GREENVILLE, N.C. --- Holton Ahlers figures to be within the lead group of the 2018 in-state quarterback crop. Appropriately, North Carolina has been recruiting the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder from D.H. Conley High School.
“He’s a student of the game,” Conley head coach Nate Connor said. “He loves everything about the position of quarterback. I wouldn’t label him. He can run. He’s just an athlete back there. He can throw from the pocket. He commands the offense. He has all those intangible you look for.”
Coming out of middle school with a desire to start at quarterback for Conley as soon as possible, Ahlers spent that summer focused on bulking up and adding speed. That’s exactly what he did. When he arrived for preseason practice, he checked in at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds – 30 pounds heavier than when he left the eighth grade. Moreover, he was faster.
As he aspired, Ahlers earned the starting quarterback role as a freshman. Despite missing part of the season with an injury, he threw for 1,500 yards, rushed for 800, and scored 27 total touchdowns.
Playing in an offense which he compares favorably to the system Tim Tebow ran at Florida, Ahlers completed 50-percent of his passes (132-of-262) for 2,457 yards and 27 touchdowns as a sophomore. He also carried the ball 168 times for 1,142 more yards and 15 scores.
“Everything we do runs through that quarterback position,” Connor said. “We run a lot of reads from the running game that he handles. We spread it out [and] we’re very multiple in what we do. We have some old school wing-t principles, but we’re back in the gun and we read off of that. We spread it out and throw screens and throw it down field, as well. And he allows us to do all that.”
Hometown East Carolina has extended Ahlers a scholarship offer. He’s also hearing from Clemson, North Carolina, NC State, Virginia, and Wake Forest.
With UNC in particular, assistant coaches Gene Chizik, who recruits Greenville, and Keith Heckendorf, the Tar Heels’ quarterbacks coach, have been frequent visitors to Conley specifically for Ahlers.
“With the quarterback position – and it’s the feel we get from everybody – [North Carolina] wants to be careful with how many offers they put out there,” Connor said. “When they offer a kid, they’re not just throwing 15 offers out there – they’re going to offer the kids that they really like. So, they’re going to do their homework, because it’s a very important position, one you can’t miss on. So, they’re continuing to evaluate [Ahlers].”
Consequently, Ahlers’s plans to camp at UNC this summer. He isn’t sure if he’ll attend the “Carolina Elite Quarterback Academy” or a regular one-day camp. His camp scheduled is also slated to include Clemson, East Carolina, Michigan, NC State, and Notre Dame.
Ahlers actually attended the “Carolina Elite Quarterback Academy” last summer. Additionally, he visited UNC for a spring practice a year ago, the 2014 football game against NC State, and the Tar Heels’ home opener in 2015.
“Their stadium is big and they pack it most of the time,” Ahlers said. “And the environment is very family like. When you go down there, you really feel like it’s a family. I like the town itself.”
Besides UNC, Ahlers has visited East Carolina and NC State.
Ahlers was supposed to return to UNC for its most recent junior day. As a makeup, he’s due to attend the Tar Heels’ junior day on April 2. Forthcoming trips to East Carolina, Clemson, and Penn State also dot his schedule.
Ahlers, who hopes to be committed before his senior year, doesn’t claim any favorite schools. But, he has established quite an affinity for Heckendorf, who he speaks to on a near weekly basis.
“I’ve told a bunch of people this: Coach Heck, I’m surprised he’s not a head coach somewhere because he’s real knowledgeable of the game and I love him so much,” Ahlers said.
Ahlers is the youngest of four boys. His older brother, Peyton, was recruited for football until suffering a knee injury his senior year… Ahlers’s father, Morgan, is the PA announcer for East Carolina. Unsurprisingly, Ahlers grew up rooting for the Pirates.