When Larry Fedora arrived at North Carolina, he spoke often of the importance of keeping the most talented high school prospects in state, and using those players as a foundation upon which to build his football program.
Fedoras second signing class at North Carolina and the first one in which he and his staff had a full cycle to recruit reflected the Tar Heels commitment to keeping North Carolinas best at home. Yet it also illustrated how much work they have to do to fend off other programs, namely from the SEC, from poaching the states best prospects.
UNC signed 17 Wednesday, the first day high school players could sign national letters of intent. Seven of the signees are from North Carolina, and five of those seven are among the top 30 prospects in the state, according to Rivals.com.
Among local schools, UNC did the best job of attracting players considered among the states best, and Rivals ranked the class 40th-best nationally. N.C. States recruiting efforts were hampered by a coaching change, and the Wolfpack signed two players Rivals ranked among the top 30 in North Carolina. Duke signed none, and Wake Forest one.
I would like to say that were going to get every kid in the state of North Carolina, Fedora said Wednesday, but its not possible. Its not going to happen.
The prize of UNCs class is T.J. Logan, the Greensboro running back who starred at Northern Guilford High. Logan was well-known to those who follow recruiting before his dynamic performance in the N.C. 3AA championship game, when he ran for 510 yards and eight touchdowns.
Fedora spoke in glowing terms about Logan. He had less to say, though, when he tried to explain why in-state schools failed to keep more elite prospects at home.
That many of North Carolinas top football prospects leave the state is not a new trend. It has been happening for as long as college football recruiting has been a national obsession.
Seven of the states top 30 players, according to Rivals, signed Wednesday with one of states four ACC schools. SEC schools, meanwhile, combined to sign eight of North Carolinas top 30 prospects. Among the top-10 prospects in the state, only Logan will remain in North Carolina.
I completely expected it to be hard, UNC offensive coordinator Blake Anderson said of winning in-state recruiting battles. Ive known for years there were great players here, and I knew that between the Big Ten, SEC and us, theres more than enough competition to go around and that we were going to have a ton of battles to fight.
And that wont change. It will get harder each year.
The struggles of in-state schools to keep the best players at home wont help UNC, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest close the talent gap that exists between them and the top programs in the ACC. Florida State was one of the national winners on signing day, and closed with the ACCs best class, which Rivals ranked 11th nationally.
Clemson, which signed three of the top-30 prospects in North Carolina, finished with the 14th-best class in the country, according to Rivals. Virginia Tech (No. 22) and Virginia (No. 27) also were among Rivals top 30 classes in the country.
Locally, each school encountered unique recruiting challenges ones that might have hindered their ability to land some of the states best players. At N.C. State, Dave Doeren and his staff scrambled to salvage a class it barely had time to recruit.
Doeren wasnt introduced as the Wolfpacks coach until Dec. 2. After arriving, he had about two months before signing day.
We wanted to build this class with winners, Doeren said of a 23-man signing class Rivals ranks No. 46 nationally. I know a lot of people on the outside looking in are considered about rankings and stars and things of that nature, and dont get me wrong that matters to everybody on our staff.
But we also wanted guys who know how to win and we were able to do that.
At Duke, the Blue Devils most successful season in nearly 20 years helped them to sign a 20-man recruiting class that Rivals ranked the 67th-best nationally. The Blue Devils made it a priority to seek playmakers, and the majority of their class will arrive on campus without an assigned position.
Theyre playmakers, coach David Cutcliffe said of Dukes class. Its pretty cool that a lot of them played and started on (offense and defense) on their high school teams. They were the leading players and playmakers on both sides of the football. I personally paid a lot of attention to that as we started offering people in this class.
Just two signees dual-threat quarterbacks Parker Boehme and Quay Chambers had specific positions listed on Dukes official release. The four linemen had an L listed next to their names, and the other 14 players had a B for back.
Dominic McDonald, an early enrollee who flipped from Tennessee to Duke during December, likely will stay at linebacker. The other 15 speed and skill players, who can play positions ranging from receiver to defensive back, could be plugged in on either side of the ball.
The classes at UNC, N.C. State and Duke vary in size and ranking, but they all have one thing in common. The majority of each class is comprised from players outside of the state.
Seven of UNCs 17 signees are from North Carolina, and N.C. State signed nine in-state players, and Duke four. The Tar Heels lost out on two in-state players who would have bolstered their class. Marquez North, the Charlotte receiver considered to be one of the top prospects in the nation, chose Tennessee.
And on signing day, Korrin Wiggins, a defensive back from Durham Hillside, chose Clemson. Wiggins previously had committed to UNC.
The same question youre asking me Im sure theyre asking at N.C. State, theyre asking at Duke and Wake Forest, UNCs tight end coach and recruiting coordinator Walt Bell said when asked why more players didnt remain in state.
Bell said he was happy UNC signed Logan, who the Tar Heels believe to be North Carolinas best prospect.
But weve got plenty of work to do, Bell said. I dont want anybody to think that we feel like weve done our job, because we havent yet. Staff writers Joe Giglio and Laura Keeley contributed to this report.
Carter: 919-829-8944 Twitter: @_andrewcarter