UNC Pledges Earn MVPs at Nike Camp

CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- Of the seven position MVPs awarded during Saturday's Nike Football Training Camp held at Ardrey Kell High School, two were presented to North Carolina verbal commitments. Anthony Ratliff took home the quarterback MVP, while Corey Bell earned the defensive back honor.

"It caught me off guard," Bell said. "But I'm excited – I'm excited. Hopefully that will get me into the Opening. That would be pretty cool if me and Anthony could get there – from the same [college] and the same city. I think [the director of the NFTC Brian Stumpf] said we'd find out Monday or Wednesday. Hopefully I'll be getting that call."

Bell, a 5-foot-9, 168-pounder from Cornelius (N.C.) Hough, and Ratliff, a 6-foot, 179-pounder from Matthews (N.C.) Butler, faced different obstacles in their triumph. For Bell, defensive back was one of the more talented position groups on hand boasting over ten prospects who possessed scholarship offers, including four-stars Mike Hughes and Levonta Taylor, Virginia Tech pledge Mook Reynolds, and Clemson commitment Van Smith. Meanwhile, Ratliff had to work with limited reps because the quarterback group was the largest.

"It's a blessing to be out here with all these great athletes – mostly D1 but the rest will play somewhere," Ratliff said. "It's a crazy feeling. I can't even speak straight."

The enormity of the group meant Ratliff and his fellow quarterbacks had more downtime than other positions, especially during "skelly" (four-on-four passing drills). That downtime made getting into a rhythm difficult for the quarterbacks.

"Some balls here and there could have been better, but of course that comes with experience and self critiquing," Ratliff said. "So there's a lot of work to do on my part. But overall it was a good day."

The quantity also prevented Bell and Ratliff from going up against each other during drills.

Throughout the day, Bell's goal was to score a signature interception to add to his Opening resume. While he did have several breakups, he failed to come up with a pick.

"There was probably a pick or two here or there I could have had," Bell said. "But after all of the reps – about 15 or 20 – I only gave up one catch. So I guess it was good. Every time I get beat, I try to make up for it with a pick. That's the only thing I wish I could have had. Other than that, I think I did pretty well."

Less than 12 hours before the NFTC began, Ratliff was in Ardrey Kell's stadium as a spectator to UNC's scrimmage.

"That was great," Ratliff said. "Marquise [Williams] showed out, but then they put the freshman kid in and Mitch [Trubisky] did his thing. It was great to watch. It was great to see those guys perform. It's definitely something I'm looking forward to."

Just before the scrimmage kicked off, Mason Veal became the latest '15 prospect to verbally commit to UNC.

"I talked to him before and after," Ratliff said. "I had been recruiting him, but I had no idea [he was going to commit]. He just came up to me afterwards and said ‘I just committed.' I said ‘Welcome to the family big fella' and I welcomed him with open arms."

Bell explained the pipeline that is quickly developing between Charlotte and Chapel Hill.

"I guess people are just starting to see what North Carolina is about," Bell said. "You don't have to go out here or go out there just to go to a good school. Just like the coaches always say, if you can get the best players from Charlotte [and] best players from Raleigh, and get them to UNC, UNC would be a great school.

"Kids always think you have to go somewhere else. If we can just go to the state school, UNC, we can ball. I think people are starting to see that – especially starting with Elijah Hood, he's the one that started to make it look cool to go to UNC."

Ratliff plans to visit UNC this coming weekend to spend time with the coaches, watch spring practice, and go over film with Keith Heckendorf, the Tar Heels' quarterbacks coach. Bell's next UNC visit will be for the spring game on April 12 where he's bringing teammate and Tar Heel target Carl Tucker.

"I don't know how much progress I've made [with Tucker], but it's obvious it's Tennessee and North Carolina that he really likes," Bell said. "Hopefully he wants to be a Tar Heel after the spring game."

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