College Sports

Mack Brown’s first recruiting class was a success. What it says about UNC football’s future.

When Mack Brown was hired to coach North Carolina football in late November, he had to move fast.

The early signing period was less than a month away, when most of the 2019 recruits would decide where they were going. The Tar Heels’ recruiting class was ranked at the bottom of the ACC, and at one point, 63rd in the country by 247Sports. Excitement surrounding the program had been low under the previous coaching staff.

Over the next few weeks, Brown and his staff traveled the state. They talked to high school coaches, new recruits, those who had previously committed, and made their pitch. They wanted to take control of the state and keep North Carolina players here.

So far so good.

By the early signing period, UNC had signed 19 players — including two four star prospects and the No. 2 player in the state, quarterback Sam Howell.

Since then, Brown has signed five more players to cap a successful recruiting class that was in danger of falling behind and setting UNC football back at least a year.

According to 247Sports, UNC has the 32nd ranked recruiting class in the country, and the Tar Heels are ranked sixth out of 14 teams in the ACC. That is higher than Duke and Wake Forest and one spot below N.C. State.

In-state success

Ten of UNC’s 24 recruits are from North Carolina, a number Brown says will “go up significantly.” It is the largest number of in-state recruits to sign with UNC since 2011, when 13 of the Tar Heels’ 24 recruits were in-state players.

”We signed a better class than I would have ever dreamed,” Brown said Wednesday. “That first night I sat here and said ‘oh my gosh, we’re so far behind it’s amazing.’”

The Tar Heels have even gotten a head start on the 2020 recruiting class and are currently ranked 18th in the country.

The Tar Heels lose six key defensive starters and rotational players, who were seniors, mostly on the defensive line. To replace them, UNC added two linebackers, four defensive backs, five defensive linemen, four wide receivers, four offensive linemen, one quarterback, one running back, one tight end and two specialists.

Four of the 24 prospects were rated four stars, 18 three-star prospects and two, two-star prospects.

New foundation

The Tar Heels haven’t had a recruiting class fall outside the top 35 since the 2012 season. While the majority of the players in this class likely won’t contribute next year, it does set the foundation for the team in two or three years and beyond. It will be Brown and his staff’s job to develop those players.

The Tar Heels finished 2-9 last season, but in many of those games were a few plays away from winning. Of the nine games the Tar Heels lost, seven came by 10 points or less. In three of those games, they held a lead or tied it in the fourth quarter.

Because of that, coupled with Brown’s track record, expectations for the Tar Heels will be high.

“I’m looking for really good things to come, and come very quickly,” UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham said at Brown’s introductory press conference.

Brown went from 1-10 in his first season at UNC in 1988 to 10-1 in his final season in 1997. He then helped turn a struggling Texas Longhorns’ program around and won a national championship in his eighth season. He believes he can do that at UNC too.

If the past is any indication for the future, the Tar Heels appear primed for success.

National Signing Day additions

1. Wisdom Asaboro - DL, 6-7, 280 pounds, Charlotte, N.C., Covenant Day, three-star prospect

2. Don Chapman - DB, 5-11, 185 pounds, San Diego, Calif., Lincoln, three-star prospect

3. Ty Murray - OL, 6-2, 330 pounds, Carrollton, Ga. Carrollton, three-star prospect

4. Raymond Vohasek - DL, 6-3, 280 pounds, McHenry, Ill., College of Dupage, three-star prospect

5. Eugene Asante - LB, 6-1, 212 pounds, Chantilly, Va., Westfield, four-star prospect

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Jonathan M. Alexander has been covering the North Carolina Tar Heels since May 2018. He previously covered Duke basketball and recruiting in the ACC. He is an alumnus of N.C. Central University.
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