Gilbert High on UNC

Zach Gilbert left campus last month following his performance at North Carolina’s camp without an offer. A week later, however, UNC decided to offer the 6-foot, 242-pound defensive end from Charlotte (N.C.) South Mecklenburg.

“I found out through my coach, Larry Kennedy,” said the Class of 2016 standout. “I had a long conversation with [Keith Gilmore]. He told me that I would get the offer if I were to come up to the Freak Show, which I couldn’t attend because of my injury. But they decided to offer me anyway. Then [Gilmore] told me that they saw enough to offer me.”

Gilbert’s conversation with Gilmore certainly wasn’t limited to the status of a UNC Offer.

“The conversation was mainly about academics – what UNC had to offer me,” Gilbert said. “He said they liked everything they saw from me – the one-on-ones, the competition, the competition that I came with. He said that I came with a fight. I didn’t come to give up. Right after I got injured, I came back and still played.”

Between the timing/measurement portions of the camp and one-on-ones, Gilbert was sidelined with a knee injury.

Even though the injury limited their time together, Gilbert was able to assess what it would be like to be coached by Gilmore.

“Coach Gilmore reminds me a lot of my dad,” Gilbert said referring to his father, Sean, who played 12 years in the NFL. “My dad and Coach Gilmore would really get along. They’re not a technique coach, not a textbook coach, but more about what you can do with the talent that comes with you. Coach Gilmore is a really outstanding coach.”

Just before the camp moved to one-on-one drills, Gilbert began testing out his knee in preparing to return to the field.

“I really wanted to do one-on-ones,” Gilbert said. “I can’t go to a camp and not do the competition. The one-on-ones is something I just love doing. So when I go to a camp, I feel I have to do the one-on-ones. I have to show these coaches that what they see on film is not fake.”

Following the camp, Gilbert spoke with Gunter Brewer, his primary recruiter, and received a campus tour. He concluded his stay with a meeting with Larry Fedora.

“My mother and I had a long, good conversation with Coach Fedora on the recruiting process,” Gilbert said. “We had to explain the recruiting process to my mother, because it was her first time really visiting a school. He talked about how academics factor in with sports.

“When [Fedora] talked to me, it was mainly about academics. I know he’s a really, really good guy. He’s changing the facilities. He’s changing everything he can about Chapel Hill. With everything that went down with academics, he said as long as he’s been there he’s been focusing on the academics. He said players can’t play without grades. From just the look in his eyes I can tell he’s a truthful man.”

Though he’s visited UNC previously, last month’s visit showed Gilbert a more in-depth view of the school.

“I do love Chapel Hill,” Gilbert said. “Chapel Hill is a beautiful campus. Everything I’ve heard from them and everything they’ve told me is what I want from a college from the football facilities to inside the classrooms to how I would have a tutor for my classes. And academics will always come first. The college is one of my dream schools – it’s one of my top five schools.”

Gilbert has two sets of top five schools lists. Of his offering schools, his top five consists of Charlotte, Florida, UNC, Tennessee, and Wake Forest. His top five regardless of offers is made up of Auburn, Florida State, UNC, South Carolina, and Texas A&M.

“They all have a good defensive line tradition,” Gilbert said. “I know Auburn has good offensive players, but their defense is also outstanding. South Carolina just produced Jadaveon Clowney, the first pick in the draft. I know Chapel Hill is coming in with a very good recruiting class. I know Texas A&M has an outstanding defense and they produce first round players.”

Additionally with UNC, Gilbert has noticed the pipeline that has been established between Charlotte and Chapel Hill.

“I actually look up to Robert Dinkins, Cayson [Collins], Elijah Hood – definitely Elijah Hood,” Gilbert said. “I talked to Elijah Hood at the Chapel Hill camp and after the spring game. I talked to Cayson – Cayson is one of my good friends. Both have said it’s a lot of work and the classes come first.”

Gilbert, who lacks a leader, doesn’t plan on making a verbal commitment until his senior year. He’s looking to graduate early so his decision timeframe is the fall of 2015.

Thus far, UNC is the only school Gilbert has visited this summer. However, he plans to return to Chapel Hill by the end of the summer – perhaps for the July 25 camp – and will attend Florida’s Friday Night Lights and also visit Tennessee.

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