CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – This time a year ago, Larry Fedora told reporters that his coaching staff had felt a recruiting bump late in the cycle following UNC’s 2015 run to the ACC Championship Game. He confirmed that continued boost on Wednesday after signing a 20-man class that ranks fourth in the ACC in average star ranking.
“There was no doubt,” Fedora said, “and especially in the state of North Carolina.”
Three of UNC’s five four-star signees are from its home state, which matches its total from the previous two recruiting cycles. Fedora and his staff signed North Carolina’s top prospect – offensive lineman Jonah Melton – as well as two other members of the state’s top-10 in defensive end Jake Lawler and wide receiver J.T. Cauthen.
UNC signed five of the 11 in-state prospects it offered in the 2017 class, although the limited signatures are not representative of the improvement on the recruiting trail in local regions.
“Since I’ve been here, it’s been much easier to recruit out-of-state than it has been in-state,” Fedora said. “But now that’s getting easier in the state. You go into schools now and every top prospect in the state is interested in the University of North Carolina. Before it wasn’t that way. They weren’t going to visit, they weren’t interested and they’d tell you right off the bat. Now we’re not finding that. Every guy at least says they’re interested and they’re willing to listen, so that’s part of the battle right there.”
Fedora dismissed the notion that his staff did a better job recruiting, instead crediting the more positive atmosphere to recent success and the NCAA investigation fading into the past.
“I think not having that black cloud hanging over us in the state, not everybody reporting that the sky is falling on North Carolina every day is a positive thing and it helps us,” Fedora said. “I think winning 19 games in the last two years and that there are only 10 Power-5 schools that have won more games than us in the last two years.”
With the 2017 class finalized and Fedora’s staff already deep into the 2018 class and beyond, the obstacles have been minimized as UNC hopes to elevate its recruiting to an elite level in future years.
“These kids that are coming out of high school now in the state of North Carolina are seeing nothing but positive things about the program,” Fedora said. “I think that, along with the job our coaches do, makes a difference.”