Heels Take Lead for Top Fla. LB

Etienne Sabino visited the three Triangle ACC schools this past weekend. However, one visit stood out above the rest.

"As far as N.C. State and Duke, I liked it. But I would have to say UNC was number one," said Sabino. "I really like the coaches. I met some of the players; I really liked the players. It has a very home feeling to it. They made me feel at home."

On the heels of the "number one" visit, Sabino, who holds around 20 scholarship offers, has crowned North Carolina his leader.

"I really like UNC now," said Sabino. "I would put them on top of my list and say they're number one."

Sabino, a 6-foot-3 230-pound linebacker from Miami (Fla.) Krop, arrived in the Tar Heel State Friday and then headed over to the University of North Carolina.

"I got a tour of the campus, met Coach [John] Blake, met Coach [Tommy] ‘Thig' [Thigpen], met Coach Butch Davis – met all of the coaches basically, and just got a feel for it," said Sabino. "I met one of the players [Kentwan Balmer]; he spoke to me for a little while. He was very, very good people."

After spending half of Friday in Chapel Hill, Sabino traveled to Raleigh to check out N.C. State. He met the entire Wolfpack coaching staff, toured the campus, and attended an alumni event that included Mario Williams, Bill Cowher, among others.

"I was very impressed with N.C. State's stadium and their facilities," said Sabino.

The following morning, Sabino ventured to Duke, but was limited by non-recruiting related errands. He was able to tour the campus and observe a Blue Devils' spring practice.

Sabino then returned to UNC and caught the tail end of the spring game.

On both Friday and Saturday Sabino spent a great deal of his time conversing with members of UNC's coaching staff including a one-on-one meeting with primary recruiter John Blake, defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, and linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen.

During discussions with Blake, Sabino saw more than just a football coach.

"Coach Blake, he talked football, he touched on academics, and he always touched on me as an individual," sad Sabino. "He's telling me that he's trying to make me the best person and he always looks out for his players.

"From what I got from his players such as ‘Twan' [Balmer], he does look out for his players. A lot of people say they look out for their players, but it seems like Coach Blake means it."

Conversations with Thigpen followed the same theme.

"Coach ‘Thig,' same thing," said Sabino. "He tells me he likes to be able to talk to his players whether it's about football or not about football."

Sabino was also impressed by Butch Davis and what he plans to build at UNC.

"He has a vision and I see everybody is working towards it," said Sabino. "It seems like the whole town is behind him. I feel like he's going to succeed, because everybody is on the same page. I see good things coming out of there."

While North Carolina is Sabino's unquestioned leader, he won't make a final decision until after his senior football season. Prior to that, Sabino will narrow down his list of options to the five schools he plans to officially visit during the football season.

Sabino is working towards graduating from Krop in December and enrolling at his chosen school in January.

He is in the process of planning trips to Georgia, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, and Tennessee.

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