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Heel Tough Blog: Attention Shifts as Early Signing Period Closes

Updated: Dec 26, 2019

The early signing period came to a close on Friday, with all 25 of the Tar Heels early signees signing their letter of intent on Wednesday afternoon. With the early signing period now in the books, the focus turns to what is expected to be a quiet late signing period and what will be an exciting 2021 cycle. Here’s an extensive look at the some of the names to watch for with the top three late signing period targets and the ten most important targets in 2021 class for the Tar Heels as they shift their focus.

2020 Late Signing Period

With 25 commits signing in the early signing period, most of the team’s needs have been addressed to this point. However, if the Tar Heels were to add anybody else, here’s a look at who they might go after.

Transfer DT

This seems like the one area that the Tar Heels might want to sure up, with both Aaron Crawford and Brant Lawless-Sherrill gone next year. There are a ton of names that are available, but a couple in particular stick out. Former Maryland DT Brandon Gaddy visited Carolina during his recruitment back in 2016 and hales from an area the Tar Heels would like to establish a recruiting footprint in, the Tidewater area of Virginia. Another interesting name to keep an eye on is a guy that was recruited by defensive coordinator Jay Bateman during his original recruitment. While former Vanderbilt defensive tackle Josiah Sa’o doesn’t have a ton of experience, he has the size and was clearly a fit for Bateman’s scheme back at Army. He could be a nice fit as a rotational piece for the Tar Heels and provide some competition for sophomore Jahlil Taylor and early signee Clyde Pinder Jr.. Other names to possibly keep an eye on if they were to go in this direction are former Stanford defensive tackle Bo Peek and former Virginia Tech defensive tackle Robert Porcher IV.

Transfer OT

This is less of a need than the above mentioned defensive tackle spot, as Jordan Tucker looks capable of handling the move over to left tackle and depth at the position, while unproven, is still in decent shape. This seems like one the staff would wait until spring to address, especially if a starter doesn’t emerge by the end of spring practice. If they were to address it early, though, there are some interesting names that would be worth taking a look at. The best option would likely be former Ole Miss tackle Bryce Matthews, who played in Longo’s system for two years with the Rebels. He fits the system that Longo runs and his familiarity with the system would be a big boost and give him the chance to focus on just competing. There are some other names that may eventually emerge, but if the Tar Heels were to pursue a transfer here, Matthews seems like he would be the favorite.

3WDE Stephen Sings- Vance (Charlotte, NC)

The defensive line is still a work in progress depth-wise and while the staff did a solid job of addressing that in this class, adding one more piece would not be a bad idea at all. Sings, who was committed to Virginia Tech before reopening his commitment back in late October, is one of the few offered prospects that remains uncommitted and could be a nice addition at a RUSH end position that still lacks the necessary depth. The Tar Heels won’t add much, if anything, late in 2020 class, but Sings could be worth a good look.

2021 Targets

While there will still be some focus on the 2020 class, the bulk of the attention will shift to a loaded 2021 class that the staff has already established some solid roots with. Let’s take a look at the ten most important target for the Tar Heels in the 2021 class.

1. 4ILB Power Echols- Vance (Charlotte, NC)

Inside linebacker will be a major need once again in the 2021 class, especially with Chazz Surratt guaranteed to depart after the 2020 season comes to a close. Echols is a special talent at linebacker with his great speed and acceleration and sideline-to-sideline ability. He could come in and make an immediate impact for the Tar Heels if the staff can find a way to reel him in.

2. 4WR Gavin Blackwell- Sun Valley (Monroe, NC)

Another need in the 2021 class will be the wide receiver position, with Dazz Newsome, Beau Corrales and Rontavius Groves all scheduled to graduate and Dyami Brown being eligible to enter the NFL Draft. Blackwell is one of the highest rated wide receivers in the class for a reason and his relationship with Howell can’t be overlooked. The sure-handed receiver who has the size and ability to play on the outside or in the slot, meaning he should be one of the team’s top priorities in the 2021 cycle.

3. 5DT Payton Page- Dudley (Greensboro, NC)

The highest rated player in the state in the 2021 class will be a big focus for the Tar Heels in the upcoming cycle. With Jahlil Taylor and Clyde Pinder Jr. scheduled to return, defensive tackle isn’t as crucial of a need as it became in the 2020 class, but this is a rare talent that could anchor the defensive line from the nose tackle position. Holding off Clemson won’t be easy, but this should be a major focus for Mack Brown and his staff over the next few months.

4. 4WDE Naquan Brown- Ocean Lakes (Virginia Beach, VA)

The depth at outside linebacker, especially the RUSH end position, remains thin. Brown fits that RUSH end spot perfectly with his combination of athleticism and relentless pass rushing ability. There are plenty of other targets for the Tar Heels at this position in the 2021 class, but Brown is the most purely talented of the group.

5. 3SDE Keeshawn Silver- Rocky Mount (Rocky Mount, NC)

Silver has been to campus rather often over the past couple of seasons and now he’ll be one of the main focuses for the Tar Heels. He has the size that would fit best at that RUSH end position and is another player who’s athleticism would be welcomed at the position.

6. 4SDE Jahvaree Ritzie- Glenn (Kernersville, NC)

One of the other prospects that the staff has established an early connection with, Ritzie should be another highly valued prospect in this class. The Tar Heels are in good shape at the 4i-tech spots depthwise, but the talent is still lacking a bit, so this would be a very welcome addition.

7. 3OT Andrew Canelas- Leesville Road (Raleigh, NC)

One of the best offensive linemen in the state, the Tar Heels have established themselves as one of the top contenders for Canelas. While the depth here is solid, you can never have too many offensive linemen in place and Canelas’ athleticism makes him a nice fit for this offense.

8. 4RB Evan Pryor- Hough (Cornelius, NC)

The Tar Heels are loaded at the running back position, but you can’t pass up talent, especially when you have made a great early impression with. Pryor is a dynamic threat out of the backfield and would be a nice edition if the Tar Heels can build on the early momentum they already have.

9. 4ATH Gabe Stephens- Mountain Island Charter (Mount Holly, NC)

Stephens has been frequent visitor to Chapel Hill over the past year and has only taken a visit to one other school during that time. There is reason to believe that the Tar Heels have a significant advantage early on in this one. If they could land Stephens’ commitment, they would land one of the best all-around athletes in this class. This is definitely one the staff would like to lock down as soon as possible.

10. 3✮ WR Breon Pass- Reidsville (Reidsville, NC)

As we stated above, wide receiver is one of the biggest needs for the Tar Heels in the 2021 cycle. Pass may very well be the receiver with the closest ties to the team right now, after being a frequent visitor during home games. With both Newsome and Groves departing from the slot next year, Pass would be some nice assurance behind what will then be a thin and inexperienced group of slot receivers.

Other Names to Keep an Eye On: 4PRO Drake Maye, 4WR Micah Crowell, 4WR Kobe Paysour, 3TE Bryson Nesbit, 4OG Yousef Mugharbil, 3OG Jared Wilson, 4WDE Zaire Patterson, 3WDE Travali Price, 3DT Isaac Washington, 3ILB Dameon Wilson, 4CB Kamarro Edmonds, 4ATH Kamean Marley, 4ATH DeAndre Boykins, 3ATH Bryce Steele

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