North Carolina football is moving into the 2017 season after signing a 20-member class on National Signing Day.
Head coach Larry Fedora said on Wednesday that he had a lot of faith that this 2017 recruiting class would continue UNC’s upward trend as a program.
“The ‘17 class, I believe, is really special, I really do,” Fedora said. “I believe it’s a group that’s loaded with great athletes. I think it’s a group that understands what a commitment is. I think there’s high character in this group.”
Fedora said two position groups drew the most attention from the coaching staff during this recruiting cycle.
“We felt like our biggest need was going to be the offensive line and our defensive backs,” Fedora said. “And that was where we really wanted to spend some time.”
Carolina ended up signing five offensive lineman and several players to man the defensive backfield – including Hampton, Virginia, native Dazz Newsome, who chose the Tar Heels on signing day over scholarship offers from Virginia Tech and Maryland.
Some have questioned what the receiving group will look like next year as seniors Mack Hollins, Bug Howard and Ryan Switzer have been invited to the National Football League combine ahead of this spring’s draft. But Fedora said he is confident with the receivers UNC has on the roster heading into a new season.
“Nobody knew who Bug Howard was before he got here,” Fedora said. “Nobody knew who Mack Hollins was. Those guys developed into great players. And we’ve got other guys in this program that we’ve been recruiting and bringing along that, yeah, we do feel good about them. And we expect them to come in and do really well.
“And I expect that you’ll know their names next year.”
Running backs from the 2017 class will have to have an instant impact for UNC to have a successful season after the loss of junior Elijah Hood to the NFL draft and TJ Logan to graduation. UNC has just one returning scholarship running back in sophomore Jordon Brown and Fedora acknowledged that meant this freshman group will get immediate playing time.
“They’re going to have to,” Fedora said. “They don’t have a choice.”
UNC signed two running backs on Wednesday who will join Brown in the backfield – Michael Carter, who is already enrolled in classes at UNC, and Antwuan Branch.
“They’re preparing themselves,” Fedora said. “They know they’re going to have to be ready to play for us in that opening game.”
But the most glaring hole on the offensive side will be replacing quarterback Mitch Trubisky. After sitting behind Marquise Williams at UNC, Trubisky turned in one of the best seasons in UNC history by a quarterback as a redshirt-junior. Trubisky chose to leave the Tar Heels as he is projected to be a high draft pick in the upcoming NFL draft, something Fedora said the coaching staff had not anticipated heading into last season.
“We knew he was going to play in the NFL,” Fedora said. “We just didn’t know it was going to be so fast.”
Overall, Fedora said he was very confident this group would have a successful run at UNC.
“I really do believe this group is going to be a part of multiple championships while they’re here.”
UNC opens the 2017 football season on September 2 in Chapel Hill against California.