Feb 5, 2009
Above the podium where Butch Davis stood to address the assembled media on National Signing Days, pictures of rings representing Carolina bowl victories of the past adorned the walls.
With recruiting classes such as the one the Tar Heels signed Wednesday, those pictures may be joined by images of rings from ACC championships, BCS bowls or even, dare to dream, national titles.
The 29-player recruiting class is undoubtedly the strongest of the three Davis has brought to Chapel Hill. It includes five-star defensive lineman Donte Moss and 13 four-star recruits. According to Rivals, the haul is rated No. 8 in the country, while Scout has it at No. 5. Scout has it as No. 1 in the ACC, while Rivals has it second to Florida State.
“As we talk about this recruiting class, I think there’s been a significant amount of buzz about his program for the last 18 months,” Davis said. “As the wins have gotten better, the stadium expansion, going to a bowl game, being on national television, there’s an awful lot of positive momentum, and I think that the ’09 recruiting class just continues to add another step in that process in building this program.”
The staff started with a focus on players in North Carolina, and they landed 15 in-state recruits. In addition to Moss, who is from Jacksonville, the following players also hail from the Tar Heel State: linebacker Hawatha Bell (Charlotte), athlete A.J. Blue (Dallas), offensive lineman Travis Bond (Windsor), wide receiver Jheranie Boyd (Gastonia), defensive back D.J. Bunn (Smithfield), offensive lineman David Collins (Kernersville), athlete Ray-Ray Davis (Monroe), linebacker Justin Dixon (Smithfield), running back Hunter Furr (Lewisville), athlete Erick Highsmith (Vanceboro), defensive back Josh Hunter (Charlotte), defensive lineman Jared McAdoo (Chapel Hill), linebacker Kevin Reddick (New Bern), running back Jerrell Rhodes (Durham) and defensive back Terry Shankle (Norwood).
As big on talent as the class seems to be, it comes with one caveat. The 29-player recruiting class is four more than allowed per class by the NCAA. With 66 scholarship players from last season still on the roster, Davis will need to trim his team by 10 scholarships in order to get to the 85-man limit.
Davis did not say who would be trimmed from the roster, but it did say it was discussed with every recruit.
“The practice of oversigning has been around for a long time. We did it several times in my years at the University of Miami,” he said. “Here’s the secret that has to go into it: you have to be honest with the player, the high school coach, you have to be honest with the parents and say, ‘This is our plan for your son.’ Surprisingly, as in the case at the University of Miami, some of the kids that we had oversigned on are full qualifiers. They could have gone to any other school and been immediately eligible, but they said they wanted to come to Carolina and were willing to wait and put off that opportunity for later.”
Carolina addressed its glaring needs created by the loss of personnel from last season’s team that finished 8-5 and went to the Meineke Car Care Bowl – wide receiver, offensive line and defensive back.
At receiver, the Tar Heels landed 6-foot-4, 200-pound Joshua Adams from Cambridge, Mass., the No. 35 receiver in the country according to Rivals, 6-2, 185-pound Jherainie Boyd from Gastonia, the No. 48 player in the country according to Rivals, and 6-0, 185-pound Joshua McKie from Mauldin, S.C., among the top 75 athletes in the country.
“This class, we needed to have speed and athleticism, and versatility were kind of three of the major buzz words we talked bout in staff meetings, and playmaking ability,” Davis said. “This group of guys, we think, has got an awful lot of potential and upside. They’re going to have to earn the opportunity to beat the heir apparents, whether its immediately in ’09 or ’10 or ’11, but we think it’s a very, very talented group.”
On the offensive line, Carolina inked the 6-foot-7, 320-pound, three-star Bond, the 6-8, 300-pound three-star Collins, the 6-3, 200-pound, four-star Johnnie Farms, from Perry, Ga., and 6-7, 285-pound, four-star Brennan Williams, from West Roxbury, Mass. What Davis liked most about this group was its versatility.
“Those guys, inside, outside, right side, left side, give us an awful lot of versatility,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a guy where you can say, ‘This guy can only plan one position.’”
In the secondary, Carolina signed the 6-2, four-star Hadley from Charlotte’s Mallard Creek High, 6-2, two-star Curtis Campbell from Chesapeake, Va., three-star Angelo Hadley, from Seffner, Fla., Mywan Jackson from Seffner, Fla., three-star,Gene Robinson from Memphis, Bunn from Smithfield-Selma High and Shankle, out of South Stanly High.
“The one thing with the corners and safeties is they can all run. There’s some speed in that group,” Davis said. “We feel good. The other flip side, with losing Brandon Tate, we looked at all the receivers, all the running backs all the secondary kids and said, how many of these kids might give us the possibility of finding guys that can return punts and kickoffs. Interestingly enough, probably four or five of these guys have those skills.”
Davis recalled years past where he used to sit by the fax machine waiting for paper work to arrive. That was not the case this year. By 8:50 a.m., 17 of the class’ 29 recruits had submitted their papers.
The lone scare he had was from four-star athlete Donovan Tate. Tate’s papers didn’t arrive until 8:30, a delay caused, Davis said, because Tate’s mom had difficulty finding a fax machine in Cartersville, Ga.
“We were like, did he get kidnapped? Did George Steinbrenner find him?” Davis joked.
Tate is also a prized baseball recruit who could be selected in this summer’s Major League draft, but Davis said he expects Tate to be in Chapel Hill in the fall, and he’ll enter camp as a quarterback.
“I think he’s going to play at Carolina. I think he loves the idea of coming here and being a multi-sport athlete. I think he cherishes the idea of going to college. Can money change an 18-year-old kid’s mind? Absolutely. But I know, talking to his mom, she and Donovan both love the fact this university provided them both absolutely everything they dreamed about.”
As praise was heaped upon Davis’ third recruiting class, he warned judging them now is too premature.
“It’s a good class,” he said. “The proof in all recruiting classes will come two years from now. When they become the core of your program in 2010, then you’ll know how good a class is.”
A lot is made of the quality of a team’s recruits brought in on signing day, but the fact of the matter is that if coaches had their way, most of them would never see the field their freshman years.
In a majority of cases, athletes right out of high school need a redshirt year to mature, adjust to college life and master the schemes and conditioning programs of their new schools.
However, there are situations that arise, whether through a sheer lack of talent, or because of a vacancy left by a departed player, where true freshman are called upon to give their programs significant reps in their inaugural years on campus.
The following are five players that could see the field early and often for Butch Davis in Chapel Hill.
1 and 2) Joshua Adams and Jheranie Boyd - WR
Carolina lost its top five wide receivers from its 2008 team over the offseason through graduation and the NFL Draft, so needless to say, the opportunity to play early is there. Adams and Boyd are both fantastic athletes and the two of them will compete with Dwight Jones for the two starting spots out wide for the Heels.I wouldn't be surprised to see both of the true freshman taking snaps at some point in every game next year, even if one has to be the third receiver. Greg Little may take some snaps from them as he continues to try and find a position to play consistently, but these two pass-catchers will hear their names plenty over the Kenan Stadium PA system this coming year.
2.) Kevin Reddick - LB
With Mark Paschal and Chase Rice gone, Reddick has an opportunity to see the field plenty in 2009, perhaps as the starter at middle linebacker. Butch Davis has some choices to make, such as whether or not to shift players like Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter from the outside to the middle, but either way, there is likely to be one 2009 commitment on the field at all times at the linebacker position. Reddick will be pushed for playing time by Hawatha Bell and Justin Dixon, two other linebackers arriving on campus this season, but the 6-3, 230-pound backer has the size and the speed to hold off the North Carolina natives. At the very least he is a rotational linebacker that plays 15 snaps a game.
3.) Donte Moss - DE
Moss is just too good to put any farther down on the list than this. The Heels really don't graduate anyone from their defensive line, but I just don't see how Davis could leave a potential game-changer like Moss off the field for an entire year. At 6-4, 235 pounds, Moss will have to hit the weights in order to improve against the run, but his pass-rushing skills are absolutely staggering. Moss may start the year as a pass-rush specialist when the other team has third and long, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a defensive end combo of Moss and Robert Quinn before long.
4.) Brennan Williams - OL
Carolina lost offensive linemen Garrett Reynolds, Calvin Darity and Byron Bishop to graduation after last year, so replacements will need to be found to fill out the depth chart. I am always hesitant to imply that offensive linemen will start or play much as true freshman, simply because college coaches recognize the difficult transition from high school to college that O-linemen face and like to redshirt them for a year. However, the Heels are thinner at tackle and guard than they are at a lot of other positions on the field. Johnnie Farms out of Georgia will also try and earn playing time, but I think the Heels are more desperate at the tackle position and Farms projects as a guard at the college level.
5.) Donovan Tate - Athlete
Tate would be higher on this list if there wasn't the uncertainty about his baseball career. Tate might be the best athlete Carolina brought in this year, but he's a better baseball player than he is a football player, if you can believe that, so it remains to be seen how he goes about balancing out the two. Will he stick with football? Will he go to the Major Leagues? If he does stay with football he'll make an impact in his freshman season, but he may have a few million reasons to stay off the gridiron by the time football season rolls around. If he does lace them up on Saturday for Butch Davis, Tate may play cornerback, wide receiver or even some QB in gimmick formations.
TruthBeKnown--If you really believe that TOB only missed out on "maybe 2 recruits"--in state, especially--then I've got some beachfront property for you.