BUNN, N.C. – It’s been a few years since this small town in eastern North Carolina has produced a major FBS recruit but the wait is now over.
Alston picked up his first offer from UNC off highlight tape alone.
In the 2013 class it’s Johnathan Alston who will have coaches making the trip to see the long armed, 6-3, 200-pounder in action.
“Right now it’s just North Carolina and Notre Dame,” Bunn (N.C.) head coach Chris Miller explained. “UNC offered him basically off of his highlight tape.”
Alston was recently ranked as the no. 7 prospect in North Carolina and the no. 17 athlete in the nation by 247Sports.
UNC head coach Larry Fedora contacted Miller and Alston on National Signing Day to offer the junior a scholarship to North Carolina. The verbal was his first but certainly not his last.
“Mike Elston is his main recruiter for Notre Dame,” Miller said. “He told me that they might be offering as soon as next week.
“That’s about all the schools he’s hearing from. He’s really ‘under the radar’ but I think it will pick up for him. One of the coaches at N.C. State was going to offer him before he left for South Carolina but I think they might get in on him as well.”
After moving up to varsity to play defensive end during his sophomore season, the nation's no. 195 ranked prospect started making an impact at wide receiver during his junior year.
The 6-3, 200-pounder could project to either side of the ball at the next level.
“He’s got so much upside,” Miller continued. “And we haven’t done him any great favors here at wide receiver. We only have four full time coaches on staff and he gets some personal time but we can’t spend the entire practice with him.”
Alston’s transition on offense to receiver has come about as smoothly as one could hope for.
“I think his progression at the wide receiver position is quicker than I’ve seen,” Miller said. “As far as understanding the game, finding that soft zone and then everything we’re looking for after the catch is just God given.
“He out athletes a lot of guys and when he can’t do that he’s starting to out think them. He’ll double move routes and he just comes by it naturally. I’ll tell him one time and from then on I won’t have to say it again.”
And while Notre Dame likes the Top247 prospect as a receiver, North Carolina is leaning more towards ‘athlete’ with defense a possibility.
Alston recently took his first recruiting visit, of any kind, to UNC’s Junior Day for the basketball game against Duke. And it was an experience he isn’t likely to forget.
“I really didn’t know what it was going to be like,” Alston said “I’ve never experienced anything like that before in my life. I was really excited and impressed.
“I was like ‘wow,’ this is the head coach of UNC football. I had never really experienced anything like that before…I enjoyed it. I had fun meeting the coaches. I really liked talking to them. I enjoyed the school too.”
Alston averages close to 9 rebounds a game on the basketball team.
The UNC staff expressed their varied interest in Alston’s skill set, which is fine with him.
“The coaches were telling me how they liked my highlight tape a lot and how I could play a bunch of different positions on the field.
“I like to play wide receiver but wherever they want me to play then I’ll play that position.”
“He’s an aggressive football player on both sides of the ball,” Miller explained. “He plays defense with authority but he takes that same aggression to the offensive side of the ball.”
And the stats from his junior season certainly back that up.
Alston recorded 27 catches for 523 yards, with 7 receiving touchdowns. He also added 7 rushes for 68 yards and 3 TDs on the ground. On defense he posted 67 tackles, 12 for loss and 1 pass break up.
And with his recruitment just starting to take off, what is Alston looking for in a school?
“I’m really just looking for somewhere I’m going to be comfortable at,” he explained “It doesn’t matter if it’s in-state or out of state. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet.
“Notre Dame wants me to visit. They’re just telling me about how it would be a good school for my family and me…I know I want to visit UNC again.”
And if his junior highlights are any indication, it won’t just be coaches from North Carolina and Notre Dame making the trip to Bunn for very long.
“I think his upside is through the roof,” Miller added. “I think the potential for him is extremely high.”