Updated: May 12
After a couple of relatively quiet weeks around Tar Heel football, the news around the program has begun to pick up over this past week, bringing about this new edition of the weekly storylines. Here’s the latest storylines around Tar Heel football that you may have missed.
J.J. Jones Sets August Decision Date
The Tar Heels biggest remaining target at wide receiver has set his decision date. Via social media on Saturday, the 4✮ wide receiver from Myrtle Beach, announced that he will make his decision known on August 5th, his birthday. This comes after he dropped his top five schools list back on May 2nd with Carolina joining South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi State as the schools that will now battle for the next three months to land his commitment. Since he released his top schools, the Tar Heels have gained a ton of momentum, picking up three crystal ball predictions, including one from 247Sports director of football recruiting Steve Wiltfong, a guy who has gotten 179 of his 180 2021 class predictions correct and 90.36% of his 2,728 career predictions right. As of right now, the Tar Heels have taken over as the favorite to land his commitment, but now they’ll have to hold on to that lead, something that could become more of a challenge if he is able to take a visit to Georgia before that August commitment date.
Jahvaree Ritzie Sets Decision Date
Ritzie’s recruitment has been a strange one to say the least, but there is now a firm commitment date in place for the 4✮ strongside defensive end. The Tar Heels have been the long time favorite and there have been multiple times that many thought Ritzie would pop. Instead, he still remains on the board, but as he stated on social media on Monday, that will not be for long. Ritzie will officially announce his commitment to the school of his choosing on June 12th, his parents anniversary, meaning this is now a one month sprint to the finish line. Most people believe that at this moment he is a silent commit to Carolina, but Tennessee’s success has definitely caught his attention and with a class that already has 21 commits, if Ritzie wants to join he would have to act quickly. This appears to be a two horse race between Carolina and the hottest team on the 2021 recruiting trail right now, but the good news is, the Tar Heels still seem to be in the lead to land his commitment at this time.
Tony Grimes to Release Top Three
One of the biggest prizes remaining in this 2021 class announced his intentions to narrow his list down a little further on Monday morning. Grimes, a 5✮ cornerback from the state of Virginia and the No. 7 overall player in the 247Sports Composite Player Rankings, announced via social media that he will cut his list from eight to three at the end of May. The Tar Heels along with Georgia, Clemson, Penn State, Ohio State, Tennessee, Vriginia and Texas A&M will all be hoping to crack the prestigious list at the end of the month. While this is certainly some stiff competition, the Tar Heels have to feel very confident about their chances to land on the list of three with the relationship that both Mack Brown and Dre Bly have built with Grimes and his family to this point. As of right now, expect to see Carolina as one of the final three schools for this top target.
Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins Released Top Six Ahead of Commitment
The 2021 3✮ defensive tackle prospect took to social media early in the evening on Monday to announce he was releasing his top six list later in the evening and will be committing this Sunday to one of this six schools. The Tar Heels join South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida State, Penn State and Georgia as the teams that will now battle for the next six days for his commitment. The Tar Heels don't seem to be one of the favorites here, but there are reasons to keep an eye on this commit regardless. There is still a very slim chance that Ingram-Dawkins does shock the recruiting world and commit to Carolina, but the biggest reason to monitor this commitment is to follow the domino effect it would have if he picked Tennessee. A commitment to the Volunteers would almost certainly mean they are done at defensive tackle, meaning they would be out on 4✮ DT Payton Page, who listed them among his top three schools back in mid-April. The feeling is that Clemson has been dragging their feet to a certain extent in recent months and if Tennessee was to fill up that defensive tackle spot, the Tar Heels would have a good shot to sneak in the back door and land the talented in-state prospect's commitment.
Tar Heels Jump Into the Race For 2021 3✮ WDE George Wilson
The Tar Heels sprung a late offer on a 3✮ weakside defensive end from Virginia Beach, VA on Monday afternoon. Wilson, the No. 21 WDE in the 2021, narrowed his previous offers to a final seven just a few hours beforehand on Sunday night. It's a little too early to say how much of an impact this will have on his decision going forward, but the success that the Tar Heels have had in this class suggest they'll have a shot to get themselves in the race for his services. This offer comes at an interesting time, as major 4✮ weakside defensive end target Zaire Patterson has received renewed interest from Clemson after they lost the commitment of 5✮ Korey Foreman and this probably signifies that the Tar Heels feel that Patterson is beginning to slip away. It also seems to show that the Tar Heels are looking at the RUSH end position as a position that they need to add another commitment at before the cycle concludes.
Tar Heels Still Pushing to Land a Tight End
Many have been questioning recently if the Tar Heels would be able to snatch up a tight end in this 2021 cycle, something that might just be the biggest need remaining in an otherwise stellar class. The Tar Heels built some nice early momentum when they offered 3✮ Georgia-based tight end Miles Campbell earlier in the spring, but heading into his commitment, which is scheduled for next Monday, the Tar Heels are not a factor at all. Instead, the Tar Heels have made some significant progress with in-state 3✮ Bryson Nesbit, a guy who just a couple of weeks ago was expected to pop for South Carolina at any moment. Tight ends coach John Lilly and the Charlotte-area senior have reportedly built a strong relationship, giving the Tar Heels some hope that they can still add a tight end to this class. With just three scholarship tight ends expected to be on the roster in 2021, it feels crucial that one of the Tar Heels two remaining targets at this position jumps on board. John Lilly and the staff definitely still have a lot of work to do, but this is one battle that might not be over just yet.
Field at Kenan Stadium to Be Renamed
We are now a week removed from one of the biggest donations in program history from the Smith family, one that will allow the field at Kenan Stadium to be named in honor of the legendary family. The Eddie and Jo Allison Foundation made a historic donation to go toward the build football program from the family and as a result, their son, Chris Smith, a graduate of the 1987 class who is currently battling ALS while being involved in University and Athletics leadership roles and serving on The Rams Club’s board of directors, will now have the field named after him starting in this upcoming 2020 season. This isn’t the first time that the Smith family has made a significant contribution to the university, making many major donations that have helped to build the landscape of athletics in Chapel Hill with major donations that affect nearly every sport on campus. The donation will help to keep the Kenan Football Center in top shape, help with the football operating endowment and, maybe most importantly, allow the Tar Heels to be able to offer assistant coaches competitive salaries, something it has really struggled to do up until this point.
Mats Pokela Will Not Return in the Fall
One of the Tar Heels depth punters will not be returning to the team in the fall. Pokela, who was entering his third season with the team, did not take a snap in his time on campus and was buried on the depth chart behind starting punter Ben Kiernan and backup punter Michael Selsor. Both of those guys are expected to return, as is Nicky Solomon who is listed as both a punter and kicker. As confirmed by Pokela’s father, he will remain enrolled in the school to attain his degree and will play club soccer on campus, as well.