Larry Fedora’s sixth signing class at North Carolina feels familiar. As usual, it includes a balanced mix of national, versatile, and sleeper prospects. And Fedora cast a wide net in reeling in those signees.
The five Scout four-star prospects that signed with UNC on Wednesday (J.T. Cauthen, C.J. Cotman, Jake Lawler, Jonah Melton, and Tre Shaw) ties for the program's second most in the past eight years. Furthermore, Lawler and Melton are in the Scout 300.
There are those highlest regarded signees, while conversely, there are signees like Antwuan Branch, Beau Corrales, and Noah Ruggles who lack the lofty rankings of the their aforementioned future teammates but all three have the potential to greatly exceed their ranking. Branch, Corrales, and Ruggles each rode standout senior seasons to increase their recruiting stock and land a scholarship offer from UNC, among others.
Lastly, signees Cotman and Kayne Roberts will arrive on campus this summer without an exact position -- and perhaps lacking a definitive side of the ball. Their maturation, plus roster voids, will dictate where they eventually play. Somewhat similarly, Shaw and Caleb Rozar are clearly defensive backs, but their versatility will allow the staff to position them within the secondary based on need.
In assembling the 2017 class, Fedora reached into nine different states, including four outside of UNC’s typical recruiting footprint (Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia). Expectedly, nearly half of the signees hail from either Georgia or North Carolina. Surprisingly, though, UNC signed three from the Volunteer State (more than the previous seven classes combined).
Before the 2017 recruiting cycle was officially underway, UNC had already secured five four-star commitments - its best, and earliest, start in the Internet era. The Heels parted ways with one of them, Ryan Jones, because of off-the-field red flags. Another, Tyler Smith, didn't sign on Wednesday and will delay his enrollment until January (i.e. gray-shirting) as he recovers from an injury. Nevertheless, three (Cauthen, Lawler, and Melton) of UNC’s five four-star signees in the 2017 class were in the boat before the 2016 class had been signed.
The fast start helped UNC ink nearly three times as many four-star recruits as it did a year ago.
HERE'S THE BEEF
Signing an entire offensive line was a major objective for UNC in this class. Fulfilling that objective is exactly what UNC did. Not only is a quarter of its class O-linemen, but the quintet weighs a combined 1,507 pounds.
The projected interior of this offensive line class -- Brian Anderson (6-foot-3 and 282 lbs.), Jonah Melton (6-foot-4 and 285 lbs.), and Billy Ross (6-foot-5 and 292 lbs.) -- are all high school offensive tackles who will move inside in college. Anderson is projected to slide all the way inside to center.
Headliner: Tre Shaw. Not only did UNC pluck the four-star defensive back from the middle of SEC country, but it did so by beating out fellow finalists Auburn, Clemson, and South Carolina. Shaw, who has already enrolled at UNC, also received scholarship offers from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Michigan, Tennessee, and Virginia Tech. He played all over the secondary for a football power and that versatility should carry into his college years.
Best in Class: Jonah Melton. Melton is UNC’s highest ranked overall prospect and the top in-state recruit. It’s the first time the Heels have landed the Tar Heel state’s top prospect since signing Elijah Hood in the 2014 class. Like Hood, Melton is a member of the Scout 300, landing at No. 170. Furthermore, Melton was named an Under Armour All-American and only ten offensive guards were ranked higher nationally.
Sleeper Pick: Beau Corrales. As his senior season progressed, Corrales’s recruiting profile escalated. He went from a Group of Five prospect committed to Texas State to a recruit with offers from each Power 5 conference. His final season stat line (90 receptions for 1,158 yards and 14 touchdowns) only shows a glimpse of his ability. Coupling his size with his production after-the-catch, the 6-foot-4, 203-pound wide receiver shouldn’t find a problem fitting into UNC’s one-back spread offense sooner rather than later.
Immediate Contributor: Michael Carter. This is a layup. Unless you’ve spent the past year in North Korea, you are well aware that replenishing the running back depth chart was UNC’s top goal for the 2017 class. Graduation (Khris Francis and T.J. Logan), the NFL Draft (Elijah Hood), and an unexpected transfer (Ty’son Williams) have left the Heels with a single scholarship running back. Carter not only enrolled in January, but was named 6A Mr. Florida after posting 3,345 all-purpose yards with 45 touchdowns as a senior.