Recruiting: Impactful Visits

The expedited recruiting process in recent years has made unofficial campus trips much more powerful in their effect on a particular recruit than official visits.

"The process is going so much faster than it used to that if you don't get young men on campus in their junior and sometimes sophomore years then you're really behind the ball at that point," UNC assistant coach Gunter Brewer said. "So exposing them to what you have to offer at an early stage to put an imprint in their mind to what Carolina is or can be for them is crucial.

"The type of atmosphere you're able to showcase is tremendous – much like our [Thursday night] Miami game or the NC State game the year before. Those are the imprints you want to leave – not only is football relevant but it's an exciting brand. And the head coach is here to stay and the staff is doing it the right way."

In response to the expedition, one of the first changes Larry Fedora made to UNC's recruiting assault is adding major unofficial visit events to the Tar Heels' off-season calendar.

"Any time you can get a kid on campus it helps your recruiting efforts," UNC assistant coach Chris Kapilovic said. "And then when you can get them on campus for an event that has the ‘wow' factor or is ‘eye-popping,' that gives you a leg up or edge on some other school."

The first strategy was to expand upon an unmatched resource – the annual UNC-Duke basketball game - to create a special day for elite juniors.

"The Duke game, that's a national tradition," Kapilovic said. "There are kids that live in this state that have always wanted to go to that game, but have never had the opportunity. So that's a big deal."

"It not only was just the game, but the program before that where we could really provide personal attention and show a family atmosphere," Brewer said.

"Last year, we actually were able to unveil our new uniforms at that time, which hadn't been seen and that was very special to them to be able to see it before anyone else got to see it. And then to just have one-on-one time before the game with their position coach and then one-on-one time with the head coach and the coordinator to really show them step-by-step what the plan was for their future at Carolina was important. And then of course the game's atmosphere – you can't ask for a better atmosphere. I think the culmination of the game was just the icing on the cake."

The result: 21 recruits attended the Junior Day UNC held in conjunction with last year's Duke basketball game. Nine of them eventually verbally committed to the Tar Heels. Even more significant, seven of the eight in-state prospects who were in attendance pledged to Fedora at some point in time, including Freeman Jones who pulled the trigger on the way to the basketball game.

"Honestly, I loved it," said Elijah Hood, who enrolled at UNC earlier this month. "I loved it, really. I didn't even stay the night there and it was one of my best visits to a college. It went better than expected. It was very unique, very fun. They really spiced it up. I've never ever been to a junior day like that one."

Similar to the UNC-Duke basketball game, Fedora took a summer camp, a typically unoriginal event that every school holds, and put his twist on it by creating "Fedora's Freak Show."

"The Freak Show, developing that camp is a way for us to have something that other schools don't necessarily have or do," Kapilovic said. "Kids go to 20-30 camps a summer and we wanted that experience to be different. We wanted it to be something that stood out above the other ones."

Nearly 50 prospects from the 2014, '15, and '16 classes attended last summer's Freak Show. Of those in attendance, 64-percent had or eventually received UNC scholarship offers – a remarkable number for a summer camp where the offer norm is typically well under 10-percent. More importantly, though, was the impact it left on its campers.

"The coaches made everything feel great, because they were so excited and energetic about everything," top in-state junior Nyheim Hines said shortly after participating in the Freak Show. "Like during the one-on-ones, if somebody got beat, they would encourage them. If somebody made a good move, they would yell and things like that. There was a lot of excitement and it was a great experience."

UNC will secure it's 2014 recruiting class on Signing Day, which is Feb. 5. A week later - Feb. 12 - the Tar Heel coaches will be hosting top targets for its 2015 recruiting class at the Junior Day in conjunction with the UNC-Duke basketball game.

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