Building a wall: How well do N.C. coaches keep top players in state?

About half of the best prospects in the state sign with North Carolina schools

Who knew that Donald Trump was such a fan of college football recruiting?One of the first things a new coach does when taking over a college program is to promise to build a wall around the state.Urban Meyer has been a success at Ohio State. Why? Because he build a wall. Nick Saban built one around Alabama too.A quick google search of the phrase finds that wall building is the key to football success in Iowa, Georgia, Louisiana and even Kansas.Sometimes, coaches temper expectations, just a bit, and order a fence around the state, instead of a wall.Either way, the idea is to keep the best players from leaving the state, and preferably coming to play at your school.The state of North Carolina is no different. Mack Brown talked about walls and fences more than 20 years ago, almost as soon as he was hired by UNC.Current Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora made the same promise when he took the job. “We’ve just ordered a huge fence that will go up around the entire state, with barbed wire on top,” Fedora said at his introductory press conference in 2012. “That’s the deal—to put up a border around the state and not let anybody in and to keep the players here. It’s definitely something that we’ve made a priority. We’ve got to keep the great players in the state of North Carolina. I told them at the clinic, I don’t care what school you go to. If you grew up in North Carolina and you’re a great player you should stay in North Carolina. There are a lot of great schools here and that’s number one.”Dave Doeren said something similar when he took over at NC State. “Seeing all the great players from North Carolina starting as freshmen at other schools is upsetting,” he said. “It is, and I am going to fight for those guys, and we’re going to do it the right way. … If they want to leave, it’s going to be really hard.”The perception is that Doeren, Fedora, and their counterparts at Wake, Duke, ECU and elsewhere haven’t been very effective. With Clemson to the south, Virginia Tech to the north and Tennessee to the west, high-level programs frequently slip through holes in the wall and poach prospects. Last year, every recruit ranked in the state’s top 10 signed with an out-of-state school. This year, Florida State, Florida and Oklahoma joined the Tigers and Hokies in grabbing top 10 high schoolers.Overall, however, North Carolina coaches do better than most other states in walling off their state. Fedora signed four Top 10 prospects this year, matching Doeren’s success two years ago.Over the past three seasons, about half of the top 50 prospects in North Carolina signed with in-state schoolsWhile this year’s 48 percent mark is the lowest of the last three and seems to continue a downward trend, it is the second-best mark among states with at least 50 ranked prospects. Only Michigan, where Jim Harbaugh inked the top six players in the state, has a better wall.Keep Out: States who retained the highest percentage of top 50 players in 2017One of the reasons that Clemson and Tennessee are able to venture into North Carolina to chase the top prospects is that they do a relatively good job of shoring up their own state first. It’s why local schools have been able to take successful forays into Georgia in recent years.Then there are the states that have constructed mini Statues of Liberty on their border. “Give me your wretched recruiters from out-of-state schools.”Welcome mat: States who retained the lowest percentage of top 50 playersIt’s interesting to note that many of the states near the bottom of the list have had coaching changes at the top schools in the state in the last two years (LSU, Illinois, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Syracuse). Clearly one of the lessons for the local coaches is that they’ve been right since day one: The best way to keep your job is to keep that wall standing.