Heading into the season, Dax Hollifield named North Carolina and Virginia Tech his co-leaders. Naturally, with those two programs duking it out last Saturday, the four-star 2018 linebacker made sure he was in attendance -- regardless of the weather.
"It was great," the 6-foot-1, 220-pound, Shelby (N.C.) native said. "I hate that [UNC] didn't win, but it was awesome."
Playing a major ACC rival, UNC expected to host one of its largest -- if not its largest -- groups of recruits of the season on Saturday. Hurricane Matthew, though, scared many from making the trip. Hollifield was one of the relative few unofficial visitors to make the trip to Chapel Hill and it paid dividends.
"I got to talk to the coaches a ton," Hollifield said. "I got to spend a lot of one-on-one time with the coaches. It was great."
In particular, Hollifield hung out with primary recruiter Gunter Brewer, Larry Fedora, and linebacker coach John Papuchis. It all started as soon as Hollifield, his father, and his brother arrived on campus. Immediately, they were escorted to Fedora's office.
"The first thing [Fedora] said was, 'You know how bad we want you,'" Hollifield said. "And i was like, 'Yes I do.'
"I've been there so much that him and I just talk about regular stuff now."
Conversations with Brewer and Papuchis began following the meeting with Fedora and continued until the coaches had to hit the field.
"They just want to make me feel at home," Hollifield said. "JP's thing: he doesn't want to recruit me -- he wants us to have a good relationship. He wants me to feel like he's my coach."
Hollifield says UNC and Virginia Tech have company in the battle for his top spot. South Carolina has crawled its way into the ring.
"I'd say South Carolina is in my top three now," Hollifield said. "South Carolina has come on strong. I've gotten to know the coaches very well and I feel they want me as hard as anybody else.
"I feel like [those three schools] are all the same now."
Wake Forest, where Hollifield's father played, is a close fourth.
"It's easier to see who really wants you and who doesn't," Hollifield said. "Of the people that want you, it's hard to decide between those. Those top three, it's going to be really hard to pick. I can narrow it down a lot easier, but I can't narrow it down to just one."
Hurricane Matthew provided Hollfield with one last gift. Since the hurricane forced South Carolina to move its SEC contest with Georgia to Sunday, he was able to attend two college games last weekend.
Hollifield expects to take a break from college visits this coming weekend. But, he will make up for it the following week by traveling to Blacksburg on Thursday for Virginia Tech's bout with Miami followed by State College on Saturday for the Penn State-Ohio State game.
Tentatively, Hollifield plans to return to UNC on Nov. 5 when the Heels host Georgia Tech.
Amid the aforementioned college visits, Hollifield is having a stellar junior season. He leads Shelby, which is considered by Carolina Preps as the top team in NCHSAA 2A, with 76 tackles and 29 TFLs after eight games. He's also been credited with 6.5 sacks and an interception.
"Every game I've gotten better -- that's my big goal," Hollifield said. "I don't want to have a setback.
"I also don't want to miss plays. Last year, I felt I missed way too many plays that I could have made.
"And I want to stay focused for the whole game. Sometimes at the end of the game, I'm not really focused because I know we're winning. That's when I can make big plays to help my team."