Provided academic requirements are met, Marcus Hands, Terry Hunter, Khalif Mitchell and Kenny Price will all be in Carolina uniforms in the fall of 2004.
"That's the thing that we get out right up front," said third-year Hargrave coach Robert Prunty. "If you've committed to a school, that's the school you're going to go to. I'm not going to get into the business of not being loyal."
In addition, there is a good chance that a fifth UNC defensive lineman will also emerge in the form of 6-foot-6, 290-pound Brandon Setzer from Thomasville, N.C. Setzer, whom Prunty says is the most talented of the bunch, said he would choose between UNC and N.C. State on Nov. 7.
"I went to a particular NFL team's workout recently, and I promise you, the D-Line I've got looked better," Prunty said. "You can see yourself, these guys are huge. A guy said to me the other day, we must have stole all the beef from Winn Dixie."
There had been some speculation recently that East Wake's Terry Hunter might be considering another school. He said that rumor was nonsense.
"Oh no," Hunter said. "That was back when I was in [high] school. Back then, I was a little shaky about it, but by the end of the year I had made up my mind that Chapel Hill was the place for me and that's what I going to keep pushing for.
"I just hope to get my body in top shape so I will be able to come in and play at Carolina next year. Hopefully, this will teach me more about life, as far as how to address people and how to just be more athletic on the football field."
Hunter recorded 110 solo tackles, 15 sacks and 29 tackles for losses in his final year of high school, and had 62 tackles and 8.5 sacks as a junior.
At first it was difficult for Hunter to accept that he would have to go to prep school, but now he has adapted to the new surroundings and is making the best of the situation.
"When I first found out, it was kind of hard," Hunter said. "But now that I've gotten here, it's not what I thought it was going to be. I thought it was just going to be a lot of military things, but it's not like that. There's military things involved, but it's just a good school to come to if your looking for the opportunity to be a better player in college."
Hands said he has grown another half-inch since high school and that he is looking forward to his opportunity at Hargrave to improve both on the field and off.
"I want to lower my speed and get quicker flying off the ball," Hands said. "I'm basically getting stronger and better in academics.
"It's not really difficult, or as bad as I thought it was going to be," he said. "The more you get into it, the easier and the more use your going get from it. When I first got here, it was really hard. But as the days went by, we started having fun and got adjusted to the practice and all of it."
At Wilmington Laney, Hands finished his senior season with 62 solo tackles, 10 sacks, five forced fumbles, one interception, two blocked field goals and a blocked punt. He recorded 38 solo tackles, three sacks, three fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles for a team that went 15-1 and reached the state 4-A title game for the first time in school history during his junior season.
He said he has been inspired by the success that current UNC linebacker Melik Brown is enjoying. Brown, from Camden, N.J., also prepped at Hargrave last season.
"I first met Melik when I made my official visit to Carolina, and not too long ago, I was up there for a practice," Hands said. "Melik and I are really close and we had talked. He gave me some tips, told me what to expect and told me what to do and what not to do. I took his advice and it's helping me."
Mitchell started at defensive end and tight end while at First Colonial in Virginia Beach. He also played fullback, rushing for 68 yards on eight carries as a senior. This upcoming season will be just his fourth year of organized football.
"I'm hoping that this will just be a stepping stone towards North Carolina," Mitchell said. "I hope that I learn a lot from this. This could be my timeout to learn and get ready for North Carolina."
Price, who is also from Virginia Beach (Kempsville HS), said he, too, is going to take the extra year in stride in hopes he can hit the ground running when he arrives in Chapel Hill next fall.
"I want to become a better athlete all around," Price said. "They've helped me get a lot better movement and agility in my hips. I've become a better student and developed better study habits right off. I'm going to do a year of prep school, go straight to college, and do what I have to do."
Price said the UNC coaches send him as many as two letters a day in order to provide him with support and keep him focused on his long-term goals.
"They're keeping up with us," Price said. "It's been a fight with my mind and my body in both ways. Physically, it's real demanding up here, but that's good to push your limits. Mentally, it was a hard decision to do it. It hurt me really bad, but it just makes you better and I'll just prepare for next year."
Hargrave will scrimmage at Ferrum (Rocky Mount, Va.) this Saturday, before opening its season at Bridgewater Aug. 30. The Tigers will meet the Carolina junior varsity squad on Oct. 5 in Kenan Stadium at 3:30 p.m.