It took both programs winning their respective ACC divisions in order for Clemson and North Carolina to meet on the football field this season. The recruiting trail, however, is a different story. The two programs cross paths each recruiting cycle.
Below are six players (three from each team) who both schools battled for and now figure to impact Saturday’s ACC Championship Game.
Class of ’13, Rockingham (N.C.) Richmond, 4-star, No. 4 OG
Crowder headed into his senior year favoring Clemson, Georgia, UNC, and Stanford. A couple of months later, Stanford fell off. UNC was dropped after that football season ended. On Signing Day, Crowder made his decision official.
Until an injury ended the streak, Crowder started the first nine games of this season at right guard. He returned to the active roster as a reserve against South Carolina last week. As a red-shirt freshman last season, he appeared in six games with one start.
Class of ’12, Greensboro (N.C.) Grimsley, 3-star, No. 20 OG
Towards the end of his senior football season, Reader narrowed his focus to Clemson, Maryland, and UNC. He scheduled official visits to all three schools, but his trip to Chapel Hill was canceled when UNC halted its pursuit. On Signing Day he inked with the Tigers.
Since returning from a personal leave, Reader has started three of the last four games at defensive tackle compiling 25 tackles. In the three previous seasons, he tallied 110 tackles with 7.5 for a loss and 4.5 sacks.
Class of ’14, Durham (N.C.) Hillside, 4-star, No. 15 WR
Heading into his senior year, Thompson named Clemson, Florida State, UNC, NC State, Ohio State, and West Virginia his finalists. He eventually officially visited (in order) Ohio State, NC State, and Clemson. Before ending his Clemson visit, he pledged to the Tigers.
Thompson, who red-shirted last season, has played in 11 of 12 games this season. On the year, he has caught 10 passes for 115 yards.
Class of ’14, Charlotte (N.C.) Berry Academy, 4-star, No. 35 OLB
Clemson, UNC, and NC State emerged as favorites for Collins early in his recruitment. Prior to the Tar Heels’ ’13 Spring Game, Collins committed to the Tar Heels’ coaching staff.
Collins, who has appeared in 10 games with two starts at outside linebacker, has collected 33 tackles this season. He finished his true freshman season last year with 36 tackles, two forced fumbles, and a touchdown.
Class of ’13, Rochelle (Ga.) Wilcox County, 3-star, No. 75 WR
In the spring of his junior year, Clemson offered Howard, which solidified the Tigers as his leader. The needle started to point towards UNC during the ensuing football season. A day after returning home from a late September visit to Chapel Hill, Howard committed to the Heels.
Howard has played in all 12 games (eight starts) this season catching 25 balls for 435 yards and three touchdowns. He made 64 receptions for 733 yards and six touchdowns during the two prior seasons.
Class of ’13, Charlotte (N.C.) Christian, 4-star, No. 28 S
Early into his recruitment, Lawrence narrowed his focus to four ACC schools – Clemson, Duke, UNC, and NC State. After attending a Tar Heel spring practice, he began contemplating a commitment. A return a week later with his parents pushed him over the edge.
Lawrence, who has started all 12 games this season for UNC at cornerback, ranks third in the ACC with 1.33 passes defended per game (14 PBUs and two interceptions). He also has made 48 tackles. During his previous two seasons, he has appeared in 20 games totaling 82 tackles plus an interception.