With the Tar Heels and college football officially into the offseason, it’s time to bring back our weekly storylines to give you a look at all of the latest storylines around Tar Heel football. We’ll start by giving you a look at some of the storylines that you may have missed since the team concluded their season with the loss in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.
Four 2022 Early Signees Play in All-Star Games; Eight Selected
This Tar Heel early signing class is as loaded as any that the program has had in recent memory and that is shown by the fact that eight of the seventeen commits in the class were selected to either the Under Armour All-American Game or the All-America Bowl. Five were set to take part in the Under Armour All-American Game back on January 2nd, but both of the team’s receivers in the class were unable to participate in the game due to injury. George Pettaway and Zach Rice played extensive reps for Team Legends in the game, with Rice impressing many in the recruiting community thanks to a nice showing against an absolutely loaded defensive line on the other side. George Pettaway had a nice performance as well despite not having many running lanes to run through, making a nice catch down the stretch, and showing his versatility, playing a bunch of snaps out of the slot. Travis Shaw was expected to play a big role in the game but actually ended up exiting the game early and coming back to the sideline with his left arm in a makeshift sling, something that is concerning coming off of a left shoulder injury this past summer that cost him games at the start of this fall season. Meanwhile, in the All-American Bowl, running back signee Omarion Hampton practiced on the first day, but was sent home after entering health and safety protocols and Sebastian Cheeks practiced for most of the week, but ultimately had to leave to attend to a family emergency a couple of days before the game. That meant Marcus Allen, who received a late invite to the game and arrived mid-week, was the only signee that saw action in this game.
Billy High and Steven Ruzic Leave for SEC Jobs
These are names that might not be as familiar as the ones that are a part of the coaching staff, but these are some important members of the program’s recruiting staff that are heading elsewhere. High was the assistant athletic director and general manager for the team for each of the last three seasons, overseeing the majority of the recruiting activities on campus during that time. He will be heading to his alma mater, Tennessee, in a similar role. As for Ruzic, he was assistant director of player personnel for the team this season after arriving back in May and he will be heading to Auburn. He handled the recruiting needs of the offensive staff including managing film, evaluations and prospect information, while also helping with on-campus recruiting visits for offensive prospects. Both of these guys play a part in the Tar Heels being able to bring in the No. 8 overall recruiting class in the country in the 2022 recruiting cycle and will be important shoes to fill for a 2023 Tar Heel recruiting class that isn’t exactly off to as strong of a start as this past one.
Final Target in 2022 Class Takes Official Visit
The Tar Heels hosted 2022 3✮ DT Ahmad Moten on Tuesday in an attempt to add one final piece to their tremendous 2022 recruiting class. The visit seemed to go well for Moten based on the headline from Inside Carolina’s article recapping the visit, but the Tar Heels have some work cut out for them to pull him out of the Miami Hurricanes backyard. The Tar Heels are one of five teams that remain in the running for his services and have or will receive an official visit before the decision.
2024 No. 1 Overall Prospect Headlines Big Recruiting Weekend
This weekend was a big one for football recruiting despite the impending winter weather in the area. The only scheduled visitor that it appears wasn’t able to make it to Chapel Hill was 2023 5✮ DL Jayden Wayne, who was attempting to make the trip from Tacoma, WA. While it would have been great to get one of the best in the country in the 2023 cycle on campus, the team did more than make up for it by hosting the top player in the entire country in the 2024 class in 5✮ QB Jadyn Davis who is once again an in-state prospect after a transfer to Providence Day High School in Charlotte. He was joined by other big names such as 2023 4✮ EDGE Rico Walker, 2023 3✮ LB Tony Rojas and 2023 OT Sullivan Absher. Transfer offensive tackle Spencer Rolland was also on campus this weekend on an unofficial visit, as well, one of the biggest current targets for the team in the portal.
Tar Heels Out of the Running For Two 2023 4✮ Targets
The Tar Heels did get a fair dose of bad news on the 2023 trail this weekend, though, as well. 2023 4✮ in-state DT Keith Sampson Jr. announced his top five teams on Saturday afternoon, a list that did not include the Tar Heels, something that was really unexpected, especially with the young talent that the group has on the defensive line right now. On Sunday morning, the team saw 2023 4✮ TE Andrew Rappleyea announce his commitment to Michigan over the Tar Heels, Ohio State, Penn State and others less than a month after releasing his top seven list. The biggest bit of news from this cycle, though, came from major targets who took visits elsewhere over the weekend. 2023 4✮ DL Tomarrion Parker took a visit to Georgia over the weekend and seemed to be extremely impressed by what he saw, leading to two crystal ball predictions from 247Sports on the spot. Meanwhile, 2023 in-state OT Sam Pendleton took a visit to Penn State over the weekend and in an Adam Friedman article following the visit, he listed Michigan, Clemson and Penn State as the teams that are in the best position for him right now. It is still early in the 2023 cycle, but you can see that the down season is having an effect here early on.
Sam Howell Headed to the Reese’s Senior Bowl, Tomon Fox Participates in Hula Bowl, Jordan Tucker Takes Part in College Gridiron Showcase and Earns NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Invite
Monday was the deadline for players to enter the NFL Draft and the focus now shifts to the offseason bowls that will take place for draft prospects. Back on January 5th, Sam Howell accepted an interview to compete in the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl, which will take place in Mobile, Alabama on February 5th. Howell was eligible for the game despite being a true junior on the field after officially graduating as a senior in the classroom earlier this winter. He will be coached by Dan Campbell and the Detroit Lions staff and hopes to be joined by his teammate, Jeremiah Gemmel, who was scheduled to participate but was mysteriously not a part of the linebacker groups revealed earlier today. On Saturday, Tomon Fox got the opportunity to play in the first offseason bowl game of the year in Orlando, Florida when he took part in the Hula Bowl. The highlight of the day for him was a fumble recovery on a strip sack in what was a rather quiet day for him otherwise. The previous week saw Jordan Tucker take part in the College Gridiron Showcase in Fort Worth, TX, where he took part in scrimmages in front of NFL, CFL, XFL and USFL scouts. He did enough to impress those involved with the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, as he earned an invite on Friday. Ty Chandler and Marcus McKethan are the other Tar Heels expected to participate in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl on January 29th.
Host of Tar Heel Transfers Announce New Destinations
This past week has been a busy one for the former Tar Heels in the transfer portal, as four guys announced their new destinations. It started on Saturday when Trevion Stevenson, who entered the transfer portal just two days prior, announced that he was transferring to Norfolk State for his four years of remaining eligibility. On Monday, Tyrone Hopper took to social media to announce his transfer to Missouri for what will be his seventh and final season of eligibility. He will be joined in the SEC by Eugene Asante who announced on Tuesday that he was heading Auburn for the remainder of his career. The biggest move of the week was undoubtedly Trey Morrison’s move to transfer to Oklahoma for his final season of eligibility, which he made official on Monday, as well.
Jay Bateman and Jovan Dewitt Find Their New Jobs
Former players were joined by former coaches in finding their newest destinations starting on Wednesday. That’s when it was announced by University of Florida that the team’s former defensive coordinator, Jay Bateman, was joining the Gators staff as the linebackers coach under new coach Billy Napier. That was followed on Thursday by the news that the team’s former special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach, Jovan Dewitt, was taking a job with the Florida International Panthers as the team’s defensive coordinator.