With a flurry of commitments at key positions, Larry Fedora and staff have already made the most of their time at North Carolina and silenced a few early critics.
Fedora landed these 8 commitments in just 13 days.
“When the dead period is over with and we hit the ground in January, we'll be rolling I promise you,” Fedora told a crowded room during his announcement as UNC’s head football coach on December 9th, 2011.
However, after a couple early speed bumps on the recruiting trail, many UNC fans quietly wondered whether the former Southern Miss head coach made the right decision to coach the Golden Eagles to a bowl win in Hawaii before making the move to Chapel Hill on January 1st.
But that quaint rumbling recently subsided as the new Tar Heel staff has filled most of the holes in the 2012 class...and then some.
The first sign of discontent came when long-time quarterback commit Patton Robinette was within a ‘John Hancock’ away from officially becoming a Tar Heel before he decided to unpack his room on campus, return his talents to Tennessee and enroll early at Vanderbilt.
Fedora wasn’t to blame for Robinette’s flaky actions as he bolted on January 8th, which was practically a week to the day after UNC’s new head coach had moved into his office at the Kenan Football Center.
But nonetheless, and with the transfer of backup Braden Hanson, the Tar Heels were left with only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. So Fedora and offensive coordinator Blake Anderson targeted former ECU commit Kanler Coker who was offered a scholarship and committed on January 16th becoming Fedora’s first official commitment during his time at UNC.
The 6-4, 215-pound Georgia native excelled in his first year running the spread offense at Flowery Branch passing for over 2,800 yards with 31 TDs and rushing for over 800 yards and 15 scores during his senior season. While Coker is still a bit raw, he fits Fedora’s offense like a glove.
And just for good measure, Fedora recently poached one of N.C. State’s top overall commitments with the flipping of Greensboro (N.C.) Page dual-threat quarterback James Summers. The 6-2, 200-pounder might not be qualified yet, but he earned Fedora some much-needed credibility with fans who had seen N.C. State coaches turn two former UNC commits in to the Wolfpack fold.
Former GT commit Gnonkonde fills a huge hole in UNC's recruiting class
However, another bump in the road came as the no. 6-ranked running back in the nation, long-time Tar Heel lean, and Tarboro (N.C.) native Todd Gurley announced for Georgia on January 13th.
But Fedora’s one-back spread offensive philosophy requires only five tailbacks on the roster at any one time. With Giovani Bernard, A.J. Blue, Romar Morris, Travis Riley and Devon Ramsay available in 2012 and likely only Ramsay departing in 2013, Fedora has the luxury to not take a running back in the 2012 class. Although Fedora would have certainly loved to add Gurley had he been willing to change his mind.
Since Gurley’s announcement, however, Fedora’s staff has seen almost nothing but success on the recruiting trail which has steadily quieted naysayers just as quickly as more recruits decided to cast their lots with UNC.
Needing to replace offensive lineman Bryce Kennedy’s early enrolment flip to N.C. State, offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic reached out to former Southern Miss commit Caleb Peterson and was able to convince him to join the Tar Heels on the18th shortly after taking his official visit. The 6-4, 300-pounder had offers from the likes of Auburn, Tennessee, Arkansas and Stanford among others.
Desperately needing a safety, defensive coordinator Dan Disch was able to gain a commitment from Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee’s Clint Heaven before the 3-star took his official visit to Chapel Hill. The 6-2, 200-pounder committed to the staff during an in-home visit on the 17th.
Fedora and Disch were also able to stave off a late run by UCF at long-time cornerback commit Tyreece Jiles who reaffirmed his commitment to the staff on or around the 24th.
Arguably the largest need in the cycle was at defensive end, which has seen the addition of three recruits in the past 9 days.
Georgia native and 3-star Justin Thomason committed during the end of his official visit to Chapel Hill on the 22nd. African-born Desmond Owino, who changed his commitment to N.C. State on the 15th and is the no. 46 ranked strongside DE in the country, was replaced in the class by African-born Junior Gnonkonde's commitment on the 29th. The 6-5, 225-pounder is ranked the no. 45 weakside DE in the nation. Monte Taylor was added for good measure as the Maryland native will prep at Hargrave before likely enrolling at UNC in January of 2013.
The only true need position remaining was at wide receiver which received a boost from former Southern Miss and MTSU commit Kendrick Singleton’s pledge on the 28th during his official visit to Chapel Hill.
In all that's 8 new commitments for Fedora's staff in 13 days.
Other candidates to fill the remaining spot at wide out include some of the nation’s best in Top247 prospects Quinshad David and Davonte Neal. Arkansas native Brad Culp is also in the running and is seen as having ‘sleeper’ potential by the staff.
While classes are better judged after the recruits-turned-players have left campus years down the road, on paper, there’s no doubt Fedora fulfilled his promise to “hit the ground running” even after encountering some unforeseen speed bumps after touching down in Chapel Hill.