Coaches optimistic as camps begin

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina summer football camps begin today with team camps this week and individual camps following next week. It's a late start compared to many other Division I programs, but it is in many cases the most decisive look the Tar Heels will get at many of their 2005 prospects.

It is in and around this time of year that more scholarship offers are extended and verbal commitments are expected. UNC defensive backs coach and co-defensive coordinator Marvin Sanders said during Monday‘s media day, that he expects more commitments to roll in soon.

Recruiting coordinator Brad Lawing concurred, during a phone interview Tuesday with Inside Carolina.

"We've got all the pieces in line and we've just got to go out and give them reason to come," Lawing said.

Many fans have reservations about why the UNC coaching staff has waited on offering some of the top prospects in the state, when other notable programs have. For example, Scotland quarterback Cameron Sexton, Whiteville safety Marquis Melvin and South Columbus cornerback Bryan Dixon -- all outspoken Carolina fans with offers from other high profile Division I programs -- have yet to get an offer from the Tar Heels.

Sexton and others have openly questioned why they have not received an offer from UNC.

Lawing attempts to answer those questions:

"At some positions, it is necessary to get a guy in camp because you can't see enough of a guy on tape. You might just have bad tape. A lot of high school tape is not very good. So you have to wait to get a kid in camp so you can really see him. A lot of times if you're going to only offer one player at a position, and you've got three or four guys that you really like, you want to make sure you get the best one.

"A lot of times you see good things on tape, but you want to verify them. It may look like a guy can change direction on tape, but how well does he really change direction."

Sanders added:

"We really want to make sure, when a young man verbally commits to us, that it may take a little longer if that situation is going to work out. And we want to make sure that he has a good feel for us. Sometimes when you get an early commitment, you spend more [effort] trying to keep those commitments. So we want to make sure that we get them on campus. We want to make sure they have had a chance to visit with Coach [John] Bunting, myself and the recruiting coach. There is a process and it may be slower, but I really think it's the best way to go. Because, I don't want a kid committing here that hasn't had a chance to sit down and talk with us. He may love North Carolina, and that's great sometimes, but I want him to sit down and talk to me to be sure that I am the guy that he wants coaching him for the next five years. I want to meet his mom and dad. I want them to come to our campus and see what we expect out of him academically, because in the long run, those are the kids that are going to pay off for us."

Anyone who follows football recruiting in the area has seen a state once dominated by UNC during the Mack Brown area, fall to out-of-state interlopers and resurgent in-state programs.

It is also evident the UNC coaches have increased the intensity on out-of-state recruiting.

"We feel good about what is going on in-state right now," Lawing said. "The core of our team is always going to come from North Carolina. That's where we start. If we've got the same player in-state and out-of-state and everything being equal, we're going to take the in-state player. I wish we could sign every player within a five-hour radius, but other people are out there recruiting, too. We've branched out and we've gone into areas that have good football. We're working it hard.

"Our academic standards are about to go up again here before long, and we've identified some areas with the academic standards that are more like what we are going to need."


"No matter what you're looking at, this is still the University of North Carolina. You can go anywhere throughout the country and anywhere in the state, and when you say North Carolina…that's not a knock against the other schools, and we have some other great schools here, but when you talk North Carolina, people know you're talking about the Tar Heels. That's still the big draw for young men."

But how long can a team that hasn't proven itself with wins on the field continue to rely on its tradition?

"What you have to look at is what I believe Coach Bunting is trying to do," Sanders said. "He's trying to build a program of longevity. When you're trying to field a program, you can go out and get some quick fixes, but that's not the road that he has chosen. And I think that is the way to build a program. With the last two recruiting classes being good and another one coming in, you will see us become a machine.

"We want to establish the state as our No. 1 place. [Growing up in Chicago] I remember some great athletes. As a coach, when you see North Carolina, you think of great athletes. Ryan Sims, Julius Peppers, Dre' Bly…I can list …running backs…it goes on and on and on. You know the great athletes for success are in North Carolina. You know that, because Mack [Brown] had it. John is doing a great job and we're on the right course."

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