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Heel Tough Blog: Tar Heels Pick Up Commitment from Versatile In-State Lineman

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When it comes to the 2024 class, the biggest thing that it appears the staff is looking to accomplish is to rebuild this offensive line that will need to be overhauled after the season.

On Wednesday, the team landed what might just be their fifth offensive line prospect in this cycle in the form of an in-state interior offensive line. 2024 IOL/DL Jani Norwood announced via social media that he has committed to the Tar Heels over Appalachian State, Charlotte and Coastal Carolina after his trip to Chapel Hill last month.

Norwood is entering his final season at Eastern Randolph High School in Ramseur, NC where he has been a starter along the offensive line since his freshman season. This past season, he took home all-conference honors in the Piedmont Athletic Conference after a productive season on both the offensive and defensive line, his first season playing both sides of the football.

When evaluating Norwood, it is important to note that the Tar Heels don’t really have a specific spot that they are wanting to play him at right now. According to Inside Carolina’s Don Callahan in the piece written about Norwood’s commitment, he has talked to both Randy Clements and Tim Cross and they have basically left it up to him to decide on which position he feels fits him best. Norwood definitely appears to be more impactful on the offensive side of the football and that is personally where I think he will have the most impact, but it may be too early to tell. Another fall where he will split the reps along the two sides of the football should help to provide a little more clarity here. 

The reason that I would lean with him sticking on the offensive side of the football is because of just how polished he looks as a three year starter, especially as a run blocker. His junior film is chock-full of reps where he simply washes out defensive linemen on the regular and overpowers them with his heavy hands and upper body strength. There aren’t a ton of clips of him working in pass protection, but the ones that are out there show him moving pretty well and some really promising footwork. On the defensive side of the ball, he works the swim move really well and does show up a lot in the opposing backfield out of a 3-tech defensive tackle spot, but for some reason, his physicality doesn’t translate over nearly as well. An offseason of work on that side of the football, though, could help to bring that physical side out on defense and make him much more effective there this season. Regardless of what position he plays, there will be a steep learning curve for him considering he plays at the lowest level of football in the state. Because of that, he is yet another developmental prospect in this class that will likely take some time to make an impact when he arrives.

With his commitment, offensive lineman (or at least guys who could end up playing offensive line), make up over half of the nine commitments to this class. If Norwood sticks on the offensive side of the football, it will be on the interior of the unit, meaning that the team would have three interior offensive linemen committed, an area that they need to hit hard in this class.

Currently, the Tar Heel class sits No. 19 overall in the 247Sports Composite team rankings, as the last two commitments have made no impact due to the prospects’ unranked statuses. The class also remains 5th in the ACC.

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