Recruiting Storylines: UNC vs UVa

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

North Carolina and Virginia have not met as often on the recruiting trail in recent years. But, several of Saturday's main contributors could be lining up on the opposite side of the "South’s Oldest Rivalry."

North Carolina

Jeremiah Clarke

Class of ’14, Alexandria (Va.) Williams, 4-star, No. 11 DE

Heading into the summer of his senior year, Clark reduced his list of schools under consideration to six – Miami, UNC, Penn State, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wake Forest. A day after visiting the last of those – Tennessee – he verbally committed to UNC.

Since red-shirting in 2014, Clarke has played in every game the past two seasons (21) with four starts at defensive tackle. He has 20 tackles this year, with a sack. A year ago, he tallied 44 tackles, including two for a loss and a sack.

Jon Heck

Class of ’12, Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles, 3-star, No. 105 OT

Almost ten years after living in Charlottesville during his father’s tenure on the Cavs coaching staff, Virginia became the first school to offer Heck. UNC followed suit shortly thereafter. Following summer visits to both programs, Heck decided he wanted to spend his college days in Chapel Hill.

As a red-shirt freshman, Heck started all 13 games of the 2013 season. He's now UNC's active leader in career starts with 45 -- all at right tackle. The past four years, only a 2014 injury has kept him from the Tar Heels' starting lineup.

Brad Henson

Class of ’13, Toms River (N.J.) Monsignor Donovan, 3-star, No. 25 OG

In June ’12, Henson verbally committed to Virginia over finalists Miami, UNC, Rutgers, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. But, contact with UNC never ceased, which led to a “secret” official visit the following December. Before his plane departed RDU, Henson had made the calls necessary to execute the flip from UVa to UNC.

After red-shirting the 2013 season, Henson has appeared in 32 games the past three seasons. He's played both guard and center for UNC.

Virginia

Quin Blanding

Class of ’14, Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside, 5-star, No. 3 S

Due to his high profile, much of Blanding’s recruitment took place during his sophomore and junior years. As such, less than a month after the 2013 class was signed, he pledged to Virginia over finalists Florida State, UNC, and Ohio State.

A 2014 Freshman All-American, Blanding has started all 30 games at free safety for UVa the past three seasons. He's 16th on UVa's career tackle list with 300. This season, he's second on the team with 62 tackles in six games.

Keeon Johnson

Class of '13, Kannapolis (N.C.) Brown, 3-star, No. 83 WR

Johnson named UNC, Notre Dame, and Virginia his top three schools in May '12. A month later, he was ready to make a decision and narrowed his focus to the Fighting Irish and Cavaliers. Shortly thereafter, he verbally committed to UVa.

This season, Johnson is leading UVa with 31 receptions for 305 yards and three touchdowns. He's appeared in 38 games the past four years with 22 starts. For his career, he's caught 77 passes for 898 yards and five TDs.

Taquan Mizzell

Class of '13, Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside, 4-star, No. 16 RB

In the summer prior to his senior season, Mizzell committed to long-time leader Virginia over fellow finalists UNC and West Virginia. Despite the pledge, he remained in constant contact with UNC's coaches, scheduled a game visit (but failed to show because of a scheduling conflict), and at one point even considered officially visiting UNC.

Mizzell is not only UVa's leading rusher (355 yards and three touchdowns) this season, but has a reception in 39 straight games, which is tied for the fourth longest active streak in the nation. In the past four seasons, he's rushed for 1,490 yards with a 4.4 average per carry, caught 167 passes for 1,342 yards and six touchdowns, and averaged 17.5 yards on 39 kick returns.

Current Class

The lone unsettled UNC-UVa recruiting battle, Mekhi Becton, is likely to be won by the Cavaliers. However, all previous encounters this cycle (Michael CarterJ.T. Cauthen, and Billy Ross) have gone the Tar Heels' way.


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