Just before coaching North Carolina to its fifth win of the season, Larry Fedora opened his office door to commence a meeting with Ben "Shug" Frazier, a 6-foot-3, 321-pound defensive tackle from Buford (Ga.).
“He pretty much just said that he was glad and he was excited that I was able to get back on campus,” Frazier said. “They’ve been trying to get me back there for a while. He asked me to keep them in the race and not to count them out. Pretty much, he said I could be an asset.”
Not only is UNC in the race, the Tar Heels are within the lead group for Frazier.
“North Carolina is definitely in the race,” Frazier said. “As of right now, they’re in my top five… Within their program, they have some really great guys. Obviously Coach Fedora, but also Coach [Charlton] Warren – he’s a really great guy. And then Coach [Tray] Scott, he’s a younger guy and he brings a lot of energy to the defense.
“That [energy] is important especially since he’s the D-line coach. That’s something that the players feed off of and I saw that against Wake Forest. They started off a little shaky, but they just took off – the offense started clicking and the defense got three-and-out after three-and-out. And I feel like that trickles down from the head coach to the assistant coaches and down to the players.”
As we head into the home stretch, Florida, Miami, NC State, and Tennessee round out the remainder of Frazier’s top five.
Frazier plans to officially visit each of his quartet of favorites before making his collegiate decision. He has already taken his first to NC State in September. The others, will likely take place in January, according to Frazier.
Of his five favorites, Frazier has only visited – in some capacity – UNC and NC State. He hopes to change that within the next month and a half by continuing to attend games. His tentative schedule includes NC State on Oct. 31 (vs. Clemson), Tennessee on Nov. 14 (vs. North Texas), Miami on Nov. 21 (vs. Georgia Tech), and Florida on Nov. 28 (vs. Florida State). As for the weekend of Nov. 7, he’s considering either a UNC return for its homecoming game against Duke or catching Miami vs. Virginia in Coral Gables.
Frazier first visited UNC over the summer. That experience whet his appetite.
“I told [the UNC coaches] I had to make that visit again,” Frazier said.
Saturday’s 7 o’clock kickoff provided ample time for Frazier to make the five-hour trip to Chapel Hill. Thus, he worked out travel arrangements with his trainer. Robert Beal, a four-star defensive end from the 2017 class, also came along for the ride.
“I finally got to see [UNC] in action,” Frazier said. “... I got to see them up close and personal. I got to see player-coach interaction. It was a night game, so I didn’t get to see the campus or anything. But the atmosphere was great.”
In addition to Fedora, Frazier met with Scott, UNC’s defensive line coach.
“Coach Scott is a great guy,” Frazier said. “He’ll shoot you straight – he won’t sugarcoat anything – and I appreciate that from him or any coach. He pretty much let me know, ‘Hey man, we need to get you out here. We need some D-tackles. And we think you can do pretty well in our program.’ Of course he’s an advocate for UNC, but he’s not pushing me too hard.”
Following UNC’s drubbing of Wake Forest, Frazier spent time with a few familiar faces. He primarily hung out with former teammate Nick Polino, but he also reconnected with two other Buford alums – Mikey Bart, who starts at defensive end for UNC, and Nathan Staub, who retired from football this past offseason.
“Staub actually graduated before I got a chance to play with him, but I know Staub and we’re really good friends,” Frazier said. “I am closest to Mikey Bart and Polino, because we’ve played together. Those are really great guys.
“They love the place, they love their coaches, and they told me they’re coached hard.”
Yet another Frazier-UNC connection is Tar Heel pledge Tomon Fox. Frazier and Fox share the same trainer.