The Tar Heels signed all 18 of their commits on Wednesday’s opening to the early signing period and this is a group that many, including the coaching staff, thinks has a chance to come in and contribute early. With that, it got us to think, who in this class could be next year’s players that could earn themselves roles similar to the ones that guys like Tony Grimes and Kaimon Rucker have been able to earn this season? We give you at the top five players that we think could come in and play a major role immediately with the Tar Heels.
There is a lot that goes into this, but for Dillworth it’s simply the perfect combination of his talent, skill set and a vacancy that needs to be filled. The Tar Heels will be losing Chazz Surratt at the conclusion of the season to graduation leaving a big hole at linebacker for this Tar Heel defense. Dillworth will be enrolling in January, so he will have a chance to compete for reps in the linebacking corps. He has drawn a lot of comparisons to former Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons with just how versatile of a player he is and he will likely enter as one of the teams top coverage linebackers. He is a phenomenal sideline-to-sideline linebacker that simply flies to the football, something that he should be able to show off in the spring. If he can prove himself in the offseason, the limited depth and vacant starting spot could lend to a big role early for Dillworth.
The Tar Heels will have plenty of different talented options at the interior front four spots, but it’s going to be hard to keep this guy off the field. At 6’6, 275, he has the size and combines it with phenomenal athleticism that makes an intriguing prospect right out of the gate. Add in a pass rushing mentality that the Tar Heel defense is looking for and it’s the perfect recipe for him to come in and earn some significant reps as a true freshman. With his choice to early enroll, his chances will improve even more.
Like Dillworth, Echols will have a chance to contribute early due to the combination of his talent and the opportunity available. He too can cover a lot of space very quickly and he plays with a physical edge that anyone would love to have in the middle of it’s defense. Echols isn’t nearly as strong in coverage as Dillworth is, but his physicality will allow him to be more helpful in blitzing situations than his fellow 4✮ counterpart. As we mentioned above, the depth at linebacker isn’t nearly as loaded as some of the other positions on this team, meaning that he won’t have as much in front of him as others when it comes to climbing the depth chart. Echols is another player that will enroll early and get the opportunity to impress in the spring, so earning at least a rotational role is definitely a possibility for him in 2021.
The Tar Heels have had some struggles defending the middle of the field so far this season and this is an area that the staff will probably open up to competition a bit this offseason. Nash is arriving on campus early, so he’ll have a spring and summer to impress the staff and attempt to earn some reps. 1-on-1 coverage situations won’t be a problem for him, as he spent most of his high school career playing outside corner and saw plenty of success in that role during that time. If he can prove himself as a strong enough tackler in space, there is a chance that he could see some playing time as a true freshman.
Edmonds will be the only player on this list that won’t enroll in January with the team, but he will still have a chance to make an early impact. There is a legitimate chance that Michael Carter and Javonte Williams will both be going pro at season’s end, leaving a talented, but inexperienced group of running backs to battle for reps this offseason. Coach Mack Brown raved during his post-signing day presser about Edmonds ability and said that he sees “some Javonte in him”. The incumbents and fellow running back signee Caleb Hood will get the opportunity to handle snaps in the spring, but might have the most pure talent of the group that will be there during fall camp and should have the opportunity to earn some carries early in his career at Carolina.