see how they play.

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In a good Big 12 though. The Iowa State and UCLA losses were pretty bad that year yeah but good A&M, great OU, great Okie State, RG3 Baylor, Collin Klein K State (admittedly his first start, but they pretty much rolled from then till he graduated).

Since 2010 (his 5 win season) he went 8-5, 9-4, and 8-5 at Texas. Since then, there's been ONE season better than 9-4 at Texas. He also took a 2 win team to 7 wins last year.

There's no way to spin this as a non-issue; all we can do is hope that it's not that bad instead of really bad.

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Also, the bottom bun of the 5 win sandwich was an appearance in the 2009 season NCG. While I think they lose either way, he lost Colt McCoy early in that game.

While I think they lose either way, he lost Colt McCoy early in that game.

OOooh you just opened a can of worms... here's the first 5 or so drives of that game:

  • Alabama throws an interception
  • Texas drives down the field to the 1-yard line, then kicks an FG on 4th & 1
  • Texas recovers an onside kick, scores another FG
  • Alabama punts
  • Colt McCoy goes down, in a drive that eventually ends in a punt
  • Alabama rolls

Colt McCoy going down may have been the single biggest momentum swinging event I've ever seen in a College Football game. I just remember that immediately after he went down, Texas looked dejected and Alabama looked invincible. It's a completely different game if he's healthy.

Going further off topic - it's amazing how much luck (for lack of a better term) has played a factor in Saban's Dynasty at Alabama. McCoy going out, the onside kick against Clemson in 2015, the Tua shot to the endzone in OT against UGA...

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I would argue the onside kick was not so much luck as it was a fairly brilliant tactical decision (based on an alignment issue they noticed in Clemson's kickoff return lineup, also that game was tied when it happened) nor the Tua OT TD. Tua looked off the safety and made the right throw, not to mention they missed a very makeable field goal at the end of regulation that took it to OT. Georgia was lucky to get another chance in OT.

The luck thing swings for every champion as well.

Clemson had eight one score games in 2016, only losing one of them. NC state missed a 25 yard field goal from the dead middle to win (his THIRD miss of the game that went to OT), James Quick runs out of bounds a yard short on 4th down when he could have cut up field a few yards from Clemson's end zone for the winner, a Dalvin Cook long run is called back for a "block below waist" illegal block way downfield. In the title game itself... well Clemson saw Bo Scarbrough, who had almost 100 yards and 2 TD's in the first half alone, break his leg in the third quarter on a 1st down run. Bama's offense struggled to run the ball after that, and it's hard to imagine Scarbrough, who had been consistently used as their "finisher" that season, wouldn't have made a big difference in the 2nd half, if only by shortening the game some as Clemson won with literally a second to spare.

In 2018 Clemson beats A&M off of basically an exceptionally fortunate and very unclear decision to call that A&M fumbled into the EZ over a sliver of the corner of the pylon. They also had a crucial Syracuse 4th down conversion called back that gave them the ball back with time to win late in the 4th for ineligible downfield, a penalty that is called about 1/25 of the time it happens.

I think it's pretty unfair to single out any team for getting "lucky" as champs. Especially, when Bama has been on the wrong side of a few unlucky moments "Kick six," Tua getting hurt in both 2018 and 2019, etc.

Ultimately, people see what they want to see.

edit: added a link to the Cook thing.

Also, my opinion on the 2009 Texas game is pretty simple, Bama proved they were a team that wore you down and got better as the game went on, much like our 2009 game against them, we looked better early, only to falter in the 4th quarter as their running game got stronger as the game wore on and we got tired. The other thing is that McCoy wasn't the type of QB that's hurt the Tide in the past, that Texas offense was good, but it was lots of dink and dunk, McCoy was not someone who was pushing the ball downfield consistently. I think the Bama D would have figured out their schtick pretty quickly. I actually think Garrett Gilbert's more gung ho, big arm approach worked pretty well if he had been a little more careful with the football.

Yeah I was gonna say I definitely thought at the time Texas would win it and was so pissed when McCoy went down. Garrett Gilbert was a huge bucket of ass that game and the rest of his career to be honest. It's at least really close if McCoy doesn't get hurt

Its amazing what happens with a school when they realize that recruiting is actually really that damn important.

At a certain point, I don't give a shit how good the coaches are on gamedays, step 1 is getting the best players to the school to put them in a position to compete. UNC can do this. We can't. And the gap between us and them over the next 3 years is going to turn into a gulf at the rate we are going.

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This isn't new UNC has had top end talent and classes hell top end talent from VA before. Mack had top end classes at Texas he won 6 5 games with. Let's see what happens before we join the pundits in giving UNC a Coastal berth already.

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Mack has also won a national title and we have not

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I would argue that any Texas team that Mac had, 6 wins or not, would have run right through the Coastal Division as it currently stands.

Is coronavirus over yet?

Sorry was wrong it was 5 win Texas. With losses to Baylor (7), Iowa State (5), Kansas State (7), UCLA (4). (Those teams win totals) that Texas team wasn't running through anyone.

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This isn't really a factual statement.

This had been discussed ad nauseum here, but UNC had had one top-10 class ever. That was in 2007 and was heavily weighted by signing Marvin Austin. Otherwise, they have recruited on a level that has been more or less equivalent to VT.

Yes, they have signed a number of high-profile prospects over the years but never in this abundance. Without a mass of decommits, their '21 class will be Top 5, which is a huge step-up from where they have been.

Assuming that football starts this fall, a BIG assumption, I can see UNC making a noise and clinching the Coastal.

UNC was a 2-point conversion away from upsetting Clemson and it took 6 overtimes to eke our a win over UNC.

Mack Brown has not forgotten how to coach and he has a good staff around him.

Serious Coastal contenders outside of UNC is UVA and Miami, if Manny Diaz can stop being a wad of wet blanket of a coach.

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You missed a serious coastal contender - Virginia Tech

To be honest, I don't see it happening any time soon. I would love, love to be proven wrong.

“But do kind of enjoy reading this thread, it's really nice because Auburn can't swoop in and take our juicy ripe tomatoes.” ~ lewiswb

You see LOLUVA over Tech? They lost over 80% of their offensive production.

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They are the defending Coastal champions.

“But do kind of enjoy reading this thread, it's really nice because Auburn can't swoop in and take our juicy ripe tomatoes.” ~ lewiswb

You must be blind as a bat if you think Tech isn't a serious contender for the coastal this year

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The tide is turning now baby
Funny feeling everything's gonna be alright now

Sure, and a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Like it or not, UNC has all the momentum moving forward. The coastal needed a school to step up like this and it sucks that it's Carolina. They've finally figured out that investing in football can yield a better ROI. Last years team was young, learning how to win. I expect them to be quite dangerous in a year or so. Hopefully Fu and staff are taking notice.

Semi-serious solution: Mack Brown for ACC commissioner!

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We need to beat the brakes off the Heels this year. I hope Hamilton lives up to the hype because a lot is gonna ride on the defense this season

More than any other game on our schedule we will need Farley and Waller to both have A+ performances against UNC. Farley did last time before he got hurt. He single handedly kept us from losing the plot in the 1st half. I still have no idea why they kept throwing at him.

We will need a good performance from our slot corner as well, whoever it may be. Last year they picked on (a possibly injured) Conner.

I think bigger than the secondary is getting pressure on Howell. If you allow him to sit in the pocket, he's going to pick VT apart again. Have to get pressure with the front 4 and get Howell uncomfortable in the pocket. That seemed to be where he struggled when he struggled last year.

I actually intended to include Justus Reed (or other rushers) in that post, but got sidetracked with my slot corner thought lol.

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