To hear certain experts tell it, Clayton’s Savion Jackson was well on his way to South Carolina.
Alim McNeill got a late offer from Alabama and there was no way that he and Drake Thomas, who also was offered by the defending national champs, were going to turn down those SEC offers. CJ Clark was a shoo-in for Georgia, or maybe Tennessee or South Carolina.
Remember, nobody picks N.C. State over the SEC, right? Well, Wolfpack football coach Dave Doeren is proving that theory wrong. Everyone of those in-state talents decided to play for the Wolfpack.
Doeren and his staff, which includes Des Kitchings, recently named the top recruiter in the ACC, have made a significant impact in the Tar Heel state, changing the landscape when it comes to recruiting.
“When I got here five years ago I talked about building a fence around this state and I do feel like we’ve made a lot of progress,” Doeren said at his December signing day press conference.
The 2018 recruiting class featured 10 in-state players, highlighted by a trio of US Army All-Americans: linebacker Payton Wilson, running back Ricky Person, defensive tackle Alim McNeill.
Person (Heritage) and McNeill (Sanderson) are both Wake County products, while Wilson played not too far up the road in Orange County.
In the past local players who had offers from SEC programs rarely turned down those opportunities. Tarboro’s Todd Gurley and Millbrook’s Keith Marshall both bolted from North Carolina and headed to Georgia. The Wake Forest duo of Bryce Love (Stanford) and Dexter Lawrence (Clemson) didn’t go to SEC schools, but the local talents said no to N.C. State and went off to win a National Title (Lawrence) and came close to a Heisman (Love).
Shortly after Jackson pledged his allegiance to the Pack, another former local star, Nyheim Hines, posted a tweet saluting the Clayton defensive end for staying close to home. Hines wrote “Glad to see a lot of the in state talent choosing to play college football in North Carolina. It’s a great state and great atmosphere. You don’t have to leave the state to compete, or make your dreams come true.”
Hines, who played at Garner and was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in April, was part of Doeren’s second full recruiting class. Doeren saw seven former players drafted in April, including offensive tackle Will Richardson (Jacksonville Jaguars), B.J. Hill (New York Giants), Kentavius Street (San Francisco 49ers) and Jaylen Samuels (Pittsburgh Steelers), all homegrown in North Carolina.
Hines was congratulating Jackson, but it was Hines’ class of 2015 that turned the tide of in-state talent flocking to Raleigh. The headliner of that class was Princeton running back Johnny Frasier, who flipped from Florida State to N.C. State, Hines, and Darian Roseboro, who flipped from Michigan.
That class included 13 in-state recruits, compared to seven from UNC in 2015, three from Duke and six from Wake Forest. Doeren cracked double-digit prospects from the Tar Heel State again in 2018 (10) and looks to be on pace again for his 2019 class, which already has eight players from North Carolina committed.
“The quality of player we’re getting in the state is going up as well,” Doeren said back in December. “The number of highly sought after guys who are choosing to stay here and play with us is evident when you look at this class (18).”
It’s evident with the steadily building 2019 class as well. Jackson, Clark and Thomas had plenty of suitors, but all picked N.C. State, starting with Thomas, a local talent whose older brother, Thayer, is a redshirt freshman this year for the Wolfpack. Thomas had an in-house recruiter in his older brother, and another in his close friend and class of 2018 signee, Wilson.
Social media, in a way, has turned all the commitments to recruiters themselves. McNeill was very active on Twitter trying to sway prospects who had N.C. State on their final list, especially the in-state guys. Jackson made it clear at his announcement that he would be pursuing other guys to come to Raleigh and we will soon find out if it worked.
Joshua Harris, the 10th ranked player in the state, a massive (6-2, 316) defensive tackle out of Person High School, plans to announce his decision on July 9. Along with N.C. State Harris is considering Georgia, Tennessee and Ohio State and the current in-state commitments have already started making their pitches.
Same with Rocky Mount cornerback Shyheim Battle (No. 15 player in N.C.), who will announce in December and has Clemson, Ohio State and Tennessee on his final list to go along with the Wolfpack. Clayton’s J.R. Walker (No. 12 player in NC), who transferred from Elizabeth City Northeastern, will play alongside Jackson and has N.C. State in his top five. Good chance that Jackson will spend a good time this summer and fall trying to sway his new teammate to become his future teammate.
State’s class of 2019 ranks No. 23 currently on 247Sports.