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Sunday May 16th

Football recruiting steady without John Blake

Two commit after investigation hits

When John Blake resigned from the North Carolina football program, it not only lost its associate head coach but also its recruiting coordinator.

Blake, who resigned Sept. 5 amid speculation of his involvement with the NCAA investigation, helped UNC haul in a top-25 national recruiting class three of the past four years.

Despite the controversy surrounding the program, the time period in which UNC bags its recruits has remained essentially the same as it has the past four years, with Blake’s resignation a nonfactor thus far.

According to Scout.com, UNC received seven verbal commitments in the three weeks before news of the investigation broke July 15. Since then, only two recruits have given strong verbal commitments.

“I think everything’s in limbo until all this stuff is over,” said Miller Safrit, the Scout.com expert on North and South Carolina football recruiting.

“Everybody’s just waiting and seeing. That’s why you’ve only seen really two commitments since the news came out.”

But the lack of commitments since the investigation does not mean recruits are shying away from UNC. Recruiting normally drops off in the summer months and doesn’t pick up until winter.

In past Blake-led recruiting classes, verbal commitments level off in July and August after decent-to-strong showings in the spring.

UNC currently sits at No. 10 nationally in recruiting and is the top ACC school, according to Scout.com, due mostly to the strong recruiting done before the investigation began.

Kiaro Holts, the No. 3 offensive tackle in the nation, gave his strong verbal commitment on June 25 and is considered UNC’s prized recruit thus far. Defensive tackle Shawn Underwood, who hails from Fuquay-Varina and is ranked No. 34 nationally at his position, was the last to give a commitment before the investigation news broke.

One of the seven recruits is Jamar Lewter, who verbally committed on July 5. The four-star offensive tackle played at the same high school, Washington, D.C.’s Ballou, as suspended UNC football player Marvin Austin.

“It was not just in-state players where they had really focused their attention before, but also getting attention from across the country,” Safrit said. “With Blake’s loss, you’re probably not going to see as much flash across the country.”

UNC’s biggest post-investigation recruit has been Marquise Williams, a quarterback at Charlotte’s Mallard Creek High School. Williams, despite giving a soft verbal commitment to UNC, still has visits set for Virginia Tech and Michigan, Safrit said.

“You have a quarterback who’s had a tremendous senior year, and he’s one of two quarterbacks in that class,” Safrit said. “He’d be that one guy if I were North Carolina that I’d worry about.”

One of the players who is also taking a wait-and-see approach is Norkeithus Otis, a linebacker at Gastonia’s Ashbrook High School. Otis said that while the investigation hasn’t influenced his decision on where he’ll play collegiate ball — Florida and Duke are the other schools he’s considering — he was certainly surprised by it.

“UNC is still a great school for academics and sports,” Otis said. “It slowed me down. Is that really happening? Did these players really do this? Did these tutors really do this?”

During the Louisiana State University game, Davis said he had to burn at least eight redshirts due to the number of players who were ineligible to play. Unable to sit those players and let them develop with a year of understanding the system, Davis will ultimately feel those effects on his team in the coming years.

Still, Davis is confident that the investigation has not hampered the UNC program’s recruiting efforts so far this year.

“We had a great turnout this past weekend,” Davis said. “I think 12 of the committed players were here at the game and things are going very well.”

Contact the Sports Editor at sports@unc.edu.

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