The 2011 NFL Draft said that North Carolina’s football program is one of the most talented in America – despite the fact that off-field troubles kept some of the Tar Heels’ best players on the sidelines.
Those who follow recruiting would say that the draft told them nothing that they didn’t already know.
Butch Davis has been recruiting at a high level ever since he stepped on campus prior to the 2007 season. UNC’s 2007 recruiting class was ranked second in the ACC, and No. 11 nationally by ESPN, No. 14 by Scout and No. 17 by Rivals.
After putting together a nationally 30th-ranked class in 2008, Davis assembled a 2009 class ranked first in the ACC and sixth nationally by Scout, followed in 2010 with another top-30 group, and then added a 23-man class last February that was ranked 16th by both ESPN and Rivals.
The NCAA investigation hanging over the Tar Heel program had little effect on the top-end talent and depth of talent that Davis was able to attract during the last recruiting cycle.
UNC dominated in-state recruiting, virtually shutting out NC State for the best close-to-home talent, and added nine players rated as four-star prospects by Rivals.
In-state headliners included defensive tackle Devonte Brown of Fayetteville, who is rated No. 19 nationally at his position by Rivals; offensive lineman Jarrod James of Pineville (No. 8 at his position); defensive end Norkeithus Otis of Gastonia (No. 9), quarterback Marquise Williams of Charlotte (No. 9 dual-threat), and wide receiver of Durham (No. 15).
Davis went into Virginia and nabbed the nation’s No. 3-rated offensive guard in Landon Turner of Harrisonburg, and beat out Clemson, among others, for linebacker Travis Hughes of Virginia Beach.
Strengthening the class’ foundation was a group of seven in-state three-star prospects.
In all, 13 of UNC’s 23 signees came from North Carolina, while the Tar Heels picked up three players each from Florida and Virginia.
Five members of the class got an early start by enrolling last January, including Turner, Thorpe and Williams.
Davis has continued the recruiting moment by assembling a group of 12 early commitments for 2012, including four star prospects Justin Meredith, a tight end from T.L. Hanna High in Anderson, SC, and J.J. Patterson, an offensive lineman from Roanoke Rapids, NC.
Other commitments include three-star prospects Patton Robinette, quarterback from Maryville, TN; linebackers Phillip Williamson of Durham, NC and Dan Mastromatteo; tight end Terrance Knox of Concord, NC; and wide receiver Kedrick Davis of Charlotte, NC.