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Heel Tough Blog: 2022 Early Signing Day Recap

Wednesday was the culmination of the Tar Heels most successful recruiting cycle in the modern recruiting era, as the team signed a top ten class according to each of the major recruiting outlets. The class is headlined by two 5✮ prospects, one on each side of the trenches, and has twelve players that are rated inside of the top 500 players according to the 247Sports Composite team rankings. Here is a breakdown of the early signing class that the Tar Heels signed on Wednesday morning.

Class Rankings

247Sports- Overall: No. 8 | ACC: No. 1

Rivals- Overall: No. 8 | ACC: No. 1

ESPN- Overall: No. 10 | ACC: No. 1

On3- Overall: No. 8 | ACC: No. 1

5DL Travis Shaw- Grimsley (Greensboro, NC)

247Sports: No. 10 overall, No. 4 DL

Rivals: No. 3 overall, No. 2 DT

ESPN: No. 20 overall, No. 3 DT

On3: No. 18 overall, No. 4 DL

Composite: No. 4 overall, No. 2 DL

Shaw is the complete player that the Tar Heels have been searching for in the middle of the defense. His athleticism for a player of his size is extremely impressive and feeds into his versatility that allows him to play all over the defensive line and even stand up at points to rush the passer. That ability to get after the quarterback translates when he takes snaps at the nose tackle spot and makes him the complete nose tackle that the Tar Heels want in the middle of their defense. He has a nice mix of violence and technicality to his game and he does a great job using his long arms to his advantage. His ability to constantly get his hands up to make passes difficult for quarterbacks is something you love to see, especially for as much as he gets double teamed and he has a quick release off of the line of scrimmage. He is an extremely smart player and does a good job of combining that with the athleticism to wreak havoc in opponents backfields. Barring something shocking Shaw will have a chance to earn a major role for this team early in the middle of the defensive line.

5OT Zach Rice- Liberty Christian Academy (Lynchburg, VA)

247Sports: No. 18 overall, No. 3 OT

Rivals: No. 22 overall, No. 3 OT

ESPN: No. 13 overall, No. 3 OT

On3: No. 14 overall, No. 2 OT

Composite: No. 11 overall, No. 1 OT

The Tar Heels are in desperate need of offensive line help and Rice has the traits of an elite prospect who can help them in that area. He is a pancake machine that constantly rag dolls defenders with a powerful upper body and hands. He combines that with a strong lower body that allows him to drive defenders down field or plant them into the ground. He is a very good pass protector because of his excellent footwork and lateral movement. He handles the quicker and twitcher pass rushers at a high level because of his athleticism that can also be witnessed on the basketball court. He is a guy that provides position versatility with his size and skillset. Offensive linemen usually take some time to earn reps, but this young man is talented enough that he could fight for reps as a true freshman next season.

4WR Andre Greene Jr.- St. Christopher’s School (Richmond, VA)

247Sports: No. 84 overall, No. 12 WR

Rivals: No. 37 overall, No. 4 WR

ESPN: No. 100 overall, No. 11 WR

On3: No. 89 overall, No. 11 WR

Composite: No. 65 overall, No. 8 WR

Greene is exactly what the Tar Heels need to add to this wide receiving corps right now. The team is currently lacking that player that can consistently win the 50/50 balls and that is what Greene has done best at the high school. On film, he is constantly making plays in the red zone, which the Tar Heels are in need of in the red zone passing game. His big frame helps that, as do his reliable hands and he does a tremendous job of high pointing the football even with defenders draped on him. His film is littered with one-handed grabs, showing off his great concentration and ability to simply make tough catches. He does a good job of winning off the line of scrimmage and he has good speed in large part due to his long strides. He is a perfect fit for what this Tar Heel receiving corps needs right now.

4RB George Pettaway- Nansemond-Suffolk Academy (Suffolk, VA)

247Sports: No. 148 overall, No. 10 RB

Rivals: No. 113 overall, No. 6 RB

ESPN: No. 105 overall, No. 8 RB

On3: No. 147 overall, No. 10 RB

Composite: No. 110 overall, No. 8 RB

Pettaway is a great compliment to the edgy running style that they are getting with the other running back commit the team in this class. He has some of the best speed and acceleration of any commit that the Tar Heels have had in the backfield in recent years and he accelerates in the open field in the snap of a finger. His speed can usually get the job done for him against the competition that he faces, but he does have the shiftiness to his game that allows him to make people miss when he puts a foot in the ground and changes directions and his 2019 film is full of clips with him making countless defenders miss in the open field. He also has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and run some pretty solid routes from behind the line of scrimmage. There isn’t much of a physical edge to his game, but that is something that his fellow classmate brings plenty of physicality to the room in this class. Pettaway is a dynamic threat out of the backfield and should fit this offensive scheme like a glove.

4LB Sebastian Cheeks- Evanston Township (Evanston, IL)

247Sports: No. 174 overall, No. 14 LB

Rivals: No. 120 overall, No. 8 OLB

ESPN: No. 159 overall, No. 17 OLB

On3: No. 114 overall, No. 10 LB

Composite: No. 139 overall, No. 12 LB

Cheeks looks like he will be a great fit at linebacker for this Jay Bateman defensive system. His play speed on film is simply fantastic, as he is able to cover sideline-to-sideline no problem and is a problem for offensive lineman when he is in space. There is a lot to like about the way that he plays in space, both as a tackler and in coverage and he always seems to find himself around the football. At 6’3, 210 lbs., he fits the mold of the versatile inside linebackers that the Tar Heels are wanting in the system and should have to add much weight to be able to come in and play some sort of role early. The depth here isn’t as strong as it is at other positions right now either, so there is a legitimate chance that Cheeks could come in and establish some sort of rotational role early on based on the talent and skill set that he brings to the table.

4RB Omarion Hampton- Cleveland (Clayton, NC)

247Sports: No. 151 overall, No. 11 RB

Rivals: No. 131 overall, No. 8 RB

ESPN: No. 180 overall, No. 15 RB

On3: No. 163 overall, No. 11 RB

Composite: No. 142 overall, No. 12 RB

Hampton has drawn some comparisons to Javonte Williams and his film backs that up. He runs with a physical edge and he will be able to thrive primarily as a one-cut back, similar to the way that Williams did in his time on campus. He might not be the fastest running back in the class, but he has some nice acceleration and straight-line speed in his arsenal. He only caught three passes out of the backfield this past season, but he caught fourteen passes in 2019 and that seems like an area where he is capable of contributing at the college level. The fact that he plays the defensive side of the football, just like Williams did at the high school level, should allow him to have success as a pass protector. He has the skill set to have an early impact at running back and his special teams ability could also allow him to make a contribution early if he couldn’t climb the depth chart when he arrives to campus.

4WR Tychaun Chapman- Landstown (Virginia Beach, VA)

247Sports: No. 175 overall, No. 31 WR

Rivals: No. N/A overall, No. 15 APB

ESPN: No. 55 overall, No. 5 WR

On3: No. 137 overall, No. 26 WR

Composite: No. 174 overall, No. 27 WR

Chapman adds some great depth for the Tar Heels in the slot that is already extremely talented. He is the definition of shifty, as he can change directions so quickly is truly mind-blowing and when he hits top speed, he is almost impossible to catch. His route running ability appears to be strong on tape, something that isn’t shocking with how good his footwork is in the open field. That route running ability allows him to create plenty of separation, something that is important to do out of the slot, especially in this Tar Heel offense. His skill set will also make him a great fit on the Tar Heel special teams unit as a returner, duties he handled as a freshman, but did not appear to handle as a sophomore.

4CB Tayon Holloway- Green Run (Virginia Beach, VA)

247Sports: No. 178 overall, No. 25 CB

Rivals: No. 209 overall, No. 21 CB

ESPN: No. 233 overall, No. 29 CB

On3: No. 201 overall, No. 25 CB

Composite: No. 194 overall, No. 24 CB

Holloway is exactly what the Tar Heels need at a position that is in need of some talented depth. Holloway’s coverage skills fit exactly what the Tar Heels want in their defensive backs and he comes from a high school system that is almost exclusively man-coverage. Holloway has the tackling ability to handle playing nickel, but he has the hips and ball skills to thrive on the outside, as well. He’s not the fastest player in terms of straight line speed, but that doesn’t seem to hinder him that much at all. This is a tremendous addition to this class for the Tar Heels.

4EDGE Malaki Hamrick- Shelby (Shelby, NC)

247Sports: No. 136 overall, No. 11 EDGE

Rivals: No. N/A overall, No. 21 OLB

ESPN: No. 237 overall, No. 23 OLB

On3: No. 214 overall, No. 21 LB

Composite: No. 196 overall, No. 15 EDGE

Hamrick is a phenomenal straight line pass rusher at the high school level and with his production, it’s hard to see him not having a chance to succeed at the college level as well in this Jay Bateman system. His speed and quick release off the line of scrimmage will make him tough for slower offensive tackles to get their hands on and he uses his finesse moves well to navigate past the ones that can get their hands on him. Although he will have to add some weight if he wants to succeed at the edge rusher position that we think he will play with the Tar Heels, he has already shown that he doesn’t mind playing with a physical edge which does allow to help in run defense. He has really good length, something the Tar Heels like to have at that edge rusher position, so the only real area where there is concern is with his weight. The interesting thing to note is that he did play a more traditional linebacker role at times this season and with his size, a transition to inside linebacker might not be the worst move for him in this defense. Hamrick is yet another talented edge rusher that looks to be part of the evolution of the Tar Heel pass rush.

4CB Marcus Allen- Walton (Marietta, GA)

247Sports: No. N/A overall, No. 46 CB

Rivals: No. N/A overall, No. 38 CB

ESPN: No. 201 overall, No. 23 CB

On3: No. 319 overall, No. 35 CB

Composite: No. 270 overall, No. 32 CB

Allen is a valuable member of this class as part of a defensive backfield that is looking for improvement moving forward. For one, there is some versatility to his game that could make him a flexible option in the Tar Heel secondary. He has very good closing speed and instincts that allow him to make plays on the football and is a good enough open field tackler that he could get the job done at safety. However, he did succeed most on the outside as a 6’2, 170 lbs. corner his first two varsity seasons, in large part because of his strong man coverage skills and ability to get in and out of breaks smoothly, traits that the Tar Heels value in their corners in their current defensive system. He has good play speed, as well, as he doesn’t beat over the top easily and can recover if he does. Allen has shown that he can bring special teams value in all areas, especially on field goal and punt defense units. He might not be quite as ready to step in on day one and produce like some of other Tar Heels uncommitted targets, but he has a chance to be a really solid corner or safety for the team over time.

4EDGE Beau Atkinson- Leesville Road (Raleigh, NC)

247Sports: No. N/A overall, No. 25 EDGE

Rivals: No. 142 overall, No. 13 SDE

ESPN: No. N/A overall, No. 53 DE

On3: No. 333 overall, No. 26 EDGE

Composite: No. 278 overall, No. 18 EDGE

Atkinson is the definition of a high motor guy. He plays every play with the same intensity as the last and has no problem chasing down plays from behind. He has a quick, smooth release off the line which allows him to establish leverage and combines that with solid speed, making him a terror for slower tackles. If tackles are able to handle him off the line of scrimmage, he has the physicality needed to still make plays and does a good job of shedding tackles. He has the size to make an immediate impact on the edge at 6’6, 240 lbs., especially if he enrolls early and can add to that frame. He’s not the most technical pass rusher, an area he will likely have to improve in against stronger, faster offensive tackles. Other than that, there is a lot to like about this extremely talented pass rusher.

3EDGE Bryson Jennings- Clover Hill (Midlothian, VA)

247Sports: No. N/A overall, No. 30 EDGE

Rivals: No. N/A overall, No. 26 SDE

ESPN: No. N/A overall, No. 58 DE

On3: No. 430 overall, No. 37 EDGE

Composite: No. 432 overall, No. 31 EDGE

Jennings is an exciting player who will be a great complement to the Tar Heels other two edge rushers in the class. At 6’6, 240 lbs. Jennings has nice length off the edge and his 4.53 speed off the edge is impressive. That speed is unofficial, but he has great play speed that allows him to beat tackles consistently and cover sideline-to-sideline and rack up those sacks and tackles for loss. He will not only have a good chance to win a lot of 1-on-1 battles against tackles and tight ends, but will also be a valuable asset on the edge in run defense. That speed combines with his quick release off the line of scrimmage that allows him to put himself in a good spot early in reps. He doesn’t often have to shed blocks and it is not the strength of his game, but it is something that certainly can be seen in flashes on tape. He does utilize the finesse moves well, though, and that should be a big part of his technique at the college level as well. He may have to add a little bit of size when he arrives, but there is a ton to be encouraged about with Jennings.

3ATH Will Hardy- Greater Atlanta Christian School (Norcross, GA)

247Sports: No. N/A overall, No. 40 ATH

Rivals: No. N/A overall, No.46 S

ESPN: No. N/A overall, No. 59 S

On3: No. 680 overall, No. 73 ATH

Composite: No. 566 overall, No. 39 ATH

Hardy was a very nice cherry on top for this loaded class. His speed is outstanding and allows him to cover space quickly which results in plenty of tackles for loss and some nice plays on the football. He is a tremendous open field tackler and that speed makes him difficult to block in open space. He also has really good range in coverage which allows him to cover a lot of space in his zone and create turnovers. He will need to add a little bit to his slender frame, especially if he is wanting to play in the box, but he has the skillset to play either safety spot in this Tar Heel defense. His ability to create turnovers will also be more than welcome in this defense that did a better job of creating turnovers this season than the first two years under Jay Bateman, but is still looking for more consistent production there, especially from their safeties. Even if it takes him time to make an impact as a safety, Hardy brings plenty of special teams value, especially as a member of the field goal block unit after he blocked three field goals this season alone. This a very underrated pick up for Tar Heels who’s lone remaining need in this class was a true safety.

3OT Trevyon Green- Life Christian Academy (Colonial Heights, VA)

247Sports: No. N/A overall, No. 114 OT

Rivals: No. N/A overall, No. 56 OT

ESPN: No. N/A overall, No. 30 OG

On3: No. 752 overall, No. 48 OT

Composite: No. 728 overall, No.60 OT

Green has completely redone his body from a couple of years ago, but it’s hard to imagine, though, that certain aspects of his game will just disappear, starting with his physicality. Green, who plays primarily guard at the high school level despite being listed as a tackle on recruiting websites, is the definition of a mauler, as he uses the combination of his size and powerful hands to constantly knockdown defensive linemen on film. He may not be the most athletic offensive lineman, but for someone of his size, he moves extremely well and that should only improve as he settles into his new frame. At 6’7, squattier and quicker defensive linemen will always have the potential to cause him issues, but the Tar Heels, even under the previous regime, have liked the taller lineman and have been able to eliminate these concerns. His footwork is also very strong, another promising sign when it comes to what Green could eventually be at the college level. There is definitely a developmental aspect that will go into his college career due to his weight change, but the extra year was a big benefit and there is a lot of potential here.

3QB Conner Harrell- Thompson (Alabaster, AL)

247Sports: No. N/A overall, No. 40 QB

Rivals: No. N/A overall, No. 10 DUAL

ESPN: No. N/A overall, No. 23 QB-DT

On3: No. 554 overall, No. 31 QB

Composite: No. 762 overall, No. 42 QB

He shows very strong pocket awareness, sliding up in the pockets constantly to be able to make plays and uses his scrambling ability to extend plays, as well. He has a cannon for an arm that allows him to make quick accurate throws at all levels and his ball placement on his passes allow him to place throws into tight windows. His deep ball looked better and better as his career went along and the deep ball accuracy is strong there. His footwork was solid, but was the one aspect of his game that was thrown off a bit at times when he was under pressure. There are a lot of things to like about Harrell’s game and he seems like a guy who will be able to come in and compete in the Tar Heels’ loaded quarterback room.

3LB Deuce Caldwell- Mauldin (Mauldin, SC)

247Sports: No. N/A overall, No. 74 LB

Rivals: No. N/A overall, No. N/A OLB

ESPN: No. N/A overall, No. 46 OLB

On3: No. 634 overall, No. 67 LB

Composite: No. 873 overall, No. 83 LB

Caldwell might not be the highest rated player in this class, but he is a really good fit in this defensive scheme. He is a high motor guy with a nose for the football and he combines that with very solid tackling ability. He has good, but not great speed and will have to add to his frame in the weight room if he wants to stick at linebacker. He does have the sideline-to-sideline ability to thrive at inside linebacker, though, and he is a very solid open field tackler. He also looked good in the limited coverage snaps this past fall, as well, showing fluid hips, something that was more well documented in his sophomore films, as were his ball skills. There is a lot to like about Caldwell’s game even though it may not be as flashy as guys like RaRa Dillworth or Power Echols from this past recruiting class and he looks like a guy that could take a little time to make an impact, but that fits Bateman’s versatile defense very well.

3OT Justin Kanyuk- Bethlehem Catholic (Bethlehem, PA)

247Sports: No. N/A overall, No. 87 OT

Rivals: No. N/A overall, No. N/A OT

ESPN: No. N/A overall, No. 86 OT

On3: No. 1096 overall, No. 94 IOL

Composite: No. 1079 overall, No. 102 OT

Kanyuk’s ratings may not blow you away, but his film shows that there is definitely a reason behind the Tar Heels decision to extend him an offer. First off, he possesses great size already at 6’5, 290 lbs. and has some very solid athleticism, as well. He loves the physicality in the trenches and uses his heavy hands to his advantage. He is also pretty sound technically with his good hand placement and solid footwork. The biggest concern with him has to be his level of competition, which judging by his tape is far from the best in the country. Still, he provides some position flexibility and is said to be the name from this class that the team is looking at as the future at center. He is a guy who will be looked at as a work in progress, but he does have value in this class.


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