North Carolina

UNC signs first full recruiting class of Larry Fedora’s tenure

North Carolina finished national signing day on Wednesday with something it hadn’t experienced during coach Larry Fedora’s first three years at the school: a full recruiting class.

It was cause for celebration inside the football offices at UNC.

The Tar Heels’ 26-player recruiting class isn’t necessarily known for its star power. There’s no prospect as touted as running back Elijah Hood was when he signed two seasons ago, no one as touted as defensive back Jalen Dalton when he signed last year.

But UNC signed perhaps the deepest class of Fedora’s tenure, a class that Fedora appreciates especially because of its balance.

“Not because there’s 10 on offense and 10 on defense,” Fedora said. “That means balance to you guys, but (it is balanced) to me in the fact that we met the problems that we have and met the issues and brought in guys at every single position on the field.”

Fedora’s first three classes at UNC were limited by scholarship reductions imposed by the NCAA. Last year, UNC didn’t sign a full class, instead opting to save scholarships for this one, which Rivals.com and Scout.com ranked among the top 25 in the nation.

Addressing needs on defense – especially in the defensive backfield and at linebacker – was a clear priority for the Tar Heels, one that’s reflected in the composition of their class. Four defensive backs signed with UNC on Wednesday, joining two others who signed early and enrolled in January.

The class also includes three linebackers, two of whom have already enrolled. Signing day concluded the first full recruiting cycle for Gene Chizik, the Tar Heels’ defensive coordinator who arrived at UNC a little more than a year ago.

Chizik has targeted players who fit his desired physical profile for each position. The three linebackers in this class – J.B. Copeland, Dominique Ross and Jonathan Smith – all stand between 6 feet 1 inch and 6 feet 3 inches tall and weigh between 210 and 225 pounds.

The defensive backs UNC signed all fit a similar physical profile, too. Myles Dorn, a 6-foot-2 defensive back from Charlotte, enrolled early and is among the most heralded of the defensive players UNC signed.

The Tar Heels are a little more than a month removed from an 11-3 season, one of the best in school history. Even before the start of the season, though, UNC had secured commitments from 15 prospects. The success on the field helped solidify the direction of the program, Fedora said.

“Winning helps,” Fedora said. “In every aspect of the program but definitely in recruiting, and I think towards the end of the year you felt that bump and I think you’re going to feel that bump on into the 2017 class, and the ’18 class.”

Here’s a closer look at the Tar Heels’ class:

Best player

The best member of UNC’s class isn’t easy to identify, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Two years ago, it was clear that Hood, the running back, was the most heralded prospect UNC signed. Last year it was Dalton, the defensive end.

This year, a number of players could be considered the best. There’s Dorn, the defensive back from Charlotte. And Chazz Surratt, the mobile quarterback from Denver, N.C. Kyree Campbell, a defensive tackle, would be in the discussion, as would Jordon Brown, the running back from Durham.

Rivals.com ranks all of those as four-star prospects. A case could be made that Tomon Fox, a defensive end from Suwanee, Ga., is the best member of the class. He’s generally considered to be among the top 10 or 15 defensive end prospects in the country, and he provides some depth at a key position.

Biggest need filled

UNC lost two seniors at linebacker (Jeff Schoettmer and Shakeel Rashad) and in the secondary (Sam Smiley and Malik Simmons), and so addressing some holes and adding depth there was paramount.

UNC did well there, bringing in six defensive backs and three linebackers in this class. When Chizik arrived last year, he changed the Tar Heels’ base defensive alignment from a 4-2-5 to a more traditional 4-3. Even so, the Tar Heels still often played five defensive backs at the same time last season.

“When you go back and look at our season, and the percentage of nickel and dime than we were in all year, compared to the actual 4-3, I mean, 4-3 is probably a very small percentage,” Fedora said. “So the offenses we’re facing, we’re much more nickel and dime than we are 4-3.

“And so, a greater need for (defensive backs).”

As Fedora noted, though, the class is balanced. In addition to the linebackers and defensive backs, UNC signed five defensive linemen. The Tar Heels’ class also includes two quarterbacks, two tight ends, two receivers and one running back.

North Carolina signees

Name

Ranking

Ht.

Wt.

Hometown

RB Jordon Brown

3 stars

5-10

180

Durham*

QB Logan Byrd

3 stars

6-3

229

Kathleen, Ga.*

DT Kyree Campbell

3 stars

6-5

305

Woodbridge, Va.

DE Allen Cater

3 stars

6-4

240

Hiram, Ga.

LB J.B. Copeland

3 stars

6-3

225

Corsicana, Texas*

DE Nolan DeFranco

3 stars

6-6

230

Winter Garden, Fla.

WR Myles Dorn

3 stars

6-2

195

Charlotte*

DT Marlon Dunlap

3 stars

6-5

285

Charlotte

OT Luke Elder

3 stars

6-5

285

Lagrange, Ga.

S D.J. Ford

2 stars

6-3

195

Lineville, Ala.

DE Tomon Fox

3 stars

6-2

230

Suwanee, Ga.

WR Rontavius Groves

3 stars

5-11

175

Nashville, Tenn.

DE Tyrone Hopper

3 stars

6-4

210

Roswell, Ga.

WR Roscoe Johnson

3 stars

6-2

180

Union, S.C.

OT Jay-Jay McCargo

3 start

6-4

290

Arlington, Va.

S James Pierre

3 stars

6-2

174

Deerfield Beach, Fla.

OG Tyler Pritchett

3 stars

6-3

290

Auburn, Ala.

CB Patrice Rene

3 stars

6-2

190

Alexandria, Va.

LB Dominique Ross

3 stars

6-3

210

Jacksonville, Fla.

CB Gregory Ross

3 stars

6-0

175

Oxon Hill, Md.

DB K.J. Sails

3 stars

6-1

175

Temple Hills, Md.

LB Jonathan Smith

3 stars

6-1

220

Laurinburg*

QB Chazz Surratt

4 stars

6-3

210

Denver, N.C.

TE Noah Turner

3 stars

6-3

235

Mundelein, Ill.

TE Garrett Walston

3 stars

6-4

225

New Hanover*

CB Myles Wolfolk

3 stars

6-0

190

Upper Marlboro, Md.*

star rankings are from 24/7’s composite rankings

* - enrolled in January

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