As the countdown to his May 1 decision commences, four-star linebacker Payton Wilson is slowly beginning to formulate his selection.
"I have a top seven and they're all in play, but the ones I'm visiting right now -- North Carolina, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, and Georgia -- those are the ones I'm kind of leaning to," Wilson said.
Wilson, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound Hillsborough (N.C.) Orange product, visited UNC on Saturday. He'll leave home Thursday for Ohio State, and then visit Virginia Tech and Georgia the next two consecutive weekends.
When he returns from Athens, Wilson will have two full weeks to produce a decision.
"I'm just going to be sitting down and praying on it and talking to my family about it," Wilson said.
"The home feeling is going to be important. Would I go to that school even if I didn't play football? Do I feel like the coaches are going to be fake when I get there?"
Wilson has visited UNC seemingly countless times, because of its proximity to his Hillsborough home (for those unfamiliar with the area, Hillsborough and Chapel Hill are located within the same N.C. county). But, until Saturday he had never attended a UNC practice.
"The team looks really good and I like the way Coach 'J.P.' [John Papuchis] is doing things," Wilson said. "The intensity out there was great; it's spring ball and they're already popping heads."
Thanks to the aforementioned proximity to his home, Wilson and his father were easily able to arrive in Chapel Hill on Saturday at 8 a.m., per the coaches request. That allowed them to completely follow a typical linebacker's schedule: they attended the full team meeting, followed by a linebacker meeting administered by new LB coach Mike Ekeler.
"That was really cool to see the behind-the-scenes stuff," Wilson said. "I didn't really learn anything new -- I just learned how Coach Ek' does things and how he teaches. And I really liked the fact that he's not going to harp at you; if you mess up, he's going to use it as a teaching moment."
By design, Wilson's stay on Saturday was void of sit-down recruiting meetings with UNC coaches.
"I've been over there so many times, so they weren't really selling their recruiting pitch because I heard it so many times," Wilson said. "They just wanted me to see UNC behind the scenes. I like the fact that they were willing to show that to me -- they have nothing to hide."
Immediately following Saturday's practice, UNC hosted its third junior day of the 2018 cycle. Having gone through the campus tour multiple times previously, Wilson and his father had lunch with the junior day attendees and then left.