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Analysis: Rice, Shaw and other UNC football first-years looking to make an impact

First-year running back George Pettaway (23) runs with the ball during Carolina football's first Spring practice on Tuesday, Mar. 1, 2022.

As the new football season awaits, several first-years are ready to make some noise. 

Head coach Mack Brown and the North Carolina football team welcomed 33 first-years this season. According to 247Sports, the Tar Heels' incoming first-year class ranks No. 11 in the country and first in the ACC. 

Here are a few of UNC's new players who are set to make an immediate impact this fall.

Zach Rice

The Lynchburg, Va. native comes in as the Tar Heels' top recruit in the 2022 class and the top offensive tackle in his state. The six-foot-five-inch, 320-pound tackle was named Virginia’s Gatorade Player of the Year and MaxPreps Virginia Player of the Year. 

In high school, Rice was a two-way player, playing offensive tackle and defensive tackle. In his final two seasons for Liberty Christian Academy, Rice did not allow a sack, and accumulated 219 pancake blocks as a senior. 

Rice uses his strength to create gaps within the offense and has the ability to block downfield. A true next-level player, Rice has tremendous upside and was recently named to On3's Preseason Freshmen All-America list.

Travis Shaw

A Greensboro native and 6-foot-6-inch defensive lineman, Shaw comes to Chapel Hill as the top player from the state of North Carolina. 

Ranked 20th in the nation, and third for his position by ESPN, Shaw can make an immediate impact for the Tar Heels. Using his 355-pound frame, Shaw racked up 260 tackles, 62 tackles for a loss, 17 sacks and seven forced fumbles in 39 games in high school. 

In his junior year, he led Grimsley High School to a perfect 10-0 season and a state championship. Shaw is explosive and has a good frame, causing distribution and creating plays wherever he is on defense. 

Andre Greene Jr. 

Greene, a four-star first-year from Richmond, Va. comes in ranked as the No. 4 wide receiver in his class, according to the Rivals recruiting database. Widely ranked as the No. 3 player out of Virginia, Greene has good length for a wide receiver, standing at 6-foot-3-inches. 

The multi-sport athlete in high school recorded 42 catches for 833 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior at St. Christopher’s School. Greene excels on single coverage on the outside and can change speeds to get downhill after the catch. 

George Pettaway

The 5-foot-11-inch, 195-pound running back comes to Chapel Hill from Suffolk, Va., where he was a three-time VISAA Division II all-state honoree. 

Pettaway attended Nansemond-Suffolk Academy where he ran for 2,913 yards and 46 touchdowns on 217 carries in three seasons. He also caught 47 passes for 880 yards and nine touchdowns. Ranked as the fourth-best player in the state of Virginia by both 247Sports and Rivals, Pettaway absorbs contact well and can break tackles to get into the open field. He has elite change in direction and quick feet that will make him a threat in the fall.

Omarion Hampton

Ranked as high as the eighth-best running back in the class, Hampton will join Pettaway as the two first-year running backs for the Tar Heels. 

From Clayton, N.C., Hampton is ranked as the third-best player from the state of North Carolina. The six-foot, 220-pound back attended Cleveland High School, where he rushed for 5,370 yards and 88 touchdowns, while being named the North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year and a two-time MaxPreps Player of the Year. 

Hampton poses a series of problems for any defense. While his yards after contact stick out the most, he also has a knack for finding gaps to get from north to south quickly. 

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