Up Close: Donnell Livingston, Part II

<I>IC</I> recruiting writer Andy Britt is touring the countryside to visit each and every UNC football commitment. Look for his unique two-part profiles all season long. Today -- the second installment from Sarasota, Fla. on Donnell Livingston.

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Sunshine State is by and large made up of a transient population with most of its residents originating and having ties from some other area. Yet, Florida's high school football talent pool runs deeper than any other state in the nation.

The UNC recruiting effort has plucked three quality prospects in commitments' Donnell Livingston (Sarasota), Larry Edwards (Tampa) and Roger Heinz (Tallahassee). The first two of which compete in a pair of the state's largest conferences.

"There are opportunities out there for the other states, because we have so many students in the state of Florida and so many of these kids look for opportunities elsewhere," Sarasota head coach Bob Perkins said. "You've got the SEC, the ACC, the Big East, and the bowl games. Even the Big Ten is getting plenty of exposure down here."

And Florida State's membership in the ACC "certainly helps, because [Livingston] knows he's going to be playing at least twice [in Florida]," Perkins said. "And [UNC] is still close enough to home, and that's important."

North Carolina is clinging to a recruiting class that rivals the best schools in the southeast. But UNC coach John Bunting is, in many ways, still learning in a cut-throat business where the Tar Heels' football future can be shaken by a the broken promises of a teenager.

Bunting visited Sarasota a week before Christmas, a move that impressed Livingston and his family.

Although nothing can be certain until the culmination of national signing day (Feb. 5), it appears that UNC has weathered the storm of an Edwards' visit to Gainesville. And Livingston, well, his commitment remains seemingly as firm as the day Michael Jordan nailed his infamous game-winner versus Georgetown in 1982.

His mother's ties to North Carolina and love for Tar Heel athletics cannot be underestimated as a factor in his decision. She admired Jordan in his UNC playing days and has been a huge Carolina fan ever since.

"When Carolina came into the picture, I think it struck a nerve with her," Perkins said. The Livingston's also have family members residing in Charlotte, Fayetteville and Asheville.

"Me personally, I always liked Michigan growing up," Livingston said. "My mom liked North Carolina, because we have a lot of family there and she knows it's a great academic school."

The Tar Heels' obvious needs on the defensive front should make the concept of early playing time realistic for Livingston. However when he first arrives in Chapel Hill, he must make the acquaintance of UNC strength coach Jeff Connors and his staff.

"They told me to be in very good condition," Livingston said. "I guess they know I can play, but they want me to be in shape. I look forward to training, because I'm always looking to make myself better and get ready for the next level."

A nice guy, Livingston may just need to toughen up a little more on the inside. On the outside, he appears to be ready to contribute.

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