Perhaps it’s their contrasting offensive schemes, but Georgia Tech and North Carolina don’t cross paths on the recruiting trail nearly as much as one would think considering they are ACC Coastal Division rivals whose primary recruiting footprints overlap.
Still though, there are players on each roster who could have ended up on the other end of this rivalry. Below are three prominent examples from each team who figure to impact Saturday’s game.
Class of ’13, Atlanta (Ga.) Westminster School, 3-star, No. 3 K
UNC didn’t offer Butker a scholarship, but he solidified a preferred walk-on spot with his performance at the Tar Heels’ specialist camp. He accepted a Georgia Tech scholarship offer over preferred walk-on opportunities from Auburn, Kentucky, and UNC.
Butker, who immediately handled kickoffs and place kicks for Georgia Tech, is the Yellow Jackets’ all-time leader with 192 PATs made. This season, he is 35-for-36 on place kicks (5-for-6 on field goals and 30-for-30 on extra points). He has also been an incredible weapon on kickoffs this season as 32 of his 41 traditional kickoffs have gone for touchbacks.
Class of ’15, Sandersville (Ga.) Washington County, 3-star, No. 48 S
A week after receiving an offer from the Yellow Jackets, Gray visited Georgia Tech and committed. However, for much of the year that followed he communicated with UNC, the school where his sister, Allisha, was an All-ACC performer on the woman’s basketball team.
Gray, who has started every game this season at free safety, ranks second on the team with 39 tackles. As a true freshman a year ago, he played in 10 games finishing with 21 tackles and an interception.
Class of ‘15, Douglasville (Ga.) Alexander, 3-star, No. 89 RB
By offering a scholarship in April of his junior year, North Carolina was inserted into the race for Lands-Davis. After a few June visits, he narrowed his focus to Clemson, Georgia Tech, UNC, NC State, and Miami. He committed to the Yellow Jackets later that month.
During the offseason, Lands-Davis was moved from A-back to wide receiver. He’s caught two passes for 14 yards this season. While playing in the backfield as a true freshman last year, he appeared in seven games with three starts. He concluded the 2015 season with 40 yards on 18 rushes and seven receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown.
Class of ’14, Charlotte (N.C.) Catholic, 4-star, No. 10 RB
Before his recruitment became a UNC vs. Notre Dame decision, Georgia Tech was among Hood’s list of favorite schools. He committed to the Fighting Irish midway through the Spring Evaluation Period only to de-commit just before his senior season. A week later, he pledged to the Tar Heels.
Hood is the 14th player in UNC history to rush for 2,000 career yards (2,198). He has also rushed for 26 career touchdowns, which ranks ninth all-time in UNC history. Despite missing a game this season, he leads the team in rushing with 476 yards and five touchdowns on 96 attempts.
Class of ‘15, Buford (Ga.), 3-star, No. 57 OG
Georgia Tech -- which, depending on the Atlanta traffic, is less than an hour from Buford -- became the first school to offer Polino. That, plus its proximity, helped the Yellow Jackets remain in the running until he pledged to the Tar Heels during Fedora’s Freak Show.
Polino, who red-shirted his freshman year last season, has appeared in all eight games this year. He started the Virginia Tech game at left guard.
Class of ‘15, Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian, 3-star, No. 27 MLB
Midway through his junior season, UNC became the first school to offer Smith. He returned the favor by pledging to the school sight unseen. Georgia Tech offered shortly thereafter, which nearly generated a visit. Although he never ended up visiting Georgia Tech, Smith did take official visits to Nebraska and Wisconsin, as well as UNC, before solidifying his pledge.
Save for last week’s game against Virginia (where he was suspended for the first half), Smith has started every game this season at Mike linebacker. On the year, he’s registered 68 tackles, including four for a loss. As a true freshman last season, he appeared in all 14 games making 53 tackles.
Jalen Holston is the only recruit Georgia Tech and UNC are actively pursuing -- and it’s truly more of a UNC-Virginia Tech battle.
Of Georgia Tech’s verbal commitments, Gentry Bonds, Zach Quinney, O.J. Tucker, and Dameon Williams held UNC scholarship offers at one point. Bonds, Quinney, and Williams even visited Chapel Hill at least once. However, all three saw their UNC offers pulled prior to pledging to the Yellow Jackets.
As for UNC’s commitment list, Jeremiah Gemmel, Malik Robinson, Caleb Rozar, and Tre Shaw were offered by Georgia Tech. But the Yellow Jackets weren’t a factor in any of those recruitments, even though -- with the exception of Rozar -- they are all Georgia products.