Artis Feels at Home at UNC

MARIETTA, Ga. --- Just before his high school's first official practice, Allen Artis returned to North Carolina. It was his first visit as a Tar Heel.

"It really felt like home," Artis said of his late July visit to Chapel Hill. "It really felt like somewhere I could play college ball at."

Artis, a 6-foot, 195-pound safety from Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler, had previously attended a February junior day at UNC with numerous other recruits. This most recent trip was move individualized.

"I talked more in-depth with Coach [Vic] Koenning about my position and where I can fit in," Artis said. "And I got to see more of the academic side."

According to Artis, Koenning projects Artis to play either of the two "high" safety positions (free or strong).

"He doesn't know if it will be the Cat or the free, but we'll figure that out when I get there," Artis said. "I want to play wherever I can play the earliest."

For Wheeler, Artis rotates between strong and free safety depending on the opponent and down-and-distance situation.

"We allow him to roam around a lot and run downhill with the different types of coverages that we run," Wheeler head coach Michael Collins said. "We spin down [a safety] a lot on both sides and run cover-3 over the top. We allow him to be the one spinning down a lot to be that extra box player."

Regardless of where Artis lines up, Collins can sum up his play in one word – physical.

"That's the first thing that jumps out at me is how physical he plays," Collins said. "He's a downhill safety. He's a great tackler. He's really an old-school safety – when he tackles, he puts his nose on the football.

"But he also has some ball skills. So he'll cover very well, as well. But his biggest asset is his physicality."

When Artis verbally committed to UNC on June 15 – within an hour of the conclusion of Fedora's Freak Show, a camp he wasn't in attendance for – it surprised many, including the UNC coaching staff.

Collins was surprised by the timing, but not by the result.

"I knew North Carolina was at the top of the list," Collins said. "But I thought Allen was going to wait until right before the season. That was the plan that I thought he had mapped out."

That was the plan. But as it turns out while attempting to assemble a final schools list, Artis and his parents came to that conclusion that UNC was his best option.

"My parents and I had been talking about it for a while and making my list and narrowing it down," Artis said. "Carolina had always been at the top."

The day of Fedora's Freak Show, Artis said it just hit him to make a commitment.

"I called Coach [Walt] Bell to see how the Freak Show went and tell them that I wanted to [commit]," Artis said.

Unbeknownst to Artis, his friend and fellow Cobb County safety Cameron Albright had just committed to UNC himself.

"He told me that Albright committed, too – I guess an hour before," Artis said. "I was glad, but I already had made my mind up [and was going to commit myself]."

Earlier in the month, a third Cobb County safety pledged to UNC – Ayden Bonilla. Two months after Albright and Artis committed, Tyrell Tomlin, a linebacker from Cobb County, gave his verbal commitment to UNC.

Outside of their location, the constant among the four aforementioned verbal commitments is UNC assistant Coach Walt Bell. He was the recruiter of record for the quartet.

"[Bell] has done an unbelievable job," Collins said. "He came in here early on Allen. I showed him Allen – as well as I showed Allen to a lot of other coaches – and he loved his film. He said, ‘I'll be very surprised if we don't get on him very quickly.' He actually followed through with that. He took [the film] and got it analyzed very quickly. And North Carolina was the first person to pull the trigger [with an offer] on Allen…

"And then throughout the recruiting process, [Bell] was upfront and honest."

Collins estimates that 50 schools ended up offering Artis. But none were as special as his first.

"I think that went a long way with Allen – just to be totally honest with you," Collins said. "UNC believed in him first."

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