North Carolina and Georgia Tech meet on the gridiron every season, but the two ACC Coastal Division rivals collide relatively infrequently on the recruiting trail – even though their respective footprints significantly overlap. Still, though, the two programs will encounter players on Saturday that nearly were a part of their program.
Class of ’12, Lakeland (Ga.) Lanier County, 3-star, No. 104 OLB
You’d be hard-pressed to find a Tar Heel more driven to win Saturday than Gnonkonde. After spending nearly a year on Georgia Tech’s commitment list, his scholarship was pulled leaving him scrambling for a college home ten days before Signing Day. As fate would have it, UNC was in need of a prospect matching Gnonkonde’s skillset for the Bandit position. While officially visiting Chapel Hill, he committed.
Gnonkonde has missed half of this season’s games – recording three tackles – but practiced on Tuesday, according to IC’s Greg Barnes. That’s atypical, since the defensive end has played in all 26 games the past two seasons, recording 63 tackles (5.0 TFL) and three QB hurries.
Class of ’14, Charlotte (N.C.) Catholic, 4-star, No. 10 RB
Before his recruitment became a UNC vs. Notre Dame decision, Georgia Tech was among Hood’s list of favorite schools. He committed to the Fighting Irish midway through the Spring Evaluation Period only to de-commit just before his senior season. A week later, he pledged to the Tar Heels.
By averaging 6.5 yards a carry, Hood’s 384 yards and three touchdowns rushing leads UNC this season. As a true freshman a year ago, he contributed 259 yards and four scores.
Class of ’11, Salisbury (N.C.), 3-star, No. 59 RB
After scorching the turf at the Nike Combine with a 4.32-second electric-timed 40-yard dash, UNC extended Morris his first scholarship offer. Once the avalanche of offers ceased, he narrowed his focus to Clemson, Georgia Tech, UNC, South Carolina, and Tennessee. That list was winnowed further to the Tar Heels and Yellow Jackets before Morris elected to remain in-state.
Following a red-shirt season, Morris has appeared in 40 games the past four years, including all four this season. Along the way, he has rushed for 989 yards and 12 touchdowns on 207 carries (4.78-yard average), and caught 48 passes for 470 yards and two scores.
Class of ’13, Atlanta (Ga.) Westminster School, 3-star, No. 3 K
UNC didn’t offer Butker a scholarship, but he solidified a preferred walk-on spot with his performance at the Tar Heels’ specialist camp. He accepted a Georgia Tech scholarship offer over preferred walk-on opportunities from Auburn, Kentucky, and UNC.
Butker immediately handled kickoffs and field goals for Georgia Tech, leading the team in scoring the past two seasons. On his career, he has connected on 140 of 142 PATs and 17 of 23 field goals.
Class of ’15, Sandersville (Ga.) Washington County, 3-star, No. 48 S
A week after receiving an offer from the Yellow Jackets, Gray visited Georgia Tech and committed. However, for much of the year that followed he communicated with UNC, the school where his sister, Allisha, was an All-ACC performer on the woman’s basketball team.
As a true freshman, Gray has played in all four games this season for Georgia Tech. The backup free safety has registered 10 tackles and intercepted a pass.
Class of ’11, Folkston (Ga.) Charlton County, 3-star, No. 82 WR
On the heels of his experience at the Tar Heels’ camp, Milton listed UNC – along with Louisville, South Florida, Tennessee, and Wake Forest – among his favorite schools. However, when he made his decision the following September, Georgia Tech, which had never been listed as a favorite, seemingly came out of nowhere to earn his pledge.
After red-shirting his freshman year, Milton has played in all 45 games the past four seasons. Among those appearance are 18 consecutive starts at cornerback. Along the way, he has recorded 77 tackles and five interceptions.
UNC and Georgia Tech have clashed with slightly more frequency this recruiting cycle. At one point or another, Tar Heel pledges Korey Banks, Tomon Fox , and Jonathan Smith have listed the Yellow Jackets within their favorites group.