North Carolina's five major football-playing universities are facing an Invasion of the Body Snatchers -- the college recruiting version.
Traditionally strong programs from across the country are coming to North Carolina and leaving with most of the biggest, fastest and best bodies -- the high school kids more likely to become top-flight college players.
Most recently, West Brunswick High's Alfy Hill , the No. 4 member of The Charlotte Observer's N.C. Top 25 prospects list picked Alabama over North Carolina.
"I think it's a media thing to some extent," said Ardrey Kell High coach Marty Woolbright. "The top programs are getting a lot of attention, and if a kid gets a chance to go to, say, one of the top five in the country, they're going to do that."
Woolbright has personal experience with that this season, as senior linebacker/defensive end Prince Shembo, No. 9 on the Observer's N.C. list, picked Notre Dame over the Tar Heels and N.C. State.
"North Carolina and State did well recruiting him. They were probably his next choices," Woolbright said.
The Charlotte Observer's N.C. Top 25 has seen 15 commitments so far. N.C. State has done the best job with two of those commitments -- No. 2-rated Robert Crisp, an offensive tackle from Athens Drive, and No. 6 Tony Creecy, a receiver from Southern Durham.
Duke also has two, as coach David Cutcliffe has talked No. 18 Takoby Cofield, an offensive lineman from Tarboro, and No. 22 Joshua Snead, a running back from Smithfield-Selma, into becoming Blue Devils.
Wake Forest has one, cornerback A.J. Marshall at No. 19. East Carolina has none.
And North Carolina? The Tar Heels often have ruled the state, on many occasions landing eight or more of the Top 25. Last year, coach Butch Davis, with one season under his belt, grabbed 11, including eight of the top nine.
He has one member of the Observer's list, Charlotte Christian linebacker Ty Linton at No. 12.
And the number of available players is shrinking fast -- 10 remain.
Of those 10, No. 1 Gabe King, a defensive end, and No. 3 Keenan Allen, a safety/wide receiver, have made their intentions to leave the state known. King has gone so far as to move from Greensboro to Oregon for his senior season after the N.C. High School Athletic Association ruled him ineligible at public schools because of a residency violation.
The highest-ranked player the Tar Heels remain in contention for is Wilmington Hoggard offensive tackle T.J. Leifheit at No. 7.
The top out-of-state poacher in North Carolina was Notre Dame. In addition to Shembo, the Fighting Irish got a similar defensive force in Southeast Raleigh linebacker Kendall Moore, ranked eighth. They also are in the mix for No. 13 David Amerson, a safety from Greensboro Dudley.
Keep an eye on Oregon, though. The Ducks must be considered the leaders for the No.1-ranked King. They already have No. 11 Chris McCain, a linebacker/defensive end. And they're in the running for the No. 3 Allen.
And Alabama is the darkhorse here. With Hill in the bag, it too is a finalist for King and Allen.
But do you know who is not a finalist for the pair?
Duke. East Carolina. North Carolina. N.C. State. And Wake Forest.
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