'Phenomenal' Visit for DeFranco

An in-depth visit to Chapel Hill gave Fla. defensive end Nolan DeFranco a lot to think about as he works toward his college decision.

Nolan DeFranco concluded a three-school tour on Saturday with a stop at North Carolina.

“It was phenomenal,” DeFranco said. “Everything from the academics to the athletics to – the most important thing – the people in the program. The coaches were good coaches, they knew what they were doing, they know how to win, and I think they can coach me to be the best I can be. They’re genuine people, too – like trustworthy people.”

Prior to reaching Chapel Hill, DeFranco, a 6-foot-6, 225-pound defensive end from Winter Garden (Fla.) West Orange, visited Virginia and Wake Forest. Previously, he traveled to Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida State, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech, Miami, Michigan State, Northwestern, South Florida, and Vanderbilt.

Those travels have allowed three schools to rise above the 20-something others to have offered DeFranco.

“The schools that are sticking out the most are UNC, UVa, and Vandy,” DeFranco said. “UVa was just as impressive [as UNC]… [I like] the academics at all of them. And those are all places that I think in a few years could win and go to some bowls.”

DeFranco has one more visit left on his slate – Vanderbilt’s camp on June 25. He’ll then begin working on his collegiate decision.

“I’ll just decide which school is best for me,” DeFranco said. “I’ll probably have a decision by late July.”

Accompanied by his father, DeFranco arrived at UNC on Saturday at about 9 a.m. He spent much of that morning with Gene Chizik, the Tar Heels’ defensive coordinator, and Tray Scott, UNC’s defensive line coach.

“Chizik, obviously, is a proven coach and he knows how to win,” DeFranco said. “And he said he had a bunch of NFL guys applying for the D-line [coaching] spot and he chose Coach Scott; and that’s something that really resonated with me. He recognized that Coach Scott was a good coach and that really impressed me.

“And they were talking about different techniques.”

Chizik and Scott project DeFranco to play “power” defensive end within their 4-3 defensive scheme.

“[Chizik] said I have the athleticism to play the ‘speed’ end, but I’d most likely be playing the ‘power’ defensive end where I’d be head up with the tight end,” DeFranco said.

Also that morning, DeFranco spent about 15-20 minutes in Larry Fedora’s office chatting with the Tar Heels’ head man.

“Obviously, he’s focused on football, but the conversation was a lot about academics and growing spiritually and growing as a man,” DeFranco said. “And he was talking about how my parents have to trust the coaching staff… He also talked about how UNC has sent the most D-linemen into the [NFL] first round since 1998 – that was really impressive.”

Along those lines, DeFranco met with an academic advisor, team chaplain Mitch Mason, as well as assistant Ryan Simms, a former DL standout at UNC who was a first round NFL pick.

Just before UNC’s camp began that afternoon, DeFranco was escorted to Navy Field by Scott. DeFranco then watched attentively as Scott instructed the D-linemen in camp.

“He’s a really energetic guy,” DeFranco said. “He’s really young, so he seems like a coach that you could really talk to. He seems like a players’ coach. But he’s also going to push us and coach us hard – that’s something that I’d be looking for in a D-line coach. And obviously, he knows what he’s doing.”

During several portions of the camp, Chizik pulled DeFranco aside for a brief lesson.

“He was just explaining some pointers and everything that the drills were focusing on – how it played into a game and in different situations,” DeFranco said. “It was definitely extremely helpful and I learned a lot.”

Once camp ended, DeFranco was given a full campus tour by Simms.


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