Don Callahan/Inside Carolina

Two Leaders For Jordon Riley

Jordon Riley has been in Chapel Hill the last two Saturdays, and the Tar Heels returned the favor.

DURHAM, N.C. --- A couple of months after re-opening his recruitment, Jordon Riley says he’s favoring a pair of schools.

“It’s really Tennessee and [North] Carolina right now,” the 2017 defensive tackle said. “Carolina, really because I’m in-state and they send me mail every day.”

For about a month this past summer, Riley, a 6-foot-5, 295-pounder from Durham (N.C.) Riverside, was a Tennessee verbal commitment.

“Basically, when I first went [to Tennessee] I really felt the atmosphere,” Riley said. “I could really see myself being there. I liked having Coach Steve Stripling coaching me. And then the players, the players were really real and active. It just made me feel good. And then they have so much history – Peyton Manning, Jason Witten went there. I could see myself playing there. And when they played that Rocky Top song, it just got to me.”

But in late July, Riley had second thoughts, which led to a de-commitment.

“I just wanted to reopen my options and make sure it’s the right school for me academically and athletically,” Riley said.

Seven schools have offered Riley – Auburn, East Carolina, NC State, Old Dominion, and Wake Forest, as well as co-leaders UNC and Tennessee.

Riley has spent the past two Saturdays in Kenan Stadium for UNC victories. After traffic forced him to miss the kickoff of the Tar Heels’ home-opener, he made sure to arrive in plenty of time for Saturday’s 48-14 rout of Illinois.

“Carolina’s atmosphere is always great,” Riley said. “I love going there. They show love and it’s just a great atmosphere.”

The two games provided Riley, who grew up in a family of “diehard” Tar Heel fans, a chance to see UNC’s revamped defense in person.

“From what I’ve seen from the last few years, I really think [Gene] Chizik and Coach [Tray] Scott have got the guys playing great,” Riley said. “They look really good. I just feel like I can see myself playing there, in a sense.”

Within that defense, Chizik and Scott project Riley as a defensive tackle. For Riverside, Riley plays up and down the D-line.

“[Chizik and Scott] want me to provide the beef,” Riley said. “They really like big guys like me playing the middle.

“Whatever college I go to, whatever is best for the team, I’ll do it. So if it’s D-end, D-tackle, or nose [guard] I’ll do it.”

During both game visits, Riley conversed with Scott, UNC’s defensive line coach.

“He’s been telling me about this thing they have with a link,” Riley said. “He says, ‘Don’t be the weak link.’ I like that.”

Sandwiched between Riley’s two recent UNC visits, Scott returned the favor and was on the sidelines for the Riverside-Wakefield game on Friday.

“It doesn’t really make me nervous,” Riley said. “I really try to think [Scott] isn’t there so that I can be focused on my game. I try to clear my mind and act like it’s just like another game.”

Due to NCAA rules, Scott wasn’t allowed to speak with Riley on Friday. But the two communicate on a regular basis, usually through social media. Though Larry Porter technically recruits Durham for UNC, Riley says he’s developing a strong bond with Scott.

“We have a real cool relationship,” Riley said. “Since I first met him, it’s just been a real cool relationship. He DMs me on Twitter quotes that help me get through the day.”

Riley doesn’t have any future recruiting visits planned, but he hopes to attend a game in Tennessee this fall. After the season, he said he’s looking to visit Alabama and LSU.

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