Recruiting Storylines: UNC vs Virginia Tech

Revisiting the North Carolina-Virginia Tech recruiting stories that will play a role in Saturday's matchup.

As evidenced by Saturday’s visitor list, North Carolina regularly competes against Virginia Tech within the recruiting arena -- perhaps more than any other program. Thus, both teams will oppose former recruits on Saturday, weather permitting.

North Carolina

Jalen Dalton

Class of ‘15, Clemmons (N.C.) West Forsyth, 4-star, No. 10 DE

Although two dozen schools offered scholarships, Dalton’s recruitment came down to a back-and-forth battle between UNC and Virginia Tech. After officially visiting both schools during the 2014 season, he announced his intentions to remain in-state during a ceremony held at his high school.

Six games into the 2015 season, Dalton’s red-shirt was burned. He went on to appear in nine games -- primarily at defensive tackle -- tallying 15 tackles, two QB hurries, and two pass breakups. He has appeared in all five games this season, with a pair of starts at D-tackle. He’s made eight tackles on the year.

Patrice Rene

Class of ‘16, Alexandria (Va.) Episcopal, 3-star, No. 30 S

Rene committed to Rutgers in August of last year, but that didn’t halt his recruitment. He remained in regular contact with Boston College, Nebraska, UNC, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, and Wisconsin. More importantly, he planned to take a full allotment of official visits. However, after officially visiting UNC -- which took place after official trips to BC and Wisconsin -- he de-committed from Rutgers and formally ended his recruitment with a pledge to the Tar Heels.

As a true freshman, Rene has played in all five games with three starts at cornerback. He’s made a dozen tackles and broken up two passes.

M.J. Stewart

Class of ’14, Arlington (Va.) Yorktown, 3-star, No. 39 S

After spending the preceding six months visiting schools, Stewart named Michigan State, UNC, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia his finalists in the June before his senior year. A month later, Stewart committed to the Tar Heels.

Stewart, who has started all five games (either at cornerback or nickelback), leads UNC with four pass breakups and is fifth with 29 tackles. As a true freshman in 2014, he played in 12 games finishing with 26 tackles, four pass breakups, and a pair of interceptions. He started 12 games at cornerback in 2015, where he tied for the ACC lead with 18 passes defended.

Virginia Tech

Ken Ekanem

Class of ’12, Clifton (Va.) Centreville, 4-star, No. 25 DE

Just before his senior season, Ekanem named Boston College, Michigan State, UNC, NC State, Notre Dame, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Virginia, and Virginia Tech his favorite schools. Midway through that season, UNC, Notre Dame, Oregon, Pittsburgh, and Virginia Tech remained standing. Only Notre Dame and Virginia Tech ended up receiving official visits from Ekanem. On Signing Day, he signed with the Hokies.

Ekanem has started all 30 games at defensive end the past three seasons. The red-shirt senior has totaled 112 tackles, including 29.5 for a loss and 18.5 sacks, plus 30 QB hurries during his Virginia Tech career.

Travon McMillian

Class of ’14, Woodbridge (Va.) Hylton, 4-star, No. 12 QB

After attending a game during the 2012 season, McMillian listed UNC among his favorite schools. However, the Tar Heels quickly fell out of favor. During the subsequent April, he pledged to Virginia Tech over fellow finalists California and Georgia Tech.

Although not listed as Virginia Tech’s starting running back on the pregame depth chart, McMillian leads the Hokies in rushing (212 yards and two touchdowns on 48 carries). He has also made four receptions for 27 yards and two more TDs. Following a red-shirt season, he appeared in all 13 games in 2015, with seven starts at running back. He ended the year with 1,043 yards and seven scores.

Mook Reynolds

Class of ‘15, Greensboro (N.C.) Northern Guilford, 3-star, No. 76 CB

Despite committing to Virginia Tech early in his recruitment, Reynolds left the door open to other schools, including UNC. He even visited Chapel Hill and took an official trip to Tennessee as a VT pledge. Regardless, he not only ended up in Blacksburg, but enrolled early.

Reynolds has started all four games this season at Whip linebacker. On the year, he’s been credited with 13 tackles, 1.5 TFL, an interception, and a pair of pass breakups. As a true freshman, he played in all 13 games -- with two starts at cornerback -- totaling 30 tackles, including 4.0 for a loss, plus two pass breakups.

Current Class

Evidence of UNC-VT recruiting battles won't be limited to the gridiron on Saturday. The Kenan Stadium crowd will include Jalen Holston, a Hokie lean who will be on his UNC official visit.

Although his high school's 1 p.m. kickoff on Saturday will prevent him from seeing the game in person, Devon Hunter is another active example of a recruit the Coastal Division rivals are heavily competing for on the recruiting trail.

The Heels and Hokies are also both in the mix for Louis AcceusMekhi BectonMalik Davis, and Deon Jackson.

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