Christmas arrived early in Chapel Hill Wednesday, as North Carolina signed a stellar recruiting class. Mack Brown and his staff currently have a class ranked #17 nationally; only Clemson has a higher ranked recruiting class in the ACC. Many of this year’s recruits won’t have to wait on the sidelines for long before getting the chance to make their mark. The Tar Heels’ signing class will have an immediate impact in 2020.
Weapons On Offense
The top signee on offense is quarterback Jacolby Criswell, from Arkansas. Ironically, Criswell may have to wait for significant playing time, as he will be backing up Sam Howell, one of the top quarterbacks in the country. Criswell is considered one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in this year’s class, and he will enroll early at North Carolina. Auburn and Arkansas both made late pushes for Criswell, and he might have started at Arkansas right away. However, his commitment to the Tar Heels never waivered.
Howell will have several new receiving targets in this year’s class. Josh Downs is a four-star receiver from Georgia who will almost certainly vie for early playing time. The same can be said for Stephen Gosnell, a receiver from Pilot Mountain, North Carolina. Gosnell caught 32 touchdown passes over three prep seasons, and also rushed for 34 in the same span. North Carolina fought a recruiting war with NC State for both players. Downs’ father played for the Wolfpack, and Gosnell had committed to play in Raleigh before flipping to the Tar Heels. Ray Rose will also join the receiving corps, and might get the chance to return punts and kickoffs as well. In addition, Tylee Craft is a four-star receiver from South Carolina who chose the Tar Heels over his home-state Gamecocks and Tigers.
Jefferson Boaz was Gosnell’s high school teammate, and will join him in Chapel Hill. Boaz played quarterback, but he will most likely play tight end at North Carolina. He recently put up mind-boggling numbers in the North Carolina high school state championship game, passing for 478 yards and seven touchdowns. Three-star prospects Elijah Green and D.J. Jones bring additional depth to a loaded group of returning running backs.
Depth On The Offensive Line
This past season, North Carolina dealt with multiple injuries on the offensive line. However, in 2020, there will be more depth available if needed.
Jonathan Adorno, like Gosnell, committed to NC State before flipping to North Carolina this fall. Adorno is another early enrollee who will benefit from the experience of being with the team in the spring. He is the 50th-ranked guard in the country, and will be counted on to open holes for North Carolina’s talented trio of returning running backs.
Joining Adorno is Cayden Baker, an offensive tackle from Florida. Baker is a three-star player with major upside; the 6-5, 285-pound lineman seemed to improve as the season progressed. His high school team rushed for over 300 yards per game, which testifies to Baker’s blocking ability.
Malik McGowan is a 6-4, 335-pound guard from Charlotte; he was a starter for all four years of his high school career. During those four years, McGowan’s high school team won 56 games, mostly due to running the ball effectively. ESPN listed McGowan as the 47th-ranked guard in the country, and he was selected to play in the Carolina Shrine Bowl against the high school all-stars from South Carolina.
The Makings Of A Dynamic Defense
On the defensive side, North Carolina signed a killer recruiting class. The prize of the entire class is five-star defensive end Desmond Evans. In August, we predicted that Evans would commit to North Carolina, which he did in October. The top-ranked defensive end in the country made it official on Wednesday. He will join McGowan in the Shrine Bowl after a leading his high school to a runner-up finish in the state high school championship. Evans will be given the opportunity to play immediately in Chapel Hill. He has the talent to be one of the best players in the ACC-and the nation-on either side of the ball.
Evans’ high school teammate, Jayden Chalmers, will join him at North Carolina. During his last two seasons, Chalmers recorded 63 tackles and six interceptions. Joining Chalmers at defensive back is four-star prospect Ja’Qurious Conley, who committed to the Tar Heels after a recruiting war with South Carolina. Conley is a do-everything athlete who is simply too talented to wait for playing time. Not only did Conley record 52 tackles, he rushed for over 1,000 yards as well, once rushing for 364 yards and six touchdowns in a game. He averaged nearly 35 yards on kickoff returns; it would not be surprising if he returns kicks from day one in Chapel Hill.
This year’s class includes several highly-ranked defensive linemen in addition to Evans. Kedrick Bingley-Jones, Myles Murphy, and Clyde Pinder are all four-star recruits who can contribute immediately. Pinder’s status was in doubt until signing day, as the Florida native had visited the Florida Gators recently. However, Pinder signed in the late afternoon on Wednesday, putting any fears to rest.
Tar Heels’ Signing Class Will Have An Immediate Impact
Brown has a reputation as an excellent recruiter, and the 2019 recruiting cycle was a win for North Carolina on many levels. Before the season, Brown stated that he wanted to make North Carolina “the cool place to play,” and judging by this year’s haul, he certainly did that.
The talent level of this year’s class is well above that of recent classes, and many of these recruits have the ability to contribute right away. Accordingly, expectations will be high in Chapel Hill next season, as these young players join Howell and other talented players who are already there. Wednesday was an important day for North Carolina’s football program. In 2020, the Tar Heels’ signing class will have an immediate impact.