For the first time since 2007 and for just the second time in the modern recruiting era, the Tar Heels have picked up a commitment from one of the nation’s top 10 overall prospects. Just moments ago, 2021 5✮ CB Tony Grimes announced his commitment to Carolina over Georgia, Texas A&M, Ohio State and others via social media. If the nation wasn’t already on notice to what the boys in Chapel Hill were already doing, they have to be now that Mack Brown and his staff have landed the No. 1 cornerback in the nation.
Grimes, the No. 7 overall player according to the 247Sports Composite player rankings, is hoping that he’ll get an opportunity to play his senior season at Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach, VA. Last year as a junior, Grimes earned All-Tidewater honors for the second consecutive season after finishing with 48 total tackles and four interceptions while also finishing with 715 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns as a two-way star for the Cavaliers. As a sophomore, Grimes was named second team All-Tidewater, shining as one of the lone bright spots on a Princess Anne team that won just two games. The one season that he didn’t receive postseason recognition for was his freshman season, where he pulled down six interceptions and really helped his recruitment take off.
There’s a reason that Grimes has been receiving attention from FBS programs since he was in middle school. When you throw on his film, it’s hard to think that Grimes won’t come in and immediately challenge for a role at corner because of just how polished his game is for a senior in high school. As we learned last year, the Tar Heels’ defensive scheme thrives best when it’s corners can hold up well in one-on-one coverage and that is exactly what Grimes does. His best reps on tape come when he is in press-man coverage, in part because of how smooth he can open his hips up to turn and run with receivers. Grimes’ ball skills are another strength for him, as he uses his hands well and has the closing speed to make plays that will also allow him to succeed in both man and zone coverage situations. He is a solid tackler that has shown he can help in the run game if needed. Don’t be shocked if Grimes’ name shows up on the two-deep as a freshman despite what will still be a pretty loaded group of corners in 2021.
With the possibility that the Virginia High School League might cancel or postpone their 2020 season, there is a situation where Grimes could enroll at Carolina as early as this summer. A few weeks ago, it was revealed that Grimes was on pace to be able to graduate and both him and his family have said that if the state decides to delay the season, they plan to enroll sometime in August. This will be something worth keeping over the next two months, especially as we get more information on how COVID-19 will affect the sport of football this fall.
Grimes addition is also a big addition for the future of the cornerback position. Jayden Chalmers, the Tar Heels only cornerback commit in the 2020 class, will have to go the prep school route due to academic qualification issues and there is no guarantee he returns. If the Tar Heels had missed on Grimes, it's like that the team would have had to scramble to try and add a late pickup so this is a huge commitment for the Tar Heels.
This is one of, if not the biggest commitment in program history, as only one other Tar Heel commit in the modern era had a higher overall ranking, Marvin Austin (No. 4 overall) in 2007. The Tar Heels have a lot of talented players, but there is no denying that Grimes is now the new headliner of this class. With his commitment, the Tar Heels class now sits at No. 3 overall in 247Sports Composite team rankings, jumping Tennessee and closing back in on the Clemson Tigers. The class remains No. 2 in the ACC rankings for the 2021 cycle.