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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC football inks 13 more on Signing Day

The North Carolina football team received letters of intent from 13 players in the Class of 2017 on Wednesday. The group will join seven Tar Heels who enrolled at the beginning of the semester. Here are five notable recruits for North Carolina from the incoming class of first-years.

Michael Carter, running back

Michael Carter is a three-star running back from Navarre, Fla. He is one of two running backs North Carolina signed in the Class of 2017, along with Antwuan Branch.

Carter will be leaned on right away to fill the void left by Elijah Hood’s early departure to the NFL. Hood, one of the most talented running backs to ever play at UNC, left big shoes to fill after three years with the Tar Heels.

Rising sophomore Jordon Brown has the inside track on the starting job with a season of experience under his belt. His touchdown in the Sun Bowl against Stanford was certainly a good sign that he’s ready to see more carries.

But UNC likes to rotate running backs, and Carter enrolled early in January to get ready to contribute right away.

 C.J. Cotman, athlete

C.J. Cotman is a four-star athlete from Clearwater, Fla. He is the highest ranked (No. 284 in the nation) of the three North Carolina recruits from the state of Florida, including Carter and kicker Noah Ruggles.

Cotman didn’t enroll early and will join the Tar Heel football program in time for summer workouts. It is an uphill battle for true first-years to play, and even harder for first-years that don’t enroll early. It’s a reality now more than ever given the complexity of college football offenses and defenses.

It will be interesting to see which position Cotman settles at. He played both sides of the ball in high school, and there are opportunities up and down the depth chart.

He’s a useful Swiss Army knife for head coach Larry Fedora to have in his back pocket.

Jake Lawler, defensive lineman

Jake Lawler is a four-star defensive end from Charlotte. He is ranked 174th in the country among all players, and he’s the 12th-ranked player at his position.

Lawler was also another one of the Tar Heels’ seven early enrollees who came to UNC in January and will participate in spring practices.

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Lawler played defensive end in high school and could contribute immediately next season, helping to replace departed senior Mikey Bart. North Carolina likes to rotate defensive linemen, playing as many as eight to 10 bodies in a game to stay fresh throughout.

Lawler is also the fourth-ranked recruit in the state of North Carolina, and he was named to the state’s Shrine Bowl team but didn’t compete because of a shoulder injury. 

Jonah Melton, offensive lineman

Jonah Melton is a four-star offensive guard from Mebane, N.C. He is possibly the highest profile recruit to commit in this class, as he played in the Under Armor All-American game. He is ranked 147th nationally and is the second-ranked recruit in the state of North Carolina.

UNC was, at times, thin on the offensive line last season. At worst, Melton provides instant depth for the Tar Heels. At best, he could compete for a starting position at left or right guard. He’d be competing with Tommy Hatton, R.J. Prince and other first-years for the position.

His commitment was a big part of the success UNC had in recruiting in-state players this recruiting cycle. Head coach Larry Fedora made it a goal to keep top talent within the state — and with Melton and others, he succeeded. 

Tre Shaw, defensive back

Tre Shaw is a four-star defensive back from Ellenwood, Ga. He is the 320th rated player in the country and is one of four UNC commits from the state of Georgia.

Des Lawrence, one of North Carolina’s starting cornerbacks this past season, graduated and leaves the Tar Heels with a void at that position. In addition, UNC never really had a reliable option at nickel corner — Patrice Rene and Corey Bell Jr. took turns at the position as the season went along.

Shaw could step in right away and claim one of those two starting positions. He’s immensely talented, and the 6-foot cornerback has the requisite size for the position.

Keep an eye out for Shaw in spring practice. If he gains a swift understanding of the defense, he can be an impact rookie for the Tar Heels.