The early signing period in December once again took much of the drama out of last Wednesday’s National Signing Day.
Of the 137 players signed by the seven FBS school in North Carolina, 112 signed in December. That’s 81.8 percent. That left a very small population of players left for everyone to chase before the February signing day.
“You find the guys who don’t sign early are really heavily recruited because you’ve got entire staffs recruiting four or five guys in that second group,” UNC coach Mack Brown said. “It’s a lot harder to sign some of the guys the second time because of the attention they draw. And if you’re recruiting them, everybody jumps on them.”
The early period is in just its second year, meaning that Brown, who came out of retirement to return to the Tar Heels, was dealing with it for the first time.
Brown, like three other in-state coaches, also got a late start on recruiting, thanks to UNC’s postseason coaching change.
Still, Brown was able to navigate the new landscape, on short notice, fairly well. The Tar Heels were rated 61st in the 2019 recruiting rankings when he took over. They promptly dropped into the 80s as several prospects decided to reopen their recruitment after speaking to Brown. By the December signing day, UNC was up to No. 36, and by adding five more signees last Wednesday, the Heels jumped to 32nd. That’s down 12 from last year but nowhere near as bad as things looked in early December.
The Heels added five three-stars, four of them on defense. The group includes the highest-rated in-state player who didn’t sign in December — defensive tackle Wisdom Asaboro of Matthews. They also signed linebacker Eugene Asante, DB Don Chapman, JUCO defensive end Ray Vohasek and offensive lineman Ty Murray.
Here’s a look at how the other FBS schools in the state did:
The Mountaineers also welcomed a new coach right before the early period. As a result, Eliah Drinkwitz was only able to bring in nine players in December. App added another nine, including the top-rated recruit in program history — three-star quarterback David Baldwin-Griffin. Three-star receiver Raykwon Anderson — one of the UNC recruits that left after meeting with Brown in December — is also one of App’s top five highest-rated recruits ever.
Drinkwitz also added three offensive linemen, two athletes — three-star Emmanuel Jenkins and Charlotte’s Benjamin Williams — and a DB. When the dust cleared, the Mountaineers were ranked No. 101, a 12-spot jump from last season.
Another team with a new coach, the 49ers signed just nine players in December. Coach Will Healy added five late signees and three transfers. The February signees are led by three-star receiver Noah Henderson. He’s joined by two other receivers — Jamel Brown and three-star Micaleous Elder. Charlotte also added a tight end and a linebacker. Transfers include LB Brelin Faison-Walden (Penn State) from Greensboro, DB Marquill Osborne (Tennessee) from Cornelius and QB Brett Kean (USF). The high school recruits (transfers aren’t included in the rankings) put Charlotte at No. 127, down 16 from last year.
The Pirates hit the ground running under new coach Mike Houston, signing 18 players in December. ECU added three signees last week, all three-stars. JUCO signee Zech Byrd is a 6-foot-7 tight end who helped lead Garden City to the NJCAA National Championship Game last season. He initially committed to Florida coming out of high school and was a JUCO teammate of current Pirates DB Warren Saba in 2017, when he redshirted due to injury.
ECU also added a pair of defensive linemen in Rick D’Abreu and Immanuel Hickman. D’Abreu put up a high school stat line for the ages, getting 31 solo tackles, 13 TFL, 10 QB pressures and seven sacks in three games as a senior before getting injured. Hickman was a two-way player in high school, who played tight end while splitting time on defense between linebacker and defensive end.
Houston’s first Pirates class came in at No. 76 nationally, up 13 spots from last year.
The Wolfpack had the most February signing day drama. Despite being committed to NC State since May, four-star running back Jamious Griffin chose not to sign in December, continuing to shop around. He took January official visits to Louisville and Auburn, then flipped to Georgia Tech.
The Wolfpack replaced him by flipping Jordan Houston from Maryland. In addition to the three-star, who is rated the No. 8 all-purpose back in the senior class, the Pack added safety Cecil Powell, a two-sport athlete who also ran middle distances and did long jump in track.
State also added graduate transfer Tabari Hines, a receiver who has split his college career between Wake Forest and Oregon.
The two high school additions to the 18 players State signed in December put the Wolfpack at No. 29, down three from last year.
The Deacs took care of most of their business in December, signing 20 players. The only February addition was three-star DB Isiah Essissima. The class comes in at No. 53 nationally, up 11 from last year.
The Blue Devils stood pat in February after signing 20 players in December. Duke comes in at No. 46, up 17 from last year.
The in-state FCS programs that were rated by one of the major recruiting networks are:
Western Carolina: 151 (up 13); NC Central: 193 (unrated last year); NC A&T: 205 (down 7); Elon: 216 (down 12); and Gardner-Webb: 236 (down 27).