Heel Tough Blog: Tar Heels Land Defensive First Commitment of 2023 Class


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This weekend was an extremely important one for the Tar Heels 2023 class, as they looked to start gaining some much-needed momentum after a quiet start. The Tar Heels did just that by landing their first commitment on the defensive side of the ball in this cycle following the weekend of visits.


Just a short time ago, it was announced that 2023 4✮ DL Joel Starlings was committing to Carolina following his official visit to Chapel Hill. Starlings, the one time Michigan commit, chose the Tar Heels over South Carolina, West Virginia and others on Sunday. The commitment gives the program their first of the cycle from the state of Virginia and continues to strengthen the Virginia pipeline that the staff capitalized on in the previous cycle to put together a top ten class.


Starlings, the No. 33 defensive lineman in the 2023 class according to 247Sports Composite player rankings, finished his junior season with second All-Metro honors from the Richmond Times-Dispatch while helping to lead Benedictine College Preparatory to the state final after a slow 0-2 start to the season. Back in the shortened spring 2021 season, Starlings earned All-Metro honorable mention for a Benedictine squad that finished 3-0 on the season that was cut short without a champion.


One of the biggest things about Starlings that should catch the attention of Tar Heel fans is how easily he is able to shed blocks, something that the team has not done well enough in the last couple of seasons. He has no problem freeing himself up, even in double team situations, and has a nice push off the line of scrimmage thanks to a strong lower body. He has some very nice athleticism for a player of his size (6’5, 310) and shows some great hustle and a high motor that he shows consistently on tape. He is not afraid of the physicality, but is definitely a more finesse pass rushing defensive tackle than a block-eating run stopper. At his size, he will have a chance to come in and make an immediate impact if he can maintain his weight, just adding to the team’s bevy of talent on the defensive line.


With Starlings commitment, the Tar Heels jump from No. 55 in the 2023 class according to 247Sports Composite team rankings to No. 43 overall and jumps over NC State into 8th in the ACC rankings. This is a big commitment for the Tar Heels and will hopefully be the start of momentum for this next month and half that will be so crucial for the direction of this class.


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