Brown, Bateman Confident After a Weekend of Great Recruiting News
Mack Brown and the North Carolina coaching staff can’t talk about specific recruits by name, but on Monday morning, it was clear they’re feeling pretty darn good after a weekend of good news.
“We've got so many guys wanting to come right now it's really frightening,” Coach Mack Brown said.
In landing a commitment from five-star defensive end Desmond Evans on Friday, the Tar Heels added — depending on which source — either the most highly-touted recruit they’ve ever gotten or second only to Marvin Austin.
If that wasn’t enough, Trenton Simpson, a 6-3, 225-pound linebacker from Charlotte announced on Sunday evening that he was decommitting from Auburn and reopening his recruitment, and all signs point to the four-star recruit ultimately ending up in Chapel Hill.
In all, the Tar Heels have commitments from 12 of the top 50 players in the state, including flipping receiver Stephen Gosnell from N.C. State to Carolina on Monday night. That’s a stark contrast from last season when State landed 14 of the top 50, Carolina managed to sign just six. In the Class of 2018, Carolina managed to bring in just five in-state top 50 players.
Although five of the top six committed players in the current class play defense, coordinator Jay Bateman wanted no credit for the recruiting success.
“I think we got as good head coach as anybody in the country, and kids want to play for really good head coaches,” he said. “We’ve got a really cool school, and I think when you’ve got a really great school and you’ve got a really great head coach, kids are attracted to it.”
The investment in some new signs and photos around the Kenan Football Center haven’t hurt, either, as recruits walk down the hall and see one guy who’s already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame — Lawrence Taylor — and another that will be there soon — Julius Peppers — splashed all over the walls.
“Coach Brown has made that known to recruits that you can come here and be as good as anybody,” Bateman said. “Two of the best players to ever play this game went here, and played defensive end and outside linebacker.”
After Evans announced his commitment on Friday in Sanford, he specifically spoke to how impressed he was with how Bateman was using Tomon Fox in the hybrid outside linebacker role, generally functioning as a defensive end in his 3-4 scheme.
Brown gave some of the credit back to Bateman and offensive coordinator Phil Longo for helping put a product on the field that players want to be a part of.
“From where we were when we started the spring and everybody's talking about, 'Ehh, you've got no crowds and we don't know if you're going to win any games and don't know about the guys trying and we don't know about your staff,’” Brown said. “Now because both sides of the ball have seen that we know what we're doing with coaching and with kids playing so hard and they see how close we are.”
How close was clear in Saturday night’s loss at Virginia Tech, as the shorthanded Tar Heels kept a tight defensive rotation, making it clear there was plenty of playing time available in Chapel Hill.
Brown said as he left Blacksburg, he received numerous messages from recruits and their parents about their excitement to help.
“They can see it’s happening and they’re wanting to be part of it, so we’ll get more depth in the future and hopefully, better players each year that we recruit,” he said.
If all of this seems familiar, that’s because it is.
Brown found himself in the exact same position 30 years ago, when he was rebuilding the Carolina program for the first time.
And much like now, people had questions then about where the Tar Heels were headed.
“I remember Woody Durham sitting on the other end of the field one night when we were struggling when we first got here and he said, ‘So, what do you think? Are we going to be OK?’ I remember saying, ‘It’s not if anymore; it’s when,’” Brown said. “That’s the same thing I would say now; we’re going to be good, and we’re going to be really good and this train is taking off and I’m really excited about where we’re going.”