Four-star 2018 offensive lineman William Barnes made his postponed return to North Carolina on Friday. The experience further cemented UNC's position on his favorites list.
"It's definitely in my top five schools" Barnes said. "It's definitely up there. I enjoyed [the visit] a lot."
Fifteen schools have offered Barnes, a 6-foot-4, 291-pounder from Apopka (Fla.), a scholarship. But according to Barnes, the schools truly battling it out with UNC are Auburn, Florida, and Florida State.
Originally, Barnes had planned to attend the UNC-Virginia Tech game in October. However, those plans were scrapped when Hurricane Matthew came rolling up the east coast.
The UNC-NC State contest proved to be the perfect replacement. Barnes and his mother drove up to NC on Wednesday and spent Thanksgiving with his grandfather, who lives in Winston-Salem. That left Barnes with a measly 90-minute drive to Kenan Stadium on Friday morning.
"It was definitely a big game and was definitely a game I could come up to and it was a game I wanted to watch," Barnes said.
Although Barnes travels to Winston-Salem a few times a year to see his grandfather -- mostly for holidays and family functions -- Friday's visit was just his second to UNC. It also was his first live Tar Heel game.
"The campus, straight up, it was beautiful," Barnes said. "I enjoyed going up there. The coaches were awesome. It was also a great game, even though the outcome wasn't what they wanted it to be. I thought they played a great game."
More important than the game's outcome, in Barnes's eyes, was the game day atmosphere and the offensive line play.
"I think I would fit in at guard or any place Coach Kap [Chris Kapilovic] would want me to be at," Barnes said. "I could definitely see myself playing up there."
Speaking of Kapilovic, UNC's offensive line coach, he and fellow UNC assistant coach Chad Scott spent a great deal of time with Barnes in the hours prior to Friday's game.
"Coach Scott, he's my recruiting coach, so I spoke to him most of the time," Barnes said. "He's a great coach and I love talking to him a lot.
"And Coach Kap, we spoke a little bit about the offensive line. He's a great coach and I think he really knows what he's doing."
Barnes's pregame itinerary also included a meeting with Larry Fedora.
"He talked about the school, and how it's a great place for me, and the character that they build up there," Barnes said. "He really stressed academics."
Most visiting recruits, especially those hailing from Florida, have parents who are learning about UNC along with their children. Barnes's mother, though, is the exception. She is a Tar Heel alumna.
"She was telling us every street to turn on," Barnes said with a laugh. "It was fun for her and I'm glad she enjoyed it up there."
Despite the aforementioned connection, Barnes isn't being pushed towards UNC.
"She said it's my decision to choose wherever I go to school," Barnes said.
Barnes plans to return to UNC this offseason, likely in January or February. He also has his eye on trips to Clemson, Georgia, and South Carolina.
Besides UNC, Barnes attended games at Auburn, Florida, Florida State, and Miami this season.