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Friday September 24th

Analysis: New group of true first-years could have big impact on Tar Heel football

<p>Keeshawn Silver practices at Kenan Stadium. Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics.</p>
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Keeshawn Silver practices at Kenan Stadium. Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics.

Arguably the most impressive aspect of head coach Mack Brown’s second stint at the helm of the North Carolina football team is the tremendous success he and his staff have seen with recruiting.

Before Brown came to Chapel Hill, UNC’s last 247 Sports five-star recruit was all the way back in 2009. Now, Brown has signed three five-stars recruit in as many years, which includes one in this most recent class of true first-years. 

Let’s take a look at some of the new arrivals who could make a splash this season.

Keeshawn Silver

Any conversation about UNC’s 2021 recruiting class has to begin with Keeshawn Silver, the hulking 6-foot-5.5, 289-pound, five-star defensive line recruit from Rocky Mount, N.C.

The second of three five-star recruits Brown and company attracted to Chapel Hill in the past three years, Silver was considered the eighth-best defensive line recruit in the nation and the top recruit from North Carolina in his class. His stats speak for themselves, recording 47 tackles, seven sacks and 13 tackles-for-loss in his junior season en route to an Under Armour All-American Game selection, as well as all-state and all-conference honors.

Silver also participated in track and field and played basketball in high school, and even mused about taking to both the field and the court in Carolina blue. What this means for co-defensive coordinators Jay Bateman and Tommy Thigpen, though, is that their new recruit has the speed and athleticism to maximize the force of his nearly-300-pound frame and the length of his 7-foot-1 wingspan. His contributions on the line should be immediate and destructive.

Gavin Blackwell

There’s a good degree of uncertainty surrounding the Tar Heels’ wide receiver room. The star tandem of Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown have headed to the greener pastures of the NFL, and longtime Tar Heel Beau Corrales will be missing the team’s season-opener against Virginia Tech due to injury, leaving sophomore Josh Downs and junior Emery Simmons as the only true locks to start.

Amidst all this uncertainty, enter first-year wideout Gavin Blackwell.

A 247 Sports four-star recruit and the No. 35 wide receiver in his class nationwide, Blackwell went to Sun Valley High School in Indian Trail, N.C.— the same school as junior quarterback Sam Howell. Rated one of the best slot receivers in the country, Blackwell proved his connection with Howell in his sophomore season, catching 51 passes for 1,156 yards and 19 touchdowns and earning MaxPreps sophomore all-American honors. 

If Howell and Blackwell can rediscover that connection when it matters most, he could develop into a trusted option for the lottery-bound gunslinger.

Kamarro Edmonds

When the thunder-and-lightning duo of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter departed for the pros after last season, a huge question was whether or not offensive coordinator Phil Longo would be able to replace their record-setting production. With the addition of graduate transfer Ty Chandler from Tennessee, UNC appears to have its plug-and-play solution for now.

But if Chandler needs a backfield partner or doesn’t work out, Brown and Longo could look to one name — first-year Kamarro Edmonds.

A 247 Sports four-star recruit out of Havelock, N.C., Edmonds boasts many similar attributes to Williams — a bulkier 230-pound frame, a little height at 5-foot-11.5 and a reputation for combining big hits with bursts of speed for long runs. 

Unlike Williams, though, Edmonds also comes to Chapel Hill with decent experience catching passes out of the backfield —  263 receiving yards and two touchdowns as a high school junior — and even a little kick returning a la Carter. But he also has the skills to be a strong power back, rushing for 1,402 yards and 17 touchdowns in his junior year. As last year proved, versatility in the backfield is a must for this Tar Heel team, and this year, Edmonds could get his chance to provide.

@pjdaman12

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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