Updated: Feb 11, 2020
Tim Brewster’s departure left an eerie feeling about how recruiting would be affected, but any concern was put on back burner when the Tar Heels landed their fourth commitment of the 2021 class on Friday.
That’s when 2021 4✮ ATH Gabe Stephens announced his commitment to Carolina via social media. The junior at Mountain Island Charter announces his commitment just a few days after his visit to Chapel Hill for the Tar Heels second consecutive junior week and the release of his top schools list last week.
This past season as a junior, Stephens battled through an early season injury to finish with 85 total tackles, 14.0 tackles for loss and 11.0 sacks, while also recovering a fumble out of his hybrid linebacker position. Out of a similar position in his sophomore season, Stephens racked up 118 total tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. His freshman year saw him play a significant role at corner, where he finished with 63 total tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss and four pass deflections. Stephens was named to the Southern Piedmont all-conference team in each of the past two seasons and was named to the All-Gaston Gazette second team as a defensive lineman in 2019.
The Tar Heels land one of the most versatile athletes in the 2021 class. His film shows just how versatile he is, but mainly focuses on his downhill and sideline-to-sideline abilities. Stephens speed is trouble for any running back that is trying to move laterally and his is a good enough open field tackler to rack up tackles for loss. Because he started his career at corner before moving into that hybrid linebacker position, he has the coverage ability necessary to handle being one-on-one with slot receivers and running backs, something that will allow Bateman to be even more creative in his blitz packages that he showed in 2019. Stephens looks to fit the definition of the type of player that Bateman wants as his hybrid linebacker/safety. Stephens may have to add a little bit of weight when he arrives to campus, but he is a great addition to this 2021 class.
With Stephens commitment, the Tar Heels 2021 class now sits 14th in 247Sports Composite
team rankings and 3rd in the ACC rankings.