In-State Fullback On UNC Radar

Marquel Gathers visited North Carolina on Saturday to attend the Tar Heels' season opener and gain a better understanding of UNC's situation at the fullback position.

"[UNC] has been writing me and showing me a lot of interest," Gathers said. "I've been in contact with Coach [John] Shoop and he wanted to get me up for a game. So, I wanted to get up there for their first game."

Gathers, a 5-foot-11, 235-pound fullback/linebacker Benson (N.C.) West Johnston, had been on UNC's target list since his sophomore season and even attended several football games last fall. The Tar Heels' desire to sign a fullback with the 2012 class prompted Shoop, who recruits Johnston County for UNC, to make an evaluation visit to West Johnston during the spring. That visit led to a camp invitation.

Following his workout at UNC's camp in June, Gathers' stock received a bump. His performance led to a meeting with Shoop at the camp's conclusion.

"[Shoop] explained how the fullback position was going to be offered this year," Gathers said. "He basically said that they already had two guys on the board – they're looking at one from Lincolnton (N.C.) and a guy from Georgia. Now, they're putting me on the list, because Coach [Ken] Browning liked me at the fullback position."

On Saturday, Gathers received a status update.

"They told me Saturday at the game that I was pretty much third on their list," Gathers said. "Depending on how things play out, they could offer one or two fullbacks."

Gathers says playing the waiting game is difficult, but he understands it's a business.

"I'm just hoping that everything plays out my way," Gathers said. "Because actually, I am a Tar Heels fan and I've always been a Tar Heels fan since I was little, so I see it as a privilege or a blessing to even be on their recruiting board. At the same time, it's kind of stressful, because I believe I should be No. 1 [on UNC's fullback board]."

Given his strong feelings towards UNC, stemming from his fandom, if a Tar Heels' scholarship offer materializes, Gathers says he'll immediately accept it.

"I'd commit right away," Gathers said. "There's no doubt I'll commit. It's not just because I'm a fan – but also, they have great academics. A Tar Heel diploma will take you far. Not only that, I have family and friends go to UNC."

In addition to UNC, Gathers, who is awaiting his first scholarship offer, is receiving interest from Duke, East Carolina, NC State, and several Division I-AA programs.

Besides talking to the coaching staff, Gathers' visit Saturday obviously included UNC's 42-10 season-opening victory over JMU.

"To me, to be honest, I felt like it was even louder than last year, just because of the Blue Zone being enclosed," Gathers said. "As far as being Coach [Everett] Withers' first game, I thought they did great. It was a great game. Everything was kicking on all cylinders. I just loved the atmosphere."

Also, Gathers was given a campus tour and watched the Old Well Walk on Saturday.

"I liked how the fans stand around for the players [during the Old Well Walk]," Gathers said. "The walk was pretty interesting to me."

Although Gathers technically starts at both fullback and linebacker, since West Johnston employs a spread offense, the fullback position isn't used on a full time basis. To get him on the field as much as possible, though, Gathers will often line up at H-back. Regardless, his value for West Johnston is at the linebacker position where he received all-conference honors as a junior after accumulating 121 tackles, four sacks, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles.

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