National signing day is upon us and so an annual national signing day public service announcement is necessary: Temper the excitement.
Yes, this is among the days that college football fans most anticipate -- right up there with the first Saturday of games. And in some cases – the arrival of a top-five recruiting class, for instance – the hype is justified. In many others, though, it’s not.
The reality is that it will be years – at least two, maybe three or four – before the worthiness of a signing class becomes clear. Sometimes a touted class doesn’t develop. Sometimes one that doesn’t appear all too great on paper turns out to be better than expected.
With that in mind, here’s a quick look at North Carolina’s signing day needs, with an eye to the future and what will become needs years down the road. Quarterback, for example, is missing from the list because the Tar Heels have two freshman quarterbacks who sat out last season.
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UNC’s primary needs:
UNC lost the vast majority of production at receiver with the departures of Mack Hollins, Bug Howard and Ryan Switzer. Rising seniors Austin Proehl and Thomas Jackson, a former walk-on, are back but no one else is a proven difference-maker. J.T. Cauthen, a member of the incoming recruiting class, enrolled early.
Among players listed only at safety on the roster, Donnie Miles by far possesses the most experience, and he’s a senior. There are no proven contributors behind him listed at safety, though there are other defensive backs who can play both cornerback and safety.
With the unexpected departure of Elijah Hood, who decided to enter the NFL draft after first announcing his attention to remain in school, UNC’s running back cupboard is essentially bare. Rising sophomore Jordon Brown, from Durham, is the only returning running back with any college carries. Michael Carter, a member of the incoming class, enrolled early.
The reliable Nick Weiler, who will forever be remembered for the 54-yard game-winning field goal he made at Florida State last season, is gone. UNC doesn’t have anyone who’s ever attempted a field goal in college, though rising junior Freeman Jones arrived as a good prospect. Noah Ruggles, a kicker from Lutz, Fla., is among UNC’s commitments.
The Tar Heels lose their best interior defensive lineman in Nazair Jones, who decided to enter the NFL draft. There’s some talent here, particularly with rising sophomore Aaron Crawford and rising juniors Jeremiah Clarke and Jalen Dalton, who has yet to come close to reaching his potential. Two defensive tackles, Xach Gill (from Wake Forest High) and Jordon Riley (from Durham) are among the seven incoming freshmen who enrolled early.