Since his hiring by the North Carolina football team in 2018, head coach Mack Brown and his coaching staff have been on a recruiting tear.
Three of UNC’s top 10 all-time recruits according to 247Sports' composite rankings — defensive end Desmond Evans, quarterback Drake Maye and defensive back Tony Grimes — have committed during Brown’s new tenure in Chapel Hill. Beyond those headlining athletes, the Tar Heels have built well-rounded recruiting classes in both 2020 and 2021, earning them the No. 19 class in 2020 and a 2021 haul that ranks No. 2 nationally.
With much of the 2021 class filled out, UNC ranks behind only Ohio State, which made last year’s College Football Playoff and is a perennial contender for the No. 1 recruiting class.
The Tar Heels will have to bring a few more additions to an already stacked class in order to complete their first top 10 haul since 2007. Here are some players in the 2021 class on North Carolina’s radar who have yet to make a college decision.
Taylor is a 6-foot-8, 290-pound offensive tackle from Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia. Originally from Nova Scotia, Taylor transferred to Episcopal in 2019 after playing defensive tackle and punter at his previous high school.
If Taylor chooses the Tar Heels, he would be their second four-star 2021 offensive tackle, after Eli Sutton committed to UNC earlier in the recruiting cycle.
The offensive tackle tweeted Monday that he would announce his college decision July 17, and his final list includes UNC, Florida and Virginia. Taylor has five 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions, all of which say he will pick the Cavaliers.
247Sports Composite ranks Taylor as a four-star recruit and the No. 23 offensive tackle in his class. Taylor’s profile says he has “long arms and terrific frame with great lateral quickness to his blocks,” and that he “projects as a multi-year Power 5 starter.”
With his exceptional size and abundance of untapped potential as a relatively inexperienced player on the offensive line, if Taylor chooses the Tar Heels, he could be a force on their offensive front throughout his college career. Protecting quarterback Sam Howell and his eventual successor — likely either Maye or Jacolby Criswell — will have to be a priority for the team’s air raid offense.
Nesbit is a three-star tight end and the 17th best player at his position in the country, according to 247Sports Composite rankings.
The 6-foot-6, 220-pound South Mecklenburg player holds offers from an impressive list of programs within his 25 offers, including perennial national title contenders such as Ohio State, LSU and Georgia. UNC’s biggest competitor for the tight end’s commitment, though, is likely South Carolina.
The Tar Heels and Gamecocks are the only two teams listed as "warm" on his 247Sports profile, and both of Nesbit’s parents were student-athletes at South Carolina. Nesbit’s scouting report says he “offers a big catch radius and can make plays well outside his frame,” and is “an early developmental prospect that will improve dramatically given his limited exposure to football, frame and natural ball skills.”
UNC signed two tight ends — three-star prospects Kendall Karr and John Copenhaver — from the 2020 class, but have yet to sign one for 2021.
In 2019, the Tar Heels did not have a single tight end reach 100 receiving yards, a trend that they could look to change in coming years with the importance of receiving tight ends in modern pass-based offenses like UNC’s.
Smith is a three-star linebacker from Jacksonville, Florida, who ranks No. 92 in his position group nationally, according to 247Sports Composite rankings.
The linebacker from Robert E. Lee High has a 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame and finished 2019 with 43 tackles and two sacks while recovering four fumbles and forcing another.
North Carolina looks to be in the running for Smith, as it and Illinois are the only two programs listed as “warm” on his 247Sports profile.
Smith would add to a stacked 2021 defensive haul that already includes five four-star prospects, not including Grimes, who said Friday on Twitter that he would be forgoing his senior season and enrolling at UNC in August.
Continuing to add talent to a class that already stands as one of the deepest in the program's history would solidify UNC’s 2021 haul as one of the best in the nation, and could serve as a stepping stone to continued improvement during Brown’s tenure and beyond in Chapel Hill.
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