Here’s a quick rundown of Brown’s press conference on Wednesday.
Late start in recruiting
As a longtime member and 2013 president of the American Football Coaching Association, an organization that provides professional development and coaching education to college football coaches, Brown said that he was an influential advocate for the NCAA having a signing day that came before the official one in early February.
And this rule, that was implemented last year, gave Brown very little time to recruit for next season.
“When we put the early signing date in place … we really proposed it for two reasons,” Brown said. “We thought that, for one, it would be for legacy kids that only wanted to take one visit and they wouldn’t want to go anywhere else. And it would also be for early enrollees, so that they would have a signing day.”
In implementing this plan, though, the NCAA allowed for every incoming athlete to sign early. As a result, so many more players are signing prior to the traditional February signing deadline. According to 247Sports data, about 65 percent of all expected FBS signees signed early in 2018.
“It makes it very difficult on new coaches coming in,” Brown said. “From our standpoint, the high school coaches that we’ve dealt with in the last week are tremendous. They’ve helped us, and they’ve tried to let us catch up.”
All this said, Brown has still substantially beefed up the Tar Heels’ 2019 recruiting class in the few weeks he’s been at the helm.
Before Larry Fedora was fired, UNC’s 2019 recruiting class was ranked 61st in the nation. News of Brown’s hiring caused a few of Fedora’s recruits to de-commit, dipping UNC’s ranking to the mid-80s.
However, after several late pick-ups — including four-star quarterback Sam Howell from Monroe, N.C. — UNC now boasts the 36th-ranked 2019 recruiting class in the country.
“If you had asked me three weeks ago if we would have what we have today, I would have been really surprised,” Brown said. “This is much better than I anticipated it being.”
Re-recruiting his old team
Brown is uniquely situated by virtue of his position as a new, yet trusted, coach to do something most coaches wouldn't risk: He’s not criticizing his predecessor.
“So many coaches come in, and I’ve watched it for 30 years as a head coach, and they’re very critical of the previous coach because they think that gives them more time,” Brown said. “And all they’re doing is being critical of the other coach.”
Brown called this tactic disruptive, emphasizing that there will be no divide between young and old team; no Fedora team and Brown team.
As he put it, this team is “our team.”
Brown said that prior to spring camp, he and his coaching staff will sit down with each and every one of the players he’s inherited and discuss expectations and goals for the upcoming season. After all, he has to “re-recruit them” too.
“What we’ll do is we’ll give them belief, we’ll give them hope, we’ll build them up, and hopefully we’ll start winning — and we will start winning these closer games here at the end,” Brown said. “We said this at Texas when we left here. For our seniors, it’s only fair to win next year.”
Reviewing UNC’s new commits
Wednesday’s review of North Carolina’s newest crop of talent didn’t end with 6-foot-1, 225-pound quarterback Sam Howell. As of Wednesday, UNC has accumulated 18 enrollees — five of which are going to come in for spring practice.
Brown went through clip after clip of video, explaining what he saw in each player and devoting the same amount of analysis time to the long-snapper as he did the star quarterback.
Of those he highlighted, Josh Henderson, a running back from Pennington, N.J. who can play both sides of the ball, and Emery Simmons, a wide receiver from Parkton, N.C. who was adamant on playing for his state university, had impressive clips of film.
Brown also shared interesting tidbits about some players. For instance, Wyatt Tunall, an offensive lineman from Chester, S.C., couldn’t take Brown’s call after his high school team won a state championship because he was out duck hunting.
For another, Kevin Hester Jr. — a 6-foot-5, 255-pound defensive lineman from Kennesaw, Ga., that Brown's staff found 10 days ago — didn’t start playing football until last year.
“Last time we were here, we found some guys that had played basketball and had really great feet, and they grew into football players,” Brown said. “So we feel like he’s a guy that can do that.”
Only eight of his 18 enrollees are in-state, which means Brown's stated goal of making UNC the most attractive school to attend for North Carolina high school players is far from accomplished. Plenty more nights on the road prior to National Signing Day in February — and even more days of meeting with previous players and their families — await him before spring camp.
But, given it’s just been three weeks since his return to the school that brought him national prominence, he seems to be ahead of schedule.
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