Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cutcliffe keeps focus on in-state talent

Coach David Cutcliffe broke with recent Duke recruiting strategy earlier this month by signing nine players from North Carolina in his second recruiting class with the Blue Devils.

Cutcliffe made the Blue Devils competitive inside the state when they have often concentrated elsewhere for recruiting in the past. Durham Hillside running back Desmond Scott was among the in-state prizes Duke landed.

“The high school talent in North Carolina, don’t let anybody tell you it isn’t exceptional,” Cutcliffe said Wednesday while entertaining as the guest speaker at the Raleigh Sports Club.

According to Cutcliffe, there are going to be about 35 to 40 football players from North Carolina signing with BCS schools each year. Cutcliffe plans to remain a contender for many of those players, and already has three juniors from inside the state committed for next year’s class.
Some other highlights from Wednesday’s speech:

- Five to seven players are going to change positions heading into spring practice. Cutcliffe wouldn’t elaborate on the changes because they’re not all finalized, but it’s known that backup quarterback Zack Asack will move to a new position for his senior season.

- Sean Renfree, the highly recruited redshirt freshman quarterback from Scottsdale, Ariz., has impressed Cutcliffe. “He’s got every one of the ingredients to go to the next level (NFL),” Cutcliffe said. Asack’s move should make Renfree the backup to returning starter Thaddeus Lewis.

- After spending 26 straight years coaching in the SEC, Cutcliffe was impressed with the quality of ACC head coaches and assistants in his first season as an ACC coach. “Don’t let anybody tell you the ACC is not up to par,” he said.
- Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Providence WR picks Duke

Providence High junior Brandon Braxton committed over the weekend to play football at Duke, Providence coach Randy Long said Monday.

Braxton is 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds and played safety and wide receiver last season at Providence. Long said he probably will play wide receiver at Duke.

“He’s got really good speed,” Long said. “He’s tough, physical and he’s got great hands.”

Maryland and East Carolina were among the schools that already had offered Braxton scholarships, Long said, and Braxton’s academic goals helped steer him to Duke. Braxton wants to be a doctor, according to Long. – Ken Tysiac

Monday, February 16, 2009

Tar Heels lose 2 football assistants

The University of North Carolina confirmed this afternoon that Tar Heels assistant football coaches Steve Hagen and Tommy Thigpen are leaving the program.

Hagen's departure for an assistant coaching position in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns and Thigpen's exit to coach the secondary at Auburn means three coaches have left the North Carolina staff of coach Butch Davis this offseason.

In a statement released this afternoon, Davis thanked Thigpen and Hagen. (UNC lost special teams coordinator John Lovett to Miami on Thursday.)

"I appreciate everything Tommy Thigpen and Steve Hagen did to help build our program at North Carolina. Both Tommy and Steve made the decision to leave based on what was in the best interest of their families and professional careers. I wish them well in their new positions," Davis said in a release issued by the university. "As I've said before, our assistant coaches will become increasingly more attractive to other programs as we continue to have success. Moving forward, we will bring in outstanding coaches who are excellent teachers and recruiters and who will continue the growth of our program. This is a tremendous opportunity to add to an already outstanding staff."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Coach leaves Tar Heels to be Miami's DC

Still no word from North Carolina or head football coach Butch Davis on the matter, but Tar Heels assistant coach John Lovett has officially been named defensive coordinator for the Miami Hurricanes.

Lovett, 58, spent the last two seasons as the special teams assistant for UNC.

— Robbi Pickeral

ACC schedule analysis

Late this morning, the ACC released its football schedule for 2009.

Here is an analysis of the schedules of the Carolinas ACC teams from staff writers J.P. Giglio and Ken Tysiac:

North Carolina finally gets a Thursday night home game. The Tar Heels will host Florida State on Oct. 22. Expect the dark blue jerseys and win for the Heels in that one, one of eight for the Tar Heels and Butch Davis in 2009.

The Citadel, Georgia Southern, Virginia and Duke are gimmes at Kenan Stadium. At Virginia Tech (also on a Thursday, Oct. 29) looks like the only sure loss on the schedule.

That leaves coin-toss games with UConn, ECU, Miami, Boston College and N.C. State. The Heels should go no worse than 3-2 against that group.

N.C. State gets all of its nonconference games out of the way in September with four straight home dates. The Thursday night ESPN season opener Sept. 3 will provide great exposure for the Wolfpack, and the Sept. 26 game with Pittsburgh will be a test.

The back-to-back games in between against Murray State and Gardner-Webb should be snoozers, though.

A stretch of three road dates in four games against Atlantic Division foes in October will go a long way toward determining how N.C. State finishes in the division as it visits Wake Forest, Boston College and Florida State.

And the season will come to an interesting finish because North Carolina is playing the Wolfpack this season instead of Duke in the season finale on Nov. 28. N.C. State's outside-the-division ACC opponents are permanent partner North Carolina along with Virginia Tech and Duke.

Pencil the Wolfpack in for 3-1 outside the conference, and 5-3 in the ACC because its conference road schedule is fairly difficult.

There are three wins out there for Duke in David Cutcliffe's second season — Richmond, Army and N.C. Central, although the Spiders, the defending Division I-AA champions, did beat Duke in the 2006.

The conference home dates are no bargain with Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, while road trips to Kansas and Miami are a lost cause.

Maryland, Virginia, N.C. State and UNC are all games Duke would have to win to make a bowl. With two I-AAs on the schedule, the Blue Devils have to finish 7-5. Fred Goldsmith's 1994 team can breathe easy.

Cutcliffe's looking at another 4-8 season, which for Duke isn't that bad.

Clemson isn't exactly testing Dabo Swinney in his first full season as head coach.

Aside from the annual rivalry game at South Carolina, the Tigers don't play a nonconference game worth watching. Middle Tennessee, Central Michigan and Coastal Carolina visit Death Valley in a schedule that isn't especially attractive to fans making difficult decisions about season tickets in a tough economy.

Inside the conference, Clemson comes out OK. Road games at Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami and N.C. State won't be easy. But the Tigers do get Florida State and Wake Forest - two of their stronger divisional opponents - at home.

A 4-0 record outside the conference seems good possibility, but 4-4 inside the conference appears likely, too.

Expect the Tigers to go 8-4 with a middle-of-the-pack finish in their division.

Wake Forest has a chance to start 6-0 and, like the 2006 ACC championship season, build up confidence for tough second-half schedule.

The Deacs get five of their first six games at home for quarterback Riley Skinner's seventh season with only a road trip to rebuilding Boston College on Sept. 26.

Jim Grobe continues to do the impossible and make winning eight games easy at Wake Forest.

Tar Heels schedule first Thursday home game

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina had never played a Thursday night football game at home because of the worry of disrupting classes and campus life.

But it has found a solution: hosting one over fall break.

UNC will face Florida State at Kenan Stadium on Oct. 22 — when classes are out, and most students are at home on vacation.

Because the arena is in the middle of campus, holding a game still causes potential challenges -- the hospital is nearby, and people will be trying to leave campus while 60,000 people are trying to get on campus for the game, for example. But athletics director Dick Baddour said the school has the support of the hospital, the students and public safety, and a plan will be put into place in the coming months to make the logistics as seamless as possible.

“I think it’s really exciting; I think it’s exciting for our campus,’’ he said in an interview with the N&O. “The advantage is, obviously, that we can showcase our football program and the university at a time when there’s no competition.”

It will also put a national spotlight on the team, since the game will be televised on ESPN.

“It’s the only game in town at that time,’’ Baddour said. “And with the improvement we’re showing, with the success in recruiting ... there have been programs across the country that have been productive from a recruiting standpoint from using Thursday night to their advantage."

The Tar Heels will actually play back-to-back Thursday night games, as they travel to Virginia Tech on Oct. 29.

“Our 2009 schedule is exciting and challenging,” coach Butch Davis said in a prepared statement. “The fans and student body have been a huge part of creating a great game day atmosphere and I’m thrilled we will play seven times at Kenan Stadium for the second straight year. I know our fans, players, and staff are excited about the opportunity to host the first Thursday night game against an outstanding Florida State team.”

-- Robbi Pickeral

ACC's 2009 football schedules released

The ACC has released its 2009 college football schedules.

Some highlights:
-- N. C. State again opens the season against South Carolina on a Thursday night (Sept. 2) on ESPN.
-- North Carolina at N.C. State has moved to the final Saturday of the season, Nov. 28, ending years of the traditional North Carolina-Duke season-ender.
-- The Tar Heels will host a Thursday night ESPN game for the first time, Oct. 22 against Florida State.
-- East Carolina plays at North Carolina on Sept. 19.
-- Virginia Tech plays both at East Carolina (Oct. 29) and home against North Carolina (Nov. 5) on Thursday nights on ESPN.

The composite schedule:

Thursday, Sept. 3
South Carolina at NC State, ESPN

Saturday, Sept. 5
Northeastern at Boston College
Middle Tennessee at Clemson
Richmond at Duke
Jacksonville State at Georgia Tech
Maryland at California
The Citadel at North Carolina
William & Mary at Virginia
Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (Ga. Dome)
Baylor at Wake Forest

Monday, Sept. 7
Miami at Florida State, ESPN

Thursday, Sept. 10
Clemson at Georgia Tech , ESPN

Saturday, Sept. 12
Kent State at Boston College
Duke at Army
Jacksonville State at Florida State
James Madison at Maryland
North Carolina at Connecticut
Murray State at NC State
TCU at Virginia
Marshall at Virginia Tech
Stanford at Wake Forest

Thursday, Sept. 17
Georgia Tech at Miami, ESPN

Saturday, Sept. 19
Boston College at Clemson
Duke at Kansas
Florida State at BYU
Middle Tennessee at Maryland
East Carolina at North Carolina
Gardner-Webb at NC State
Virginia at Southern Miss
Nebraska at Virginia Tech
Elon at Wake Forest

Saturday, Sept. 26
Wake Forest at Boston College
Central Michigan at Clemson
North Carolina Central at Duke
South Florida at Florida State
North Carolina at Georgia Tech
Rutgers at Maryland
Miami at Virginia Tech
Pittsburgh at NC State

Saturday, Oct. 3
Florida State at Boston College
Clemson at Maryland
Virginia Tech at Duke
Georgia Tech at Mississippi State
Oklahoma at Miami
Virginia at North Carolina
NC State at Wake Forest

Saturday, Oct. 10
Boston College at Virginia Tech
Duke at NC State
Georgia Tech at Florida State
Maryland at Wake Forest
Florida A&M at Miami
Georgia Southern at North Carolina
Indiana at Virginia

Saturday, Oct. 17
NC State at Boston College
Wake Forest at Clemson
Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech
Virginia at Maryland
Miami at Central Florida

Thursday, Oct. 22
Florida State at North Carolina, ESPN

Saturday, Oct. 24
Boston College at Notre Dame
Clemson at Miami
Maryland at Duke
Georgia Tech at Virginia
Wake Forest at Navy

Thursday, Oct. 29
North Carolina at Virginia Tech, ESPN

Saturday, Oct. 31
Central Michigan at Boston College
Coastal Carolina at Clemson
Duke at Virginia
NC State at Florida State
Georgia Tech at Vanderbilt
Miami at Wake Forest

Thursday, Nov. 5
Virginia Tech at East Carolina, ESPN

Saturday, Nov. 7
Florida State at Clemson
Duke at North Carolina
Wake Forest at Georgia Tech
Maryland at NC State
Virginia at Miami

Saturday, Nov. 14
Boston College at Virginia
Clemson at NC State
Georgia Tech at Duke
Florida State at Wake Forest
Virginia Tech at Maryland
Miami at North Carolina

Saturday, Nov. 21
North Carolina at Boston College
Virginia at Clemson
Duke at Miami
Maryland at Florida State
NC State at Virginia Tech

Saturday, Nov. 28
Boston College at Maryland
Clemson at South Carolina
Wake Forest at Duke
Florida State at Florida
Georgia at Georgia Tech
Miami at South Florida
North Carolina at N.C. State
Virginia Tech at Virginia

Saturday, Dec. 5
Dr Pepper ACC Championship Game
Tampa, Fla., ABC

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Heavy hitters join UNCC football fundraising team

This afternoon UNC Charlotte announced the committee that will attempt to raise the millions of dollars needed to get the 49ers' proposed football program off the ground. And the group has a pretty strong pedigree.

The honorary co-chairmen are Wachovia Championship general chairman Mac Everett and Lincoln Harris president Johnny Harris, who are involved in just about anything that Charlotte's institutions try to do. As is FairPoint CEO Gene Johnson, the guy who will have to do the heavy lifting as chairman of the committee.

More help is also available; the executive chairs are three former 49ers who are now chief financial officers at major corporations. David Hauser of Duke Energy, Bob Hull of Lowe's and Joe Price of Bank of America are on board.

Also, former Carolina Panthers Mike Rucker and Mike Minter are ambassadors for the group.

It's a tough time for such an ambitious project with the nation's economy seemingly slipping off a cliff. But then again, as Chancellor Phil Dubois and several committee members pointed out, it's never easy to get a program like this started.

The university has a general target of about $45 million, a figure that would go towards equipping the program, providing scholarships and building an on-campus stadium.

Football Seat Licenses for the proposed stadium are already being sold. Orders for more than 5,400 have been taken from more than 2,000 individuals. And payment on at least the first installment of 241 of those orders had been received as of Friday.

While the school hopes to begin play in 2013, nothing is set in stone.

"We're going to be very thoughtful about trying to set timeframes or unrealistic deadlines right now, given the economy," Johnson said after the press conference. "It's going to be hard, don't get me wrong. We've got to let the economy work its way out a little bit, understand where things are.

"It's a tough time to be doing anything, but if you don't get started, you won't get finished."--Stan Olson

Monday, February 9, 2009

UNC to play two I-AA schools in '09

North Carolina will play Georgia Southern in football next season on Oct. 10, a team official confirmed, filling it's 12-game schedule with a second Division I-AA team.

The opening in the Tar Heels' schedule occurred when coach Butch Davis opted to cancel a home-and-home series with Colorado.

This year's season-opener against McNeese State replaced one of those games, but they were unable to find another I-A foe to play because most major conferences schedule several years in advance, and usually want a home-and-home series. UNC would not have been able to return a game for several seasons, because its schedule is so full.

UNC also wanted to play a seventh home game.

The ACC is expected to release its schedule Tuesday. Carolina's other three non-conference games next season are against The Citadel (a I-AA team) and East Carolina, and at Connecticut.

— Robbi Pickeral

Breaking down '09 ACC football schedule

The ACC is expected to announce the 2009 football schedule on Tuesday. We don't know the order of the games but we do know the conference opponents and sites.

Given 10 of the ACC's 12 teams finished 4-4 or 5-3, there's not a ton of separation in the conference so the schedule can make the difference between winning the division and last place.

In general, it will be good to avoid Florida State or Virginia Tech in 2009 and it's a bonus to play Duke (anywhere) and Virginia (at home).

With those parameters in mind:

Good breaks:

Wake Forest: No Virginia Tech and FSU comes to the Dash. The Deacs also get a road game with Duke.

UVa: The Hoos avoid FSU and get Virginia Tech at home. They also have a home date with Duke and no Wake Forest.

FSU: Does not play Virginia Tech and it can't play itself. The downside is no Duke or Virginia.

Va. Tech: The Hokies avoid FSU, Wake Forest and Clemson and go to Duke, which is basically another home game.

Clemson: FSU at home and no VT but no Duke, either.

Bad breaks

BC: Triple-whammy with both FSU and VT on the schedule and no Duke.
The Eagles also have to go to Virginia.

N.C. State and Miami: Road games at FSU and VT but the Pack and Canes do get Duke at home.

The schedule breakdown:

Atlantic Division

Boston College
Home: Wake, N.C. State, FSU, UNC
Away: Maryland, Clemson, UVa, Va. Tech
Avoid: Duke, Miami, Ga. Tech

Home: Wake, FSU, BC, UVa
Away: Maryland, N.C. State, Ga. Tech, Miami
Avoid: Va. Tech, Duke, UNC

Florida State
Home: Maryland, NC. State, Ga. Tech, Miami
Away: Clemson, Wake, BC, UNC
Avoid: Duke, UVa, Va. Tech

Home: Clemson, BC, UVa, Va. Tech
Away: Wake, N.C. State, FSU, Duke
Avoid: UNC, Miami, Ga. Tech

N.C. State
Home: Maryland, Clemson, Duke, UNC
Away: Wake, FSU, BC, Va. Tech
Avoid: Miami, Ga. Tech, UVa

Wake Forest
Home: Maryland, N.C. State, FSU, Miami
Away: Clemson, BC, Ga. Tech, Duke
Avoid: Va. Tech, UVa, UNC

Coastal Division

Home: Maryland, Wake, Ga. Tech, Va. Tech
Away: N.C. State, UVa, UNC, Miami
Avoid: Clemson, BC, FSU

Georgia Tech
Home: Clemson, Wake, UNC, Va. Tech
Away: FSU, UVa, Duke, Miami
Avoid: N.C. State, BC, Maryland

Home: Clemson, UVa, Ga. Tech, Duke
Away: Wake, FSU, UNC, Va. Tech
Avoid: N.C. State, Maryland, BC

Home: FSU, UVa, Duke, Miami
Away: N.C. State, BC, Ga. Tech, Va. Tech
Avoid: Clemson, Maryland, Wake

Home: BC, Ga. Tech, Duke, Va. Tech
Away: Maryland, Clemson, UNC, Miami
Avoid: N.C. State, Wake, FSU

Virginia Tech
Home: N.C. State, BC, UNC, Miami
Away: Maryland, UVa, Ga. Tech, Duke
Avoid: Clemson, FSU, Wake

- J.P. Giglio

For North Carolina, what might have been...

With a few days to look back at the conclusion of the 2008 recruiting wars, it's obvious that North Carolina had a very good class. It just missed being a great one.

The night before signing day, Greenwood, S.C. DE Sam Montgomery was still trying to decide between LSU and UNC. And he said that the Tar Heels had been his favorite for some time. I got a feeling that a number of family and friends were pushing the Tigers, thinking Sam would have a better chance at winning a national title there. They had to sell Montgomery, though, and finally did. Montgomery, The Observer's No.2 prospect in South Carolina, headed for Baton Rouge.

North Carolina also just missed on two big-time offensive linemen. Morgan Moses of Richmond Meadowbrook High wound up at Virginia after reported narrowing it to the Cavaliers and Tar Heels. And Bobby Massie of Chatham, Va.'s Hargrave Military Academy, who picked Ole Miss over UNC.

Had the Tar Heels landed all three or even two of them, this might have qualified as their best class ever, ahead of some fine ones that arrived during the Mack Brown years. As it is, UNC improved its talent level dramatically, finishing with the No.8-ranked group according to Olson

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sharpe denies Jeffery; he'll wear No. 1 for Gamecocks

South Carolina's great jersey flap is over.
Alshon Jeffery, a receiver who signed with the Gamecocks on Wednesday, had asked to wear No. 2 in college. Unfortunately for Jeffery that number was worn by former South Carolina great Sterling Sharpe and has been retired by the school.
Coach Steve Spurrier asked Sharpe if the No. 2 could be brought out of retirement, for Jeffery, but Sharpe wouldn't allow it. So Jeffery will wear No. 1.
“I recently learned of the athletics department policy regarding retired numbers and jerseys,” Spurrier said in a statement Sunday. “The policy states that the four previously retired numbers would stay retired unless approval was granted from the player whose number was retired. In this instance, permission was sought to use a retired number and permission was denied. It is now a dead issue. I talked to Alshon and he is ready and excited to wear number 1 for the Carolina Gamecocks.”
-- David Scott

Friday, February 6, 2009

Duke to play N.C. Central

Duke will play Durham neighbor North Carolina Central on Sept. 26 at Duke’s Wallace Wade Stadium, school officials announced Friday.

Terms of the one-game contract will not be released.

“Anytime you have an opportunity to play against a team that you share the same city with, it’s like playing your brother," N.C. Central coach Mose Rison said in a statement.

The Blue Devils were 4-8 last season. N.C. Central finished 4-7 in 2008, its second season as a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) team.

Duke’s other nonconference games are at home against Richmond (Sept. 5) and away at Army (Sept. 12) and Kansas (Sept. 19). Because the Blue Devils play two FCS schools (N.C. Central and Richmond), they will have to go 7-5 rather than 6-6 to become bowl eligible. – Ken Tysiac

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Duke dismisses 1, suspends 1

Duke has dismissed freshman linebacker Trent Mackey from its football team for violating team standards, coach David Cutcliffe announced Thursday.

Another freshman, defensive back Randez James, has been suspended from the team and will miss spring practice.

Mackey appeared in 11 games in 2008 and made 10 tackles. He is no longer enrolled at Duke.

James did not play in a game last season. His status as a team member will be evaluated at the end of the spring semester. – Ken Tysiac

Did economy keep recruits close to home?

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina coach Butch Davis credits the continuity of his staff, and the team's continued success, for luring 15 in-state recruits to the program.

But he conceded that there might have been another factor: the struggling economy.

"I think that is a little bit of a trend,'' Davis said. "I don't know how many kids we got today that we would have lost, I don't know if there were any of them. But I think that was a subject of every single discussion in almost every home ... because a lot the kids that we signed are within a four or five hour drive to get to Chapel Hill as opposed to two plane connections and maybe a $900 round-trip plane ticket every time mom and dad want to come to a game. I definitely think it made a difference in recruiting throughout the country."

-- Robbi Pickeral

Feagles follows famous father to Butch Davis

CHAPEL HILL — Punter C.J. Feagles was one of the last recruits to fax his letter of intent to North Carolina on Wednesday because he was in Hawaii with his father, New York Giants punter Jeff, for the NFL Pro Bowl.

It marked a bit of deja vu for UNC coach Butch Davis, who also recruited Jeff to Miami more than 20 years ago.

“It was an interesting visit when they came on campus, Jeff and his wife, because I had recruited Jeff out of Scottsdale Community College back in 1984, and here he is still going to the Pro Bowl and he has 22 years in the National Football League. If we have anywhere close to that success with his son, it will be a pretty good deal.”

So did Davis use the same recruiting tactics with son as with father?

“Actually, he thought we did a better job recruiting his son than we did recruiting him,” Davis said, laughing. “He thought the food was better this time around.”

-- Robbi Pickeral

Where The Observer's Top 50 landed

Now that National Signing Day is past, exactly where did The Observer's Top 50 prospects--25 in North Carolina, 25 in South Carolina--land?

NC Top 25

North Carolina's Tar Heels dominated, claiming 11 members. That included four of the state's top five. Coach Butch Davis has reclaimed the state.

Not that it was easy; Duke, Wake Forest and N.C. State each grabbed a pair of Top 25 players. That's a good thing for the Blue Devils, who are having better luck with their in-state recruiting under coach David Cutcliffe. It's not so good for the Wolfpack, which normally collects a higher percentage of our group.

A total of 17 of the Top 25 members stayed home, and one, Shelby High's Larry Raper, has yet to sign. Clemson, as it has done for years, coaxed two players to head south, and South Carolina got one. Florida landed the most impressive kid, picking up No.2-ranked OT Xavier Nixon of Fayetteville Britt. Penn State, Miami and Virginia also got players.

SC Top 25

South Carolina was the big dog with this bunch, claiming eight members of the list, including two of the top five. Arch-rival Clemson had only five in-state players among its 12 signees, but all of them made The Observer's list. And Coastal Carolina kept one kid home. Which means 14 of 24 signees--one is still deliberating--remained in-state.

The out-of-state poachers included some big-name schools. The ACC's Virginia Tech and N.C. State got two Top 25ers, while Duke and Georgia Tech landed one each. Alabama, Tennessee, Michigan and LSU also picked up a player apiece.

In summary, Carolinas' schools did well in their own backyards. Counting kids they picked up from both Top 50 lists, UNC led with 11, followed by South Carolina (9), Clemson (7), N.C. State (4), Duke (3), Wake Forest (2) and Coastal Carolina (1). While East Carolina was shut out on this list, the Pirates did add seven members of the North Carolina Shrine Bowl team.

Pack's O'Brien not concerned about rankings

N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien has little use for the national recruiting rankings. placed the Wolfpack’s signing class Wednesday at No. 10 in the ACC, behind even Duke’s.

“It (ranking teams) is important because a lot of people pay attention to it, I guess,” O’Brien said. “But that’s never been one thing that’s been of great importance to us. If we like a guy, we like a guy. I don’t care if you like him or not.”

This class should help the Wolfpack in a lot of ways. O’Brien said there were times last season when N.C. State was perilously thin on the offensive and defensive lines because of injuries.

With 12 linemen in this class, O’Brien is building a foundation that should be more solid at the line of scrimmage in future years. The class also has speed with skill players such as Bryan Underwood and Morgan Alexander that should add to the team’s big-play ability.

Quarterback Everett Proctor of Fayetteville received an impressive endorsement from O’Brien.

“He’s a bigger, maybe faster and better arm than Russell Wilson,” O’Brien said. “Stronger arm. He’s a raw athlete we see a tremendous amount of potential in.”

While rival North Carolina grabbed the headlines on signing day with a top-10 class, O’Brien seemed comfortable in the background. He didn’t get a bunch of highly ranked players, but he said he got recruits he and his staff can coach.

“We’re best at bringing in players that we can develop,” O’Brien said. “There’s certainly a lot of very, very good players here. But they’re players that we like a lot of things about. Especially on the line, their abilities one way or another. We think we can coach them into being, like I said a couple years ago, we don’t care what they come in as. But they’d better leave as five-star guys.” – Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Just the fax: Tate leaves UNC wondering

CHAPEL HILL - North Carolina coach Butch Davis didn't have many tense moments agonizing beside the fax machine during Wednesday's Signing Day.

Except for waiting for the paperwork from incoming quarterback/baseball player Donavan Tate.

Tate had told UNC's coaches he would send his signed letter of intent by 7:30 a.m.

"At 7:30, no fax; 8 o'clock, no fax; 8:45, no fax; 9 o'clock, no fax; 9:45, no fax,'' Davis said. "...We're burning up the cell phone lines, calling his mom, calling his high school coach, his baseball coach, football coach, everybody. We've got bloodhounds and the FBI and the CIA, and finally he calls back and says, 'I'm in class, what's up? I'm between classes; what's the matter?" [We asked] 'Where's the fax?'"

It ends up that Tate had signed his paperwork at 7:30 a.m. and given it to his mother — who couldn't find a place to fax it.

"She was driving around, going to work, and we were like, 'Did he get kidnapped? Did he get highjacked? Do we need to get a ransom out? ... Did George Steinbrenner find him?"

Speaking of Steinbrenner, the former owner of the Yankees, Davis said he does expect the outfielder to play football and baseball at UNC, rather than head straight to the MLB.

"I think he's going to play at Carolina,'' Davis said. "I think he loves the idea of coming in and being a multi-sport athlete; he cherishes the idea of going to college.

"Can money change an 18-year-old kid's mind? Absolutely it can. But I know that talking to his mom, that she and Donavan both love the fact that this University provided them with just about everything that they dreamed about: a great football opportunity, a great baseball opportunity, a great education, close to home. It was just about a home run with everything that we were able to present to him ... as to why Carolina, as opposed to the other opportunity."

- Robbi Pickeral

UNC's Davis: 25 new players by fall

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina signed 29 football players on Wednesday, and coach Butch Davis says he expects to have the full NCAA allotment of 25 in camp by the fall.

His mindset when it comes to the idea of "oversigning":

"We did it several years at the University of Miami where we oversigned, and basically what you're trying to do it target kids that want to come to the University of North Carolina,'' he said. "We have a plan for every kid that falls into that category ... whether it's a grayshirt opportunity because of an injury, whether it's an academic situation where someone may have to go to a postgraduate [school], whether it's somebody that they need some age, some maturity ... there's a variety of different guys that this fits."

- Robbi Pickeral

Pack's Bowens has knee surgery

Wide receiver Donald Bowens, N.C. State’s receptions leader in 2007, was having knee surgery Wednesday, coach Tom O’Brien said.

O’Brien said he is uncertain if Bowens, who missed last season with a spinal injury, will be ready for the start of the 2009 season.

“I won’t know until after the surgery,” O’Brien said during his signing day news conference.
Bowens made 41 catches for 598 yards in 2007 as a sophomore.

Another wide receiver, Darrell Davis, has had arthroscopic shoulder surgery but is expected back for spring practice, O’Brien said.

The coach also remains hopeful that quarterback Russell Wilson will recover from his knee injury in time for spring practice. Wilson is limited to upper body work in the weight room after a knee injury that didn’t require surgery kept him out of the second half of the Bowl in Birmingham, Ala.

O’Brien said he would like to work with Wilson on making quicker reads and delivering passes more quickly so that he doesn’t have to scramble as much. Although Wilson’s speed makes him an effective runner, O’Brien said he is vulnerable to injury when he runs.

“Sometimes your strength is your weakness,” O’Brien said.

Wide receiver Geron James no longer is with the team and intends to transfer, O’Brien said. And reserve quarterback Harrison Beck and defensive end Jamaine Clemmons will graduate and won’t return to the team, according to O’Brien. - Ken Tysiac

Tar Heels class ranked 5th nationally

Butch Davis and the North Carolina Tar Heels have cracked the Top 8 in two respected recruting lists.

UNC is No. 5 on the list and No. 8 on

South Carolina was the next highest Carolinas school, weighing in at No. 11 in both rankings.

Other Carolinas ACC schols weighed in further down the list with Clemson (42, 38) leading the way, followed by North Carolina State (39, 53), Duke (51, 51) and Wake Forest (58, 62).

East Carolina, coming off a blazing start with wins over Virginia Tech and West Virginia, weighed in at No. 82 and tied for 92.

Moses chooses Virginia over UNC

North Carolina suffered a signing day disappointment Wednesday when Parade All-America offensive tackle Morgan Moses chose to stay in his home state and signed with Virginia.

Moses, who's 6-foot-7 and 330 pounds, is a senior at Meadowbrook High in Richmond. - Ken Tysiac

N.C. State mines Georgia

With all the success N.C. State has had recruiting in Georgia, you'd think the campus was in Roswell instead of Raleigh.

Seven recruits from Georgia - including offensive linemen Duran Christophe of Woodstock, Deion Roberson of Tucker and Camden Wentz of Marietta - have sent letters of intent that have arrived at N.C. State.

The Wolfpack won't even have that many signees from the state of North Carolina. Couple Tom O'Brien's recruiting in Georgia with basketball coach Sidney Lowe's Georgia success (J.J. Hickson plus signees Lorenzo Brown and Richard Howell), and you see that Georgia is critical for the whole N.C. State athletics department.

Recruiting Georgia heavily is a smart move for N.C. State in both sports. According to a U.S. census estimate, Georgia had a population of 9.3 million and North Carolina had a population of 8.8 million in 2006. But Georgia has just two Football Bowl Subdivision schools, while North Carolina has five.

Georgia isn't far from Raleigh and has a lot of good football players who can't be accommodated by the Georgia Bulldogs or Georgia Tech. A bunch of them signed with N.C. State on Wednesday. - Ken Tysiac

Montgomery picks LSU over UNC

Sam Montgomery woke up Wednesday morning and suddenly —finally — he knew.

He was going to be a Bayou Bengal. He was going to LSU.

Montgomery, a Greenwood High defensive end and The Observer’s No.2 football prospect in the state of South Carolina, held his decision close. His mother Debra was fairly certain of it. No one else was.

The pair and a group of eight more friends and family headed for the posh south Charlotte studios of ESPNU. There Montgomery, sitting at a table behind the helmets of finalists Tennessee, LSU and North Carolina, said nice things about each school. Then he announced his choice to a national television audience shortly after 10:30 a.m.

It didn’t come easily. In fact, for the longest time, he believed he would end up a Tar Heel.

“I thought it would be UNC,” Montgomery said.

And he wasn’t certain that it would not be Tuesday night, when he scored “12 or 14” points and grabbed “a lot of rebounds” in Greenwood’s basketball victory over Wren High. During timeouts and stoppages of play, his mind kept drifting. North Carolina or LSU?

He and his mother talked again later that night. By the time they went to bed, she felt that she knew it would be LSU.

“I was thinking that way back when we visited LSU,” she said. “We were talking to coach (Les) Miles, and just the way his eyes narrowed when he talked about what he wanted to do. He didn’t just want to win; he wanted to dominate.”

Another aspect also factored in. When Montgomery played in the Under Armour All-American game, he became friends with highly rated recruits Russell Shepard, who had already committed to LSU, and running back Trent Richardson, who planned to choose between LSU and Alabama.

Shepard was pushing Montgomery to come to Baton Rouge. Montgomery wanted Richardson to come as well. The phone calls and text messages flew back and forth.

There was even some thought that if Richardson announced early for Alabama, Montgomery, who is 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, would switch back to UNC.

While Montgomery waited for a message from Richardson, though, his time on ESPN arrived.

“I’m going to go ahead and lock it down and keep that No.1 (recruiting) class going at LSU,” he said on the air.

Later, Montgomery, his mother and support group crowded into an ESPN conference room to talk about the decision. Montgomery sat at the head of the polished oval of the conference table in a baseball cap and purple jacket, talking and texting.

And in the final analysis, it came down to the chance of winning a national championship.

“I want to be in the (title) races, in the SEC for the competition,” he said. “That’s the best league going.”

Montgomery had also made up his mind to play out of state, which eliminated South Carolina and Clemson. Michigan and Oregon were also recently trimmed from the list.

The toughest thing about the whole process, he said, was telling the coaches at the schools he eliminated no. So he didn’t; his mother Debra did. And North Carolina and Tennessee found out today by watching ESPN. Just like everyone else.

With the decision made, Montgomery, quiet and matter-of-fact in manner, sat at the end of the table, texting.

Still trying to get Richardson.

“I’m going to keep it up until I get him and harass him into coming to LSU,” he said.


Boyd's letter good news for Clemson

The arrival of quarterback Tajh Boyd's letter of intent at 9:47 this morning was excellent news for Clemson, which hasn't had much good news in recruiting this season.

In the wake of coach Tommy Bowden's resignation, the Tigers lost some high-profile commitments that caused the class to take a bit of a nosedive.

New head coach Dabo Swinney got involved with Boyd late and wound up with one of the best quarterbacks in the nation at a position where Clemson doesn't have much experience. Boyd is having surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, so it's uncertain whether he'll have an impact this season even though he intends to be ready for preseason drills in August.

But in Boyd and sophomore Willy Korn, Clemson will have two quarterbacks rated in just about everybody's top 100 overall prospects in their respective recruiting classes. In terms of raw talent, at least, the Tigers should be in good shape at quarterback. - Ken Tysiac

WR Jeffery picks South Carolina

SAINT MATTHEWS, S.C. – Ending months of speculation about his future, Calhoun County receiver Alshon Jeffery signed with South Carolina on Wednesday morning during a ceremony at his high school.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Jeffery, a national Rivals100 selection, committed to Southern California last summer but kept his recruitment open.

Jeffery, The (Columbia) State’s choice as the best player in the state, caught 30 passes for 693 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior. Jeffery was the last of seven Calhoun County players to sign.

Sitting in front of a microphone in the school gym, Jeffery first announced he was going to Southern Cal. The crowd of 100 or so was silent as someone unfurled a Southern Cal blanket behind Jeffery as Jeffery initially announced his choice as the Trojans.

After polite applause, he put on a Gamecocks cap and said, "I think I’m going to stay in state and go to South Carolina," drawing louder applause.

"That’s why I stayed home and tried to represent for the home team," Jeffery said. "We’re going to do it big at South Carolina. . . . I loved the atmosphere out there on Saturday night. It's live out there."

Jeffery was glad to have made his choice.

"It’s as long process, a lot of stress," he said. "I’m glad it’s over." - Joe Person, The (Columbia) State

Byrd signs with N.C. State

Cornerback Jarvis Byrd of Pahokee, Fla., who's one of N.C. State's most coveted commitments, has signed with the Wolfpack.

Byrd was thought to be wavering in his commitment in December, but firmed up with the Wolfpack in late January. He is 5-foot-11, 180 pounds and had 60 tackles, 15 passes broken up and three punt blocks as a senior. - Ken Tysiac

LB picks Ole Miss over Duke

Duke suffered one of the first signing day losses among Carolinas schools on Wednesday morning when linebacker Mike Marry of Clearwater, Fla., signed with Mississippi.

Marry had visited Duke in mid-January, and Blue Devil fans had been holding out at least a glimmer of hope that he would sign with Duke. - Ken Tysiac

Triangle signees boost Duke

Duke had almost unprecedented success with highly regarded players in the Triangle area in its 2009 recruiting class.
The Blue Devils have received letters of intent confirming that Triangle influence, according to Durham Hillside running back Desmond Scott, the gem of the class whom coach David Cutcliffe pried away from Rutgers, has turned in his letter.
So has Leesville Road cornerback Zach Greene, whose father, Dwayne Greene, played at N.C. State. Other players in the Triangle area who have turned in their letters are offensive tackle Perry Simmons of Sanderson, linebacker Kevin Rojas of Wakefield and wide receiver Corey Gattis of Durham Hillside.
Duke also has a letter of intent from cornerback Ross Cockrell of Charlotte Latin. - Ken Tysiac

Montgomery, Observer's S.C. No. 2, to LSU

Sam Montgomery, a 6-5, 240-pound defensive end from Greenwood, S.C., High ranked No. 2 in the Observer's S.C. Top 25, committed to LSU Wednesday morning.

Montgomery made his choice live at ESPNU's studio in South Charlotte.

Montgomery eliminated Oregon from his list last week. He has visited Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee and LSU officially. He's also visited South Carolina and Clemson on his own.

-- Stan Olson

Farms' letter good start to UNC's big day

One of the biggest nail-biters of North Carolina’s highly regarded recruiting class is in.

Offensive lineman Johnnie Farms of Perry, Ga., had committed to the Tar Heels but also considered Auburn in the days leading up to signing day. That made him the type of guy that a coach worries about until his letter of intent actually arrives.

That happened at 8:11 a.m. today, according to, the school’s official web site. So what’s expected to be a great day for the Tar Heels is off to a good start. – Ken Tysiac

Boyd, Renner lead Carolinas QB class

Two of the quarterbacks scheduled to sign today with Carolinas schools stand out as head and shoulders above the rest, according to national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell.

He said the best quarterback commitment in the Carolinas comes from Tajh Boyd of Hampton, Va., who has chosen Clemson. Boyd earned co-MVP honors at the prestigious U.S. Army All-America game despite playing with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.

Boyd plans to have surgery but hopes to be available for the start of practice in August.

“Boyd has great accuracy,” Farrell said. “He has a feel for the game, he’s a leader and he’s got tremendous vision. . . .He’s not going to be a tuck-and-run guy. He’s clearly a pro-style passer.”

Second-best in the Carolinas is Bryn Renner, the North Carolina commitment from Springfield, Va. Renner is the son of a coach and has impressed Farrell with his knowledge of the game.

“You can tell he’s been around football for a long time,” Farrell said. “. . .I just like that he’s got a good work ethic. He’s a kid that’s going to be in the film room a lot.”

Other quarterback commitments in the Carolinas include Everett Proctor (N.C. State), Brendan Cross (Wake Forest), Rio Johnson (East Carolina), Andrew Clifford (South Carolina) and Sean Schroeder (Duke).

Farrell had difficulty picking the best of the rest, but gave the nod to Schroeder, who’s from Dana Hills High in California. He said Schroeder might not turn out to be the best because he will be surrounded by less talent at Duke.

But all things being equal, Farrell is impressed with Schroeder.
“I’ve just got a feeling about him,” Farrell said. – Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Montgomery narrowing the field

Greenwood High defensive end Sam Montgomery, The Observer's No.2 prospect in the state of South Carolina, has trimmed his list as Wednesday's National Signing Day approaches, according to two sources.

He has narrowed the schools he's considering to North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and LSU. No longer in the picture are Clemson and Michigan.

"He's nervous about all this," said longtime Greenwood coach Shell Dula, who retired following the season. "But I expect him to sign with somebody tomorrow."

Montgomery, who is 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, has 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash. A Shrine Bowl selection, he also made the AP all-state team. As a senior, he collected 78 tackles, including 11 sacks. He also forced three fumbles and had seven quarterback hurries.--Stan Olson

Video: Top Charlotte-area commits

With signing day just hours away, WCNC-TV and have posted video of some of the top Charlotte-area players who will sign with ACC teams Wednesday:

Charlotte Latin's Ross Cockrell, a Duke CB commitment.

Gastonia Ashbrook's Jheranie Boyd, a North Carolina WR commit.

South Meck's Spencer Shuey, a Clemson DE commit.

Butler's Hawatha Bell, a North Carolina LB commit

Many thanks to WCNC for the links.

- Ken Tysiac

Top S.C. prospect picks Michigan

Quinton Washington has chosen Michigan over South Carolina.

Washington, a heavily recruited offensive lineman from Saint Stephen (S.C.) Timberland High, announced his commitment this afternoon, the day before National Signing Day. He had also considered Tennessee and Miami before reducing his candidates to the Wolverines and Gamecocks.

"His biggest thing was that he just felt like Michigan was the best place for him, he just felt most comfortable there," said Timberland coach Art Craig a few minutes ago. "They plan to use him at offensive guard and he expects to be able to come in and play early."

Washington, who is 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds, was an Observer S.C .Top 25 prospect. He has considerable athleticism, and can dunk a basketball. He also played in the Under Armour All-American Bowl.

"He's physically just so strong and quick at the same time," Craig said. "He's got good hip flexibility and moves well. And whatever you tell him, he absorbs it. He applies himself and he gets it the first time around."

Washington is's No.8-rated guard, and a four-star player.

-- Stan Olson

Asack likely to move; recruit is Duke's No. 3 QB

At breakfast a few weeks ago during a visit with quarterback commitment Sean Schroeder, Duke coach David Cutcliffe revealed that a position move will bring Schroeder into fall camp as the team’s No. 3 quarterback.

Duke sports information director Art Chase confirmed Tuesday that Zack Asack, who’s been the backup quarterback the last two seasons, is likely to change positions. Thaddeus Lewis remains the starter, and redshirt freshman Sean Renfree will start camp as the backup ahead of Schroeder.

Schroeder has gained 10 to 12 pounds since the end of football season and is carrying about 195 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame.

Brent Melbon, who coached Schroeder at Dana Hills High in California, said Schroeder made all the line calls for his high school team, which was good practice for him in terms of understanding the game.

“He processes things really quickly,” Melbon said. “I think the upside is tremendous. . . .He can make all the throws, and he moves well though he’s not necessarily a runner. I was fortunate to have him.” – Ken Tysiac

Landing Greene a coup for Duke

Although Raleigh Leesville Road defensive back Zach Greene isn’t the most highly rated player in Duke’s recruiting class, getting him away from N.C. State might have been one of the biggest accomplishments of this recruiting season for the Blue Devils.

Greene’s father, Dwayne Greene, is a former N.C. State player and a member of the Wolfpack Club board of directors.

“That was a big surprise,” said national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell. “Zach was a kid that we were just ticking down the days for him to commit to N.C. State early in the process. And that just shows that this staff for Duke is very young and they’re very aggressive.

“They do a good job of recruiting kids that other schools want. They pulled John Drew away from a commitment to Georgia Tech. They pulled Desmond Scott away from a commitment to Rutgers. But the also are good at getting in on kids early. Walt Canty showed at the Shrine Bowl that he’s probably one of the most underrated players in the country.” - Ken Tysiac

Cato-Bishop is Pack's sleeper

One of the most intriguing players who’s expected to sign with N.C. State on Wednesday may be defensive end Darryl Cato-Bishop of Lawrence Academy in Dorchester, Mass.

Cato-Bishop is a 6-foot-3, 238-pound defensive end rated as the fifth-best player in Massachusetts, a state that doesn’t produce a lot of high-caliber college talent. His football experience is limited because he was known more as a basketball player early in his high school career.

“Athletically, he’s 6-3, 240 pounds, runs a 4.6 and has great lateral movement,” said national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell. “The big question about him is, can he play physical enough? Because he’s not a physical kid right now. He’s got that basketball mentality, so he’s more of a finesse guy than he is a physical football player. But as far as athleticism, you can’t teach that. And he could be a home run if he picks it up intensity wise.” - Ken Tysiac

ECU, Holtz look to prove 'experts' wrong

What do the recruiting classes of Akron, Miami of Ohio and Western Michigan have in common?

They are all rated higher than East Carolina’s group by The Pirates are ranked in a tie for 90th on Rivals’ list, with Central Michigan.

Do you really believe that all those schools have done as well or better than ECU coach Skip Holtz’s staff?

Don’t bet on it; the problem is that recruiting is such an inexact science. The key element involved is an ability to look at a 17-year-old kid and arrive at an educated guess concerning how good a college player he will be in three or four years.

The schools that do it best find that such a skill eventually translates into victories. Last year, East Carolina won its Conference USA division and nine games overall.

Often, high school players look nothing like the finished products they will become years later. Everyone might be ignoring that skinny, 6-foot-4, 210-pound tight end. But ECU or Wake Forest or N.C. State will see something in him it likes and sometime in the future, that kid will be 6-5 and 265, and an all-conference offensive guard.

This isn’t to blame recruiting services. All they can really go by is what players look like right now. Some mature more quickly than others, and best of those—the ones with the bodies and speed of men—get four or five of those stars the analysts give out.

And there’s more to it than that; if a kid is being recruited by Texas, Southern Cal and Notre Dame, he can probably play. My guess is the knowledge of who has offered him can bring another star or two.

While the recruiting gurus do get most of the very best players right, don’t lose hope if your school’s class is far down the lists come Wednesday’s National Signing Day.

The experts have been wrong before.

—Stan Olson

Mularkey could be UNC's 'sleeper' recruit

Greater Atlanta Christian School linebacker Shane Mularkey doesn’t have nearly as many stars next to his name as most of the highly recruited players on North Carolina’s commitment list.

But Mularkey, who’s rated as a two-star player by, may be one of the gems of this recruiting class. national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell considers Mularkey, who’s the son of Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, to be the sleeper in this class.

“He’s a guy that emerged late,” Farrell said. “He had the UCF offer, but I’ve heard that some other, bigger programs were trying to sort of sneak him away from North Carolina late. He has a lot of football smarts and tremendous athleticism.” - Ken Tysiac

Q&A: North Carolina's Butch Davis

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina is expected to sign a top-10 ranked football recruiting class on Wednesday, including seven in-state players rated four stars or higher by

How did the Tar Heels dominate recruiting in the state? Does UNC have the space to sign them all? And what does recruiting have to do with Heidi Klum?

UNC football coach Butch Davis addressed those topics with the N&O last Friday.

Q: What’s your strategy with in-state recruiting, and why do you think you have been so successful?

A: There’s several factors. Every year, you’ve got to have a strategy. Signing Day is a culmination of more than 12 months. I’m not going to say it’s a two-year project, but of 12 to14 months worth of planning.
Like the last two months, we’ve been looking exclusively of tape and stuff of 2010 kids.

We’re already starting to work on ‘10 because — not that ‘09 is already put to bed —- but a significant amount of it is put to bed and done with the commitments and stuff. That allows us to spend sometime projecting and talking about positions and players and areas and stuff.

When I took the job, I made the statement that one of the most important things we can do at the University of North Carolina in building this program is to make sure that we build it, beginning in the state of North Carolina. That’s where we need to start. We’ve had coaches that have gone into every high school in this state almost every year. Whether they have players or not, we want to coaches to know that we care about the state of North Carolina. And it takes a while to get that traction going.
In ‘07 they’re there, ‘08 they’re there, now in ‘09 we’re there.

And it takes a while. And a huge big part of that is the consistency and the continuity of the coaching staff, so the same face that you know is walking through that door. ...

[We’re] seeing them at high school football games, they’re seeing them at clinics, they’re seeing them at basketball games, they’re seeing them when they come to visit our games.
So they know who we are and what we’re all about as people ... We’re going to start every year in this state. And when we recruit out of state, it’s generally because there’s somebody out of state that might not be in the state.

There might not be enough of a certain position, or they might not be a position -- there may be a year that there just isn’t anybody at that position.
... You're still going to chase the best players around the country; that will never stop. But if there’s a kid — a Marvin Austin — that is a great player, and he expresses an interest in us, we're going to follow up on that. ... You can't canvas the country; it's too big, it's too expensive, it's too time-consuming.

But we want to make sure we always have the great players here in North Carolina.
So starting here, and having continuity with the assistant coaching staff, and then the consistent success of the program. As the program has gotten better, we're on TV more, winning games more, going to bowl games, the kids start to see the vision of where the program is going, and what it can be.

Q: So this year’s success is the culmination of all the work since you’ve gotten here?

A: It’s not the culmination, but it’s climbing the mountain. It’s just like the team; we’re still getting traction and still gaining momentum, because you have to build credibility with the high school coaches, with the kids you’re recruiting.

Kids coming to camp has been unbelievably invaluable because the first year, we got a few kids in. Then the next year, we got a lot of kids in. ...With our first two classes and the incoming ‘09 class, I would say that 75 percent of the kids that we’ve signed, at least, have been to a camp here -- either a one-day camp or a three-day camp or a skill camp.

So we got a chance to work with them, but they got a chance to know us and build a relationship. Because you want to find kids that are on fire to be in your program. This is not like me trying to talk Heidi Klum into getting married; this is trying to find kids that are good matches. Are they going to be inspired by being coached by John Shoop or Sam Pittman or John Blake or Everett Withers?

And if the chemistry’s right, kids are going to have a lot of success.
In the first couple of years, when I first took the job, we were probably 18 months behind everybody, because all the kids we were trying to recruit that year, and all the kids we were trying to recruit for the next year, had those relationships going with school in the area.
They’d been to Phil Fulmer’s camp when they were a freshmen or a sophomore, so they kind of knew about Clemson or they knew about Virginia Tech, or they knew somebody else. So subsequently, we were always behind.

We were trying to talk somebody out of getting married to somebody that they had been dating for a while.
Now, it's kind of like a level playing field because the kids that we’re talking to now, they didn’t have any preconceived ideas about where they were going their sophomore year, before we had a chance to get to know them.

Q: With so few senior leaving [13], how difficult is it to come up with a formula that will keep you within the mandates of signing 25 players a year, and having only 85 athletes on scholarship per year?

A: You never know how many available scholarships you’re going to have. Last year, was it going to be 17, 18, 19, 20? You don't know who’s going to get hurt and have career-ending injuries; you don’t know who is going to graduate, and feel very comfortable and feel like, 'I had a great four-year career; I’m not going to the NFL, but I had a great career, I’m going to get my degree, I’m going to move on with my life.'
You don't know those kinds of things, you don’t know about Hakeem Nicks.

The number we're going to sign next Wednesday would be one less if Hakeem would have said he was staying. Hakeem would have been one of the best recruits we had gotten in ‘09 if he had chosen to stay.
And that’s going to be a mission, that in future years.

... The success I had in Miami in the early years — Warren Sapp went out before I got there, but Ray Lewis went out early ... Kenard Lang went out early, and we kept being 9-3 and 9-3. And the difference between the 11-1 and 12-0 teams was the Santana Mosses and Reggie Waynes and those types of guys stayed for their senior years.
And when you get the types of high profile guys on your team, and you can — look at Ohio State, they played like 23 seniors in that game. And I watched the Orange Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, the Rose Bowl, the National Championship Game. Florida was the only team that had less than 15 to 18 seniors.

Most all of them had 18, 19, 20 -- Oklahoma, USC -- Ohio State was at the far end of the spectrum, I think they had 23 seniors.
So the difference in 2010, '11, '12, '13 is to realize that 'I could leave early, and I might go in the second, third, fourth round, or if I stay, we might be in the national championship [picture], win the ACC, and I might move up.' Which is what all those kids at Miami ended up doing, they all ended up creeping into the first round; but if they had left, they would probably not have gone as first-round draft choices.

So each year at the start, how many we're going to have for 2010, we can project, we know what the minimum is. But we don’t know what the ceiling's going to be, because who’s going to graduate early? Who's going to potentially get hurt, and those kinds of things? We hope as we go forward there will be less and less of the discipline things that would create other opportunities.
But you don't know with some of the kids that have left the program, you couldn't project that stuff.

So to sit here, I don’t have that crystal ball to figure out where we’re going to be in 2010, where we’ll be in 2011 and those kinds of things.
Ideally, I will tell you, that once the program gets sorted out, once we’ve been here probably hopefully four years, maybe going into the fifth year, ideally what you’d like to have are senior classes somewhere between 17 and 20, as a routine almost every year. If you've got 19 this year, then you’ve got 17, you've got 20, you’ve got 19 again — and even if one guy decides to go early in the draft, it just gives you one more number.
You don't spike at 25, but you also don't crater out at 12 or 13.

Ideally, you'd like not to be at either one of those, you want to be somewhere in the middle so that you can bring in 18, 19, 20 true freshmen every single year.

Q: When you don’t know the exact number of scholarships that will be available, how do you say to a recruit, "Come to my school, I have a scholarship for you?"

A: Thirty-five years of experience, of knowing what we'll have. You know that there are kids who will graduate, that they've had a wonderful career; they spent four years, and they know that life after football is that season — 'I'm not going to the NFL, I'm going to use my Carolina education, I'm going to start networking with alumni, I'm going get a degree, I'm going to start my career, I'm going to get married, whatever it is.'

And you can speculate, you know what the hard number is, but then you can say there's probably going to be three, four or five of those kinds of guys every single year.

Q: So there's no doubt in your mind that you’ll get to 85/25 mandate by Wednesday?

A: There was never any doubt, never any doubt at all.

— Robbi Pickeral

Wake commit drew late attention

Wake Forest commitment Kris Redding of Whitefield Academy in Georgia didn’t attract much attention from recruiters until the last few months.

Redding missed his entire junior season because of a knee injury, so coaches didn’t realize how talented he is until late in his senior season. Louisville was the first big school to show serious interest, and Redding was considered a “soft” commitment there.

By December, Redding was getting a lot of interest from college coaches, and he committed to Wake Forest over the weekend. He’s a 6-foot-4, 235-pound defensive end who made 84 tackles, including 19 behind the line of scrimmage, as a senior.

“He’s still growing and has tremendous athleticism,” said Whitefield Academy coach Jimmy Fields. “He’s also a very good basketball player.” – Ken Tysiac

Monday, February 2, 2009

Will Rivals' No. 1 Brown start late-signing trend?

Bryce Brown is putting off signing until March in what might become a trend for elite prospects in college football, analyst Mike Farrell said Monday.

Brown, a running back from Wichita, Kan., is considered the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect by He has committed to Miami, but Farrell said Brown adviser Brian Butler plans to have Brown take two more official visits instead of signing Wednesday on national signing day.

Southern California, Tennessee and Auburn might be in line for those visits, though Farrell said a lot of people think Brown will end up at Miami or Oregon.

“They still remain committed to Miami,” Farrell said, “but they’re going to take a look after signing day to see which schools landed certain players that might be attractive to him playing with.”

Farrell considers this situation to be vastly different from that of quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who didn’t announce his final choice of Ohio State last year until mid-March.

According to Farrell, Pryor planned to sign on signing day but delayed his decision because his father wanted him to take an official visit to Penn State. Farrell said Brown’s delay in choosing is more calculated.

“This could lead to a little bit of a trend where kids delay the decision into February or March, whether it’s for attention, whether it’s to utilize all five of their official visits,” Farrell said. - Ken Tysiac

Rivals' Farrell: ECU TE commit is huge national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said recent East Carolina commitment Justin Jones gives the Pirates a huge physical specimen at tight end.

Jones, who's listed at 6-foot-7 and 235 pounds, is from Heritage High in Conyers, Ga., and formerly was committed to Kentucky. Farrell said he hasn't spoken with Jones personally but has received word that Jones chose the Pirates last weekend after visiting Jan. 23.

"He’s not going to be one of those 6-7 guys who grows into an offensive lineman," Farrell said. "He’s going to be a big tight end, probably play around 255, 260 pounds with good speed. He runs around a 4.8. He’s just a giant target."

"I was watching the Super Bowl last night and I always am shocked at how tall Leonard Pope (of the Arizona Cardinals) is. (Justin) is not as skilled as Leonard Pope was coming out of high school, but he’s that type of guy, where he’s going to be, get him down the seam, throw the ball up in the air, and he’ll go get it." - Ken Tysiac

Deacons grab former Louisville commitment

Wake Forest received its 23rd commitment over the weekend, apparently picking Louisville's pocket for defensive end Kris Redding of Atlanta's Whitefield Academy.

Redding, a 6-4, 238-pounder, had reportedly made a "soft" commitment to the Cardinals in December.

According to, Redding is a two-star prospect.

-- David Scott

UNC commit Moss just scraping potential

Defensive end Donte Moss is the only five-star recruit at a North Carolina high school according to, but his high school coach said he has a lot of growing to do to reach his potential.

Moss, who's 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, is a senior at Northside High in Jacksonville who has committed to North Carolina and is expected to sign with the school Wednesday.

"He's just kind of a raw high school player right now," said Northside coach Bob Eason. "He's got all the size and speed, but he can still get bigger and stronger and faster. That would be the biggest thing right now. And then of course his technique at the collegiate level is going to have to be better, and it will be easy for him to improve upon."

Eason said Moss has the potential to put on a lot of weight without losing any of his speed.

"Depending on what defensive scheme (North Carolina uses), I see him being a rush end of some sort," Eason said. "Then he's got the ability to get out in pass coverage, too. I don't know. I'm sure North Carolina has a specific plan and scheme worked up for those type of guys, but he's just a very good athlete."

Gamecocks scramble for a quarterback

South Carolina has added a 28th member to its highly rated recruiting class with the addition of quarterback Andrew Clifford of Wharton High in Tampa. Clifford had received no other BCS offers, but some observers believe that is because he was a pro-style QB in a run-first high school offense.

And the Gamecocks, after both occasional starter Chris Smelley and reserve Tommy Beecher decided not to return in 2009, are willing to gamble that Clifford is better than most schools apparently believe he is.

Clifford's senior numbers are respectable; he threw for over 2,000 yards and 20 TDs, and ran for 10 more scores. At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, he has good QB size. And the bottom line is that South Carolina's borderline Top Ten recruiting class was bereft of quarterbacks. Why not give Clifford, whose dad played the position at Florida, a closer look?--Stan Olson

Coach: N.C. State commit 'fast as heck'

Coach Jeff Rotsky of Cleveland Heights High in Ohio said Monday afternoon that he's excited for wide receiver Bryan Underwood to sign Wednesday with N.C. State, where Rotsky said Bryan will have "a great opportunity" and a great career.

"He's a playmaker," Rotsky said. "He's fast as heck. He got a lot stronger. He's an absolute playmaker. Hopefully he'll turn out to be a return guy for them. He's going to play inside or outside receiver. He's got speed that you can't teach."

Rotsky said Underwood will sign at a 2 p.m. news conference Wednesday.

SC picks up Clemson recruit

South Carolina's recruiting class got a large (literally) boost with the addition of former Clemson commitment Leon Mackey, a 6-foot-6, 260-pound defensive end from Hargrave Military Academy, over the weekend. Mackey committed on his official visit to Columbia.

Mackey, who has a four-star rating according to, originally signed with Virginia Tech out of high school, and the school admitted him but he chose to attend Hargrave. Recruiting expert Phil Kornblut is reporting that the Hokies would not let Mackey out of his 2008 national letter of intent to sign with an ACC school, thus eliminating Clemson. Several other SEC schools were apparently pursuing him recently as well.--Stan Olson