Dax Hollifield, a four-star linebacker and one of the top 2018 in-state prospects, has already made a lot of recruiting visits. Those experiences have allowed a pair of programs to rise to the top.
“UNC and Virginia Tech, really those are my top two,” Hollifield said. “Wake Forest sticks out, but I love Wake Forest for different reasons – I’ve always been a Wake Forest fan, because of my dad.
“UNC and Virginia Tech feel like they want me more than anybody… I feel those are the two schools that are recruiting me the hardest.”
It’s not that Hollifield is starving for recruiting attention. Though just a sophomore, the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Shelby (N.C.) product has received 10 Power 5 offers – Clemson, Duke, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, North Carolina, NC State, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest.
The possession of a top two this early doesn’t portend a speedy commitment timeframe.
“I’m not committing anytime soon,” Hollifield said. “I’m just enjoying the ride right now.”
That ride won't end until January of Hollifield's senior year – that’s Jan. 2018 -- he says. Next summer, he’ll release a top five and then officially visit those schools during the 2017 season.
Assistant coaches Gunter Brewer and John Papuchis are the main reasons why Hollifield feels coveted by UNC.
“Coach J.P. tells me all the time, he doesn’t want this to be a recruitment,” Hollifield said. “He wants us to be friends. He just wants me to be relaxed around him and feel like I’ve known him forever.”
That feeling has already been established with Brewer. Hollifield has known Brewer ostensibly forever. Brewer and Hollifield’s father, Aubrey, were teammates at Wake Forest. Thus, Hollifield’s relationship with Brewer began before he was even a recruit.
“I’ve known Coach Brewer since I can remember,” Hollifield said. “I think mine and Coach Papuchis’s relationship is getting there. He’s probably one of my three favorite recruiters right now – I love him, Coach Brewer, and Coach [James] Shibest from Virginia Tech.”
Last football season, Hollifield attended games at Clemson, Georgia, NC State, Notre Dame, UNC, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest.
“I went to a different school every game last year, except for UNC and Virginia Tech,” Hollifield said. “I went to UNC and Virginia Tech twice.”
Three of those experiences stand out to Hollifield.
“The best atmosphere was Tennessee when they played Oklahoma,” Hollifield said. “They went into overtime. They broke the loudest it’s ever been in Neyland [Stadium] that game.
“Florida State-Clemson was a nice game. And then Virginia Tech, when it went to like three overtimes when they played Duke, that was pretty nice.”
Relatively speaking, Hollifield tapered down his recruiting visits after the football season. He traveled to UNC twice, Virginia Tech three times, and Wake Forest once.
One of the UNC visits was especially memorable: the elite junior day held in conjunction with the Duke basketball game. Since it’s a hot ticket, the football staff has to be selective with its invitation list. In the past, that list has exclusively consisted of top rising seniors.
“They told me that they were making an exception for me, but as soon as I got there I figured it out on my own,” Hollifield said. “That was pretty cool. That shows that I’m their top priority in the 2018 class. They want me worse than anybody else.
“I want to go someplace where I feel wanted and they showed me that they want me more than a lot of other places. Me going to that game and being one of only two sophomores there, that really showed me how much they liked me. That meant a lot to me.”
The other sophomore in attendance for the event was Zamir White, a five-star in-state running back.
This summer, Hollifield will rev up his recruiting visits. He hopes to hit Alabama, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, and Virginia all for the first time. He also figures to return to UNC, Notre Dame, Tennessee, and Virginia Tech.
“It would probably be my biggest recruiting route,” Hollifield said.
A lot of recruits intend on making a massive amount of recruiting trips. But, most never come to fruition. Hollifield might be the exception to the rule, since his father did the same thing when he was being recruited and the two use their time on the road as a bonding experience.
“I love going places,” Hollifield said. “I love driving. But, my dad probably likes it more. He just loves doing that stuff. I like it a lot, but he just loves it – he would do that every day if he could.”
Hollifield was invited to Fedora’s Freak Show. But, since his high school team will be competing in a 7-on-7 that day, it appears highly unlikely that he’ll attend.
“I’ll probably go up there [to UNC] and stay up there for a day or two with my dad,” Hollifield said.