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National Recruiting Report | UNC Rising?

March 1, 2019

Just about every year the recruiting rankings are dominated by the same schools. Maybe one exception will sneak into the top-15 every few cycles, but for the most part it’s the same group year after year, with only the order slightly changing.

The exception in 2016 was Ole Miss (we know why). In this most recent cycle it was Oregon. If there’s going to be one for 2020, the best guess would be North Carolina.

It might seem a bit crazy considering who they just hired as a head coach. They say recruiting is a young man’s game and Mack Brown is not close to being a young man. The surprise hire of this offseason, Brown is going to be 68 in August and hasn’t coached since 2013.

He had a pretty nice gig as an analyst for ABC every Saturday, he’s won a national title, and his name was never mentioned as a someone athletic directors were reaching out to the past six years. It sure seemed like he was retired from coaching whether he wanted to be or not.

The answer for him was “or not” because he clearly wanted to get back into coaching and North Carolina, where he coached for 10 seasons prior to leaving for Texas, wanted him. From the outside, it seems like the kind of hire that is destined to not work because of Brown’s age and his time away from coaching.

We’ll have to wait and see how things go when they start playing games, but Brown has helped UNC put together a great start to their recruiting class. Three of their six commitments are 4-star prospects and it’s currently a top-15 class in the country.

While it’s way too early for any Carolina fans to get excited about that possibility, the one thing Brown continued to do until the end at Texas was sign highly touted recruiting classes. His 2012 class finished second to only Alabama. Maybe it’s not outlandish to believe he can sign UNC’s first top-10 class since 2007.

He has former Texas assistant Tim Brewster on his staff and he’s been a top recruiter for almost two decades. Brown lured Phil Longo away from Ole Miss to run his offense and Jay Bateman from Army to run his defense too. They might not have the same recruiting track record as Brewster, but they have on-field success to sell with what they have done at their previous schools.

Throw in Jordan brand combined with a strong year in-state for blue-chip prospects and North Carolina has the best chance out of any program to be that surprise team to pull off not just start with a top-15 class, but finish with one.

Who knows if Brown can win on the field, but even if he fails in that aspect, he still might be the kind of coach who leaves a bunch of raw talent for the next guy to work with.

On to other stray thoughts on national recruiting…

- If you haven’t listened to our new weekly recruiting podcast (focused specifically on Notre Dame recruiting), please check it out. We’re just getting started on there and if you have listened, hopefully you have enjoyed it so far.

I’m plugging the podcast because Christian briefly mentioned that it’s a stronger year than usual in Massachusetts. It’s something several Power 5 programs have taken notice of, including Notre Dame. The Irish have offered four prospects from the state. They sent out zero offers to anyone in the state in 2019.

Overall the New England area might not be known for prep football, but there are eight 4-star prospects from those surrounding states in this cycle. Last year there were only four.

Notre Dame has a commitment from one of them (quarterback Drew Pyne) and with players like AJ Dillon (Massachusetts) and Christian Wilkins (Connecticut) becoming college football stars, it’s definitely an area where programs who recruit nationally are keeping a closer eye on.

- The NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah put out his updated top-50 prospects before the start of the NFL combine.

10 of the 50 were 5-stars. 16 of them were 4-stars.

When you consider that there are a couple of thousands of recruits going on to play college football every year and only about 350 or so of them are 4-stars or above, that’s actually a pretty great percentage for recruiting peeps to brag about.

At the same time Jeremiah’s top-50 brings up a problem with a lot of recruiting analysis. The focus is on the top guys and the ones who are in the middle to the bottom can easily get grouped to together.

That’s why there are so many misses each year by the recruiting services. 16 of the 50 did not rank in the top-650 recruits in their recruiting cycle. An even more astonishing 13 of those 16 didn’t break into the top-1000 in the rankings, which means that 13 players who are considered top prospects by the NFL were considered afterthoughts as recruits.

A lot of those guys were considered afterthoughts by Power 5 schools as well so it’s not the like recruiting staffs are finding these guys at a greater rate either, but this has been something I’ve been thinking about for a long time.

A lot of good players don’t receive an accurate grade each cycle. It might be a time issue with ranking the top guys and not watching the lower ranked guys as much. It might be that there just isn’t enough eyes dedicated to watching that amount of players. It’s just a fact that really good players slip through the cracks every year.

Starting next week I’ll throw in some thoughts each week on a lower rated recruit who isn’t being looked at by the Ohio State’s of the world, but maybe should be getting more looks from Power 5 programs.

- LSU and Alabama are tied with the most commitments in their class with 11.

LSU had six players decommit in their previous class. Alabama had five. LSU has had one decommit in their 2020 class already and Alabama has had two.

The lead pipe lock of the year in recruiting is that the both of these programs aren’t going to end up with the current 11 they have committed by the time we get to next February.

(Update after I finished writing this: DL Jaquelin Roy‍ decomitted from LSU last night. Should’ve got that fake bet in before I published)

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