Despite losing his primary recruiter and expected position coach, North Carolina verbal commitment Donte Burton says his pledge is solid.
"My commitment is very firm," Burton said. "Other schools, they're trying to talk to me and I will be visiting some other places, but I'm a Tar Heel. I'm not sure which [schools] I would want to visit yet, but I want to leave the door open. It's just good to go out and see new things and other parts of the country."
Burton, a 5-foot-11, 172-pound cornerback from Lawrenceville (Ga.) Central Gwinnett, has been committed to UNC longer than nine members of its 2017 signing class. The 2018 prospect pledged to the Heels last July.
When Burton committed, Charlton Warren was UNC's defensive backs coach. Warren also doubled as recruiter of Gwinnett County. In mid-January, Warren left for a similar role on Tennessee's staff.
"At first it made me think, 'Where do I really stand?'" Burton said. "I had a good relationship with Coach Warren and he left, so I kind of felt like I didn't really know my place."
Burton's fears began to ease when he spoke to Larry Fedora on the phone shortly after the news broke of Warren's departure. They were mitigated further when defensive coordinator Gene Chizik made an evaluation visit to Central Gwinnett High later that week. Fedora, accompanied by assistant John Papuchis, visited Central Gwinnett a week later.
"They told me I don't need to worry, because they still love me, they love everything about me, and they still want me to be a Tar Heel," Burton said. "I'm still with them. They really cleared everything up for me. It was real nice to see all the coaches show love. I feel like they want me to still be a Tar Heel and I was happy about that."
The mending that Fedora and company have done could have quickly unraveled when Oregon and Louisville offered Burton recently.
"Oregon, that's a great school -- all the schools that have offered me are great schools," Burton said. "But, Tar Heels is where I feel at home."
Burton will feel even more at home at UNC the stronger his relationship gets with new defensive back coach Terry Joseph.
"I'm starting to build a new relationship with the new DB coach, Coach Joseph," Burton said. "He's a real good guy and I'm starting to really like him. He's been talking to me lately a lot."
Burton and Joseph will take the next step in building their relationship once Burton returns to campus. He's finalizing details to attend UNC's exclusive junior day on March 4, and he also hopes to visit for a couple of spring practices.
"[Joseph] said he's real high on me, and he can't wait to meet me," Burton said.
Burton attended a pair of UNC games last football season. He was on hand for the Tar Heels' home opening win over James Madison, followed by its regular season finale against archrival NC State.
"The atmosphere was great," Burton said. "UNC has great fans. It just felt like all the fans were rocking with the team.
"When I was walking on the field, I felt like, 'Man, I could really be on the field with a bunch of other great guys.' It really was like the future was thrown in front of my face, like 'That could be me on the field right now playing.'"