Yet in spite of the quiet final weeks, UNC will have its best average star rating (3.24) in five years and the class entered Signing Day ranked third behind Clemson and Florida State in Scout.com's ACC Rankings.
Among the 17 to sign Letters of Intent with UNC include five four-star prospects – Dajaun Drennon, Desmond Lawrence, T.J. Logan, Mitch Trubisky, and Greg Webb. Two others, Lucas Crowley and Brad Henson, rank in the top 25 nationally at their respective positions. Furthermore, two thirds of the recruits in this class are ranked in the top 50 at their positions.
Through persistence by the Tar Heel coaches, five of UNC's signees were "flipped" from commitments to other schools. Mikey Bart, the most recent flip, switched his commitment from South Florida after a defensive end spot opened up in UNC's class. UNC remained in contact with Henson following his pledge to Virginia, which led to the Chapel Hill official visit where he made his switch. R.J. Prince, who committed to Clemson in Oct. '11, committed to UNC shortly after de-committing from the Tigers last February. With Penn State facing plenty of turmoil, Webb made a couple of summer trips to Chapel Hill – the last of which resulted in his switch. As a Louisville pledge, Marquis Haynes earned himself a UNC offer at camp and then flipped to the Tar Heels roughly two months later.
Larry Fedora has preached the importance of keeping in-state players in-state and this year's results show there is clearly plenty of work still to be done in that area, but UNC made significant strides in the 2013 class in-state and has laid the groundwork for future classes. Two of the eight in-state prospects who received four-star ratings or higher (Lawrence and Logan) signed with UNC. Conversely, the Tar Heels were shut out in this department in 2012. Perhaps more telling, UNC signed a number of highly recruited prospects from the Tar Heel State, including Khris Francis, Nazair Jones, Prince, and Brian Walker, in addition to Lawrence and Logan.
Offensively, plenty of production is coming to Chapel Hill. Beginning with the possible future face of UNC, quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky was named Ohio's Mr. Football after finishing his high school career with 9,128 yards and 93 touchdowns passing, and 1,578 yards rushing. What stats don't show was Trubisky's ability to lead his team to playoff victories over Ohio's top ranked team, St. Edward, and the defending state champion Cleveland St. Ignatius.
From this class, Trubisky – and the quarterbacks already on UNC's roster – will find plenty of weapons where production has never been an issue. Those include three skill players that joined Trubisky in earning All-American recognition – Jordan Fieulleteau (111 receptions for 1,669 yards and 24 touchdowns), Logan (2,760 yards and 40 touchdowns on 265 rushes, including 510 yards and eight scores in the state title game), and Ryan Switzer (2,362 all-purpose yards and 36 touchdowns). Also, Francis, who rushed for 1,444 yards and 18 touchdowns in just 11 games, and Johnathan Howard, who came 25 yards short of setting the Georgia single season record for receiving yards (115 receptions for 1,630 yards and 17 scores), were the focal points of their respective high school offenses.
The defensive side of the ball is highlighted by three players – Lawrence, Walker, and Webb. Lawrence, a 6-foot-1, 175-pounder, will provide a lot of versatility to UNC's secondary as he has the potential to play every position in the defensive backfield. Walker gives UNC something it's been lacking – a true shutdown cornerback capable of blanketing an opponents' top receiver. Webb, who is UNC's top ranked prospect, should immediately be plugged into the defensive tackle rotation; he has the burst and athleticism to rush the passer, but the size and strength to stop the run.
Joining Lawrence and Walker in UNC's secondary corps is Donnie Miles, a physical, in-the-box safety capable of playing either the Ram or strong safety positions.
Drennon, who is somewhat raw, and Jones, who is still recovering from an illness, are defensive linemen with very high ceilings. If everything falls into place for either or both of those prospects, the possibilities are endless for their collegiate careers.
Headliner: T.J. Logan. Logan's play has been grabbing headlines in NC's Triad Area for the past couple of seasons. That media attention reached epic heights when he rushed for 510 yards and eight touchdowns in the NCHSAA 3AA title game. Both rushing numbers were state records in a title game. Logan ended his senior season with 3,146 yards and 47 touchdowns and earned Parade All-American and Associated Press Player of the Year honors. With the extra attention came renewed interest from colleges forcing UNC to ward off last-ditch efforts from the likes of NC State, Ohio State, and West Virginia.
"He's, if not the most explosive, one of the most explosive skill players in North Carolina," UNC offensive coordinator Blake Anderson said. "He's a running back/whatever-you-need him-to-be athlete. Kick returner, punt returner, can play out of the backfield. Speed is the first thing you think of with him, and the ability to cut, change direction and not slow down. … We're looking for guys with home run speed, which he definitely has."
Best in Class: Greg Webb. Even without the benefit of a full senior season (he missed the early portion finishing his ACL recovery), Webb is the top ranked prospect in UNC's class. He checks in at No. 86 in the nation and No. 10 at the defensive tackle position. His list of scholarship offers contained programs from coast to coast including back-to-back national champs Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, and Southern Cal. With UNC losing potential NFL first-rounder Sylvester Williams to graduation, don't be surprised if Webb is seeing a lot of game action sooner rather than later.
"Obviously Greg is going to be a high profile guy for us," said Vic Koenning, UNC's associate head coach for defense. "One of the things we really like about him is his explosiveness. … Greg is going to be a guy that we're going to count on, on the inside, to really give us a bunch of snaps this year. Time will tell how many.
Sleeper Pick: Khris Francis. I'll admit that I haven't evaluated every running back in the nation. However, if there really are 94 running backs better than Francis, it must be a heck of a year for the position. Going a step further, I expect Francis to out-perform a good portion of the running backs Scout.com has ranked ahead of him by the end of his collegiate career – if not much sooner. Francis is a prototypical tailback for Fedora's up-tempo, one-back, spread offense. He runs with both power and speed, while mixing in elusiveness and vision. He's also a willing blocker and a reliable receiver out of the backfield.
"We think he's got all of the skills that you need to be successful in our system," Anderson said. "He's got the physical ability to take on a linebacker in blocking. He's got the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He seems to have great vision. He's got home run speed, he's got the ability to make you miss and he seems to have a great desire for the game."
Immediate Contributor: Ryan Switzer. When the Tar Heel coaches scoured the nation looking for A-back prospects, their search brought them to West Virginia for what their evaluations revealed to be the top A-back prospect in the land. Switzer excels at everything the A-back position requires – he can run the ball (he rushed for 2,379 yards and 32 touchdowns as a high school senior), he's a reliable receiver (with his help, his 7-on-7 team at Nike's The Opening won the championship, and he had the game-winning catch at the Semper Fi All-American game), and he's a threat to score every time he touches the ball (in each of his high school seasons, he has scored a touchdown on his first touch). Sean Tapley played the position in 2012, but might be a better fit at a true wide receiver position in UNC's offense.
"I watched film, fell in love with him, showed the guys on staff and they did too," Anderson said. "The things you'll see with him are great change of direction, tremendous burst of speed – he's a 4.3, 4.4 guy … It's really a position that we recruit specifically – that A-back spot, all-skill spot - and he's going to be a quick addition to what we do both in special teams and on offense as well."