Four-star offensive guard Jonah Melton has sat in Kenan Stadium as a fan some 50 times. Saturday, though, was from a new perspective – as a recruit.
“The difference was getting to talk to the coaches before the game, getting to talk to them about how they’re going to do that day,” said Melton, who is currently ranked the No. 150 overall prospect by Scout.com in the 2017 class. “It was a different experience getting to go down on the field for warmups. I had a good time getting to talk with all the coaches – Coach ‘Kap’ [Chris Kapilovic], Coach ‘Heck’ [Keith Heckendorf], and I got to talk with Coach [Larry] Fedora for a little bit. So it was a good time.”
Saturday’s visit was crucial to Melton’s recruitment. The 6-foot-3, 293-pound Mebane (N.C.) Eastern Alamance product is attempting to create separation between favorites UNC, NC State, and South Carolina.
“[Saturday] gives me more to think about,” Melton said. “I’ve got to go see other schools, too.”
The Saturday prior, Melton was in Raleigh for NC State’s opener against Troy.
“I know what I want to major in, exercise science, and I know that [UNC] has the No. 4 program in the nation for that,” Melton said. “NC State doesn’t have that [major]. That would be the only thing that separates those two. [The NC State coaches] said sports management would get me what I want to do, but it would be something where I would have to go to extra school to do what I want to do.”
Melton aspires to be a strength coach when his playing days are over.
As for South Carolina, Melton visited Columbia once – on June 13 for a showcase camp. He plans to attend his first Gamecock game on Oct. 10. South Carolina plays LSU that day.
UNC and South Carolina opened the season against each other in Charlotte. Melton watched that contest at Buffalo Wild Wings with his Eastern Alamance linemates. Although he grew up a Tar Heel fan, Melton forced himself to observe as objectively as possible.
“I was evaluating the teams,” Melton said. “Both teams played well, I thought. South Carolina just came out on top.”
And then, of course, on Saturday Melton and his parents ignored the rainy forecast and watched first-hand UNC throttling North Carolina A&T, 53-14.
“I thought they played good,” Melton said. “I thought the offensive line dominated the line-of-scrimmage. I’m just looking forward to getting back to a better game.”
We could be days away from that happening. Melton is strongly considering returning on Saturday as UNC hosts undefeated Illinois, which beat its first two opponents by a combined 96-3 score.
Roles were reversed on Friday. Kapilovic, UNC’s offensive line coach, and Heckendorf, who recruits Alamance County, were the spectators as Melton helped Eastern Alamance improve to 4-0 with a 55-6 win over Mayodan (N.C.) McMichael.
“It really felt good to know that they took the time to come out and watch me play when they could be at someone else’s game,” Melton said. “It felt good to see them out there.”
That gave Kapilovic and Heckendorf an easy icebreaker when Melton met with each of them on Saturday.
“They just talked to me about how I did [on Friday], how recruiting was going, and then other places I’m going,” Melton said.
Also on Saturday, Melton was among a limited group of recruits to meet individually with Fedora.
“We just talked about how my season was going and how I was doing other than football,” Melton said.
Although his family wants him to wait as long as possible to make a decision, Melton says he’ll commit “whenever it feels right.” He doesn’t have an exact time frame, but believes he’ll be committed by the end of the football season.