UNC football signs fourth straight top 25 recruiting class

North Carolina coach Mack Brown watches his team as they prepare for kickoff against Virginia on Saturday, November 5, 2022 at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Va.

North Carolina coach Mack Brown watches his team as they prepare for kickoff against Virginia on Saturday, November 5, 2022 at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Va.


North Carolina coach Mack Brown signed his fourth straight recruiting class considered to be in the top 25 nationally, but it’s been a very different process than his previous ones.

UNC’s class is ranked No. 24 nationally according to 247 Sports composite team rankings, and third in the ACC behind Clemson (10) and Florida State (18). With name, image and likeness (NIL) turning recruiting into the “wild, wild west,” Brown said the Tar Heels lost five recruits that could have made it closer to a top 10 class.

“All of us are navigating different waters now with with NIL and the transfer portal with roster management and the way recruiting is going and being handled,” Brown said.

Brown said there was “absolutely no drama” Wednesday with the 20 players who signed. The class includes 11 on defense and nine on offense, including 10 players who will enroll early and be on campus next month. Linebackers Michael Short and Amare Campbell, who have graduated, will join the Tar Heels even sooner.

Short and Campbell are able to participate in drills now, although Brown said they’ll be limited to helmets and shorts during a process that will be akin to an orientation. The duo will travel to San Diego for the Holiday Bowl with the team — although they cannot receive bowl gifts — and will be on the sideline during their Dec. 28 bowl game against Oregon.

Top-rated recruit

Wide receiver Chris Culliver, who is from Maiden, was ranked No. 202 in the 247 Sports composite. Brown said Culliver was a player who improved and his senior highlights looked even better than those from his junior year. Brown: “He can jump, he’s got body control, he’s got hands, he’s got tremendous speed. Again, we thought his senior year he probably improved as much as anybody we’ve seen.”

Player who could impact early

Cornerback Tre Miller played two seasons at Hoover (Ala.) High before playing his senior season in Oklahoma. He racked up Power 5 offers from the likes of Auburn, Florida State and Southern Cal. Although he’s a bit undersized, he could compete for playing time early given Carolina’s thin depth at the position. Brown: “He’s savvy. Dre (Bly) talked to him earlier in the year about stripping balls and how important turnovers are and he really improved in that area. He plays the ball well and can really jump.”

Most intriguing recruit

As good as defensive back Kaleb Cost is on the gridiron, he might be just as good on the diamond. Cost also was recruited by and will play for Carolina’s baseball team. Brown: “I‘m really excited about him. We think he can play all five places on defense, he’s that talented.”

Top local recruit

Carolina needs edge rushers and picked up two of the best locally in Southern High’s Jaybron Harvey, who led the nation with 28 sacks as a junior, and Panther Creek’s Tyler Thompson. Brown: “We haven’t played as well on defense here as we played on offense. We got to keep recruiting great players and we feel like that both of the pass rushers — (Harvey) and Tyler Thompson will upgrade our pass rush.”

Signed players

Name Position Height Weight Hometown High school
R.J. Grigsby* OL 6-3 310 Kennesaw, Ga. North Cobb
Tyler Thompson* Edge 6-4 219 Cary Panther Creek
Jaybron Harvey* Edge 6-3 225 Mebane Southern Durham
Ayden Ducanson S 6-2 185 Atlanta Whitefield Academy
Rodney Lora DL 6-4 270 North Arlington, NJ Woodberry Forest (VA)
Ty Adams DB 5-11 175 Swainsboro, Ga. Swainsboro
Amare Campbell* LB 6-0 215 Manassas, Va. Unity Reed
DJ Geth* OL 6-4 300 Spartanburg, SC Dorman
Julien Randolph TE 6-5 210 Purcellville, Va. Independence
Kaleb Cost CB 5-10 180 Atlanta Sandy Creek
Nolan McConnell* OL 6-6 280 Stafford, Va. Colonial Forge
Joel Starlings DL 6-5 310 Richmond, Va. Benedictine
Michael Short* LB 6-3 220 Columbus, Ohio Mallard Creek (Charlotte)
Chris Culliver WR 6-3 174 Maiden Maiden
Jordan Louie RB 5-11 205 Tuscaloosa, Ala. Meadowcreek (Georgia)
Paul Billups* WR 6-2 185 Chesapeake, Va. Western Branch
Tre Miller CB 5-9 165 Birmingham, Ala.

Deer Creek (Edmond, Ok.)

Caleb LaVallee LB 6-1 215 Smyrna, Ga. Whitefield Academy
Tad Hudson* QB 6-3 220 Huntersville Hough
Christian Hamilton* WR 6-0 175 Harrisburg Hickory Ridge

* – early enrollee

C.L. Brown covers the University of North Carolina for The News & Observer. Brown brings more than two decades of reporting experience including stints as the beat writer on Indiana University and the University of Louisville. After a long stay at the Louisville Courier-Journal, where he earned an APSE award, he’s had stops at ESPN.com, The Athletic and even tried his hand at running his own website, clbrownhoops.com.

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