Tobacco Road recruiting battles are typically saved for basketball recruits, but as Duke continues to build its football program it has become more of a threat to North Carolina for football prospects. Thus, several players could easily be sporting a different shade of blue on Thursday night. Below are three prominent examples from each team who figure to impact the game.
Class of ’13, Statesville (N.C.), 2-star, No. 150 CB
Although he grew up a UNC fan, it was archrival Duke who gave Borders his only Power 5 (BCS at the time) scholarship offer. And it didn’t take long for him to accept. Before committing, though, he and his three-star teammates Tristan Mumford (East Carolina) and Carlis Parker (Virginia Tech) took a couple visits to Chapel Hill.
Borders’s 12 career interceptions is sixth among active players nationally. He also ranks second all-time at Duke in career pass break-ups with 34. He has started every game at cornerback for Duke the past three seasons. He has also appeared in 49 straight contests dating back to the 2013 season. This year, he had totaled 27 tackles, a pair of interceptions, and 11 pass breakups.
Class of ‘14, Graham (N.C.) Southern Alamance, 3-star, No. 122 WR
UNC was among an impressive wave of scholarship offers that flowed in for Lloyd following a sensational freshman season. He went on to make a handful of visits to Chapel Hill as the staff attempted to determine his collegiate position. During the summer of his senior year, he verbally committed to Duke.
This past spring, Lloyd switched from defensive back to wide receiver. He has started eight of nine games this season making 23 receptions for 232 yards and two touchdowns.
Class of ‘14, Charlotte (N.C.) West Mecklenburg, 3-star, No. 105 RB
Despite several visits to UNC -- including a camp prior to his junior year -- a Tar Heel offer never materialized. In fact, most Power 5 schools ignored Wilson’s on-field production. Following a prolific start to his senior season, Duke offered. Three days later, he pledged to the Blue Devils.
Wilson is the only active player nationally with touchdowns of 80-plus yards via rush, reception, and return. He has appeared in all nine games this season with four starts at running back. For the season, he has rushed for 449 yards and three touchdowns, returned 20 kickoffs for 533 yards and a score, and caught five passes for 27 yards.
Class of ‘15, Ashburn (Va.) Stone Bridge, 4-star, No. 26 DT
Before narrowing his focus to Boston College, UNC, and Virginia, Duke was among the schools that Crawford visited and had piqued his interest. He planned to visit each of his three finalists before making a decision. But, shortly after returning to Chapel Hill he verbally committed to the Tar Heels.
Crawford, who appeared in two games last season before a knee injury forced him to take a medical red-shirt, has started the past six games. On the season, he’s compiled 25 tackles.
Class of ’13, Charlotte (N.C.) Christian, 4-star, No. 28 S
Early into his recruitment, Lawrence narrowed his focus to four ACC schools – Clemson, Duke, UNC, and NC State. After attending a Tar Heel spring practice, he began contemplating a commitment. A return a week later with his parents pushed him over the edge.
Lawrence ranks sixth all-time at UNC with 24 career pass breakups. He also has the most targets (42) without allowing a touchdown among ACC defenders this season. Lawrence, who has started all 23 games the past two seasons, has totaled 163 tackles, including 9.0 for a loss, during his career.
Class of ‘16, Alexandria (Va.) Episcopal, 3-star, No. 30 S
Coming out of the spring of 2015, Rene said Duke, UNC, Ohio State, Rutgers, and Virginia Tech stood out. That ensuing August, he pledged to the Scarlet Knights. A four-win season and regime change prompted Rene to take official visits elsewhere. After an official trip to UNC, he canceled the remaining visits on his docket and switched his commitment to the Tar Heels.
A true freshman this season, Rene has played in eight games with five starts at cornerback. He’s made 14 tackles and broke up a pair of passes.
With voids remaining at running back, UNC has attempted to poach Deon Jackson from Duke’s commitment list.
In addition to Jackson, Joshua Blackwell, Michael Carter II, Drew Jordan, Jacob Rimmer, Jack Sears, and Will Taylor are Duke pledges who were offered by UNC. Among them, only Rimmer and Sears actually visited Chapel Hill.