NC Shrine Bowl Notebook

Spartanburg, S.C.- After trailing 13-6 at halftime, North Carolina proceeded to dominate the second half of the 75th annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas. The Tar Heels outscored the Sandlappers of South Carolina 20-6 in the second half and went on to win 26-19. Below are news and notes from the weekend.

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Todd Gurley (6'1/209) took home offensive MVP honors for the Tar Heels. The Tarboro running back carried the ball 19 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Gurley also had an 94 yard touchdown run called back in the first half, due to a holding penalty. On the recruiting front, not much has changed for the four-star running back. Clemson, Georgia, North Carolina, and North Carolina State are all still in the mix. Some people think Clemson has moved to the top of his list, but Gurley insists all four are even. One thing that may change is a decision date. For months, Scout's No. 14 running back has said he would make his decision at the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl on January 3. However, it appears he will make his decision at his high school later that month.

Jonathan Bullard (6'4/260) showed why he recently became a five-star prospect. He finished with three tackles, two sacks, and pressured the quarterback on numerous occasions. I have said all along that he would eventually commit to Florida, but a source close to him told me that he thinks Bullard will end up at Clemson. His relationship with Carlos Watkins was evident all weekend and may help the Tigers secure his commitment. After the game, he stated he was 70 percent sure of where he would be playing next fall. He was supposed to make his decision on Wednesday at 2:45, but has now pushed the announcement back. South Carolina, Florida, and Clemson are his final three.

Jela Duncan (5'10/190) also went over the century mark rushing on Saturday. The Mallard Creek product had seven carries for 112 yards and a touchdown. Duncan ran extremely hard and punished defenders all day. He has three official visits scheduled. The three-star prospect will visit Wake Forest (Jan. 6-8), East Carolina (Jan. 13-15), and Duke (Jan. 20-22). Duncan will also visit North Carolina or Alabama the last weekend in January. Both schools have started to show an increased interest in the Charlotte running back. He is also considering Purdue, a school where he took his first official visit to back in October. Duncan claims he does not have a leader and will wait and make his decision on signing day.

Jamal Marcus (6'2/225) looked like he had been playing outside linebacker for years on Saturday. He spent nearly his entire high school career playing defensive end, but seems to be comfortable playing in space. Marcus is an explosive athlete with a great motor. He had three tackles, one quarterback hurry, and two pass break-ups. One of the most underrated players in the state, Marcus, appears to be locked in on four schools. Ohio State, Florida, North Carolina, and East Carolina are all in contention for his services. He will take an official visit to East Carolina (Jan. 13-15), Florida (Jan. 20-22), and possibly Ohio State (Jan. 27-29).

Jamel Harbison (5'11/180) was extremely impressive, racking up 155 return yards. The Minnesota commit gave North Carolina a huge lift in the second quarter, returning a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown. Although he is committed to the Golden Gophers, he will take and official visit to Vanderbilt (Jan.27-29). He said he is 90 percent committed, but I would not count out the Commodores.

Clemson commit Carlos Watkins (6'4/280) was a big reason why South Carolina only managed 40 yards rushing. He had a couple of tackles for loss and manhandled blockers on several occasions. Watkins also lined up at H-Back and was a lead blocker on a few key plays. He is firmly committed to Clemson, but said he may take some visits before signing day.

Another Clemson pledge, Germone Hopper (6'/170), had two huge kickoff returns and blocked a punt. Hopper will take his official to Clemson (Jan.13-15) and will not visit anywhere else.

I thought D.J. Reader (6'3/307) played well. The Greensboro star is down to Maryland, Clemson, and North Carolina. He will visit Clemson (Jan 20-22) and North Carolina (Jan. 27-29). For what it's worth, I talked to a person very close to Reader and he mentioned D.J had formed a strong relationship with North Carolina's offensive line coach Sam Pittman. With a new staff, this may or may not be a significant factor in Reader's final decision. I believe he will choose between North Carolina and Clemson on signing day.

Jordan-Matthews linebacker Martin Munn (5'11/200) came to Spartanburg virtually unknown, but left Saturday with the North Carolina defensive MVP trophy. Munn, an undersized linebacker, had 5 tackles and two tackles for loss. He has picked up offers from Wingate, Lenior Rhyne, and UNC-Pembroke. He will officially visit Pembroke (Jan.13-15) and possibly Elon the following weekend.

South Carolina commit Jody Fuller (5'11/200) said he is firm with the Gamecocks, but will take some official visits. He is going to East Carolina (Jan.13-15). He also mentioned Tennessee and South Florida as possible visits.

Nortavious Otis (5'10/170) had 7 tackles, one tackle for lost, one forced fumble, and an interception. Otis is still looking for his first offer and Saturday's performance should help his cause. He is hearing from North Carolina, Appalachian State, East Carolina, Wofford, Lenior Rhyne, and Furman. His older brother plays for the Tar Heels.

Austin Duke (5'9/160) is small, but extremely quick. He had two catches for 23 yards and a nice punt return. The Independence wide receiver has offers Elon, Catawba, and UNC-Charlotte. UNC-Charlotte is his leader.

Visiting Future Homes

Romeo Okwara (6'5/235) will take his official visit to Notre Dame (Jan.20-22).

Anthony Rook (6'4/235) will take his trip to Wake Forest (Jan. 13-15).

Dan Belinson (6'5/235) will visit Duke (Jan. 20-22).

Final Thoughts

N.C. State commit M.J. Salahuddin (6'3/200) played extremely well. He had six tackles, one of which was for loss.

Keilin Rayner (6'3/230) is still considering North Carolina, East Carolina, Duke, Clemson, and South Carolina. However, he also mentioned Ohio State. He said he would like to take an official visit to Columbus sometime in January.

The weekend of January 13 looks to be a big one for East Carolina. Jamal Marcus, Jody Fuller, Jela Duncan, Keilin Rayner, and Dre Scarborough (commit) will likely be in Greenville for their official visits.

Although he struggled with his field goal duties, Clemson commit Bradley Pinion (6'5/200) is a big-time talent. He had several terrific punts and nearly all his kickoffs ended up in the end zone.

Notre Dame commit Mark Harrell (6'5/270) is being recruited to play offensive tackle, but spent Saturday playing guard. He had a strong performance and is incredibly athletic for his size. He was a big reason why North Carolina was able to rush for 260 yards.

North Carolina was able to win Saturday without five of the state's top players. Keith Marshall, D.J. Humphries, Brock Stadnik, Rhaheim Ledbetter, and Nick Dawson did not participate in the game. The class of 2012 is strong in North Carolina and next year should be no different.

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