There are plenty of standouts in UNC’s recruiting class that are slotted for one – and only one – position. Mitch Trubisky will play quarterback, T.J. Logan is a playmaker at running back, Brian Walker is a valuable addition at cornerback and Lucas Crowley could find himself in the two-deep at center as early as training camp.
Due to scholarship sanctions and the Roy Smith situation, UNC was limited to 19 initial counters for August enrollment, forcing the Tar Heel coaching staff to get creative beyond the aforementioned solo position players. They addressed the issue by signing a handful of players in critical positions groups that are capable of playing various positions.
“You’re going to look at these guys and you’re going to see that they’re very athletic,” head coach Larry Fedora told reporters during his Signing Day press conference on Wednesday. “We’ve got guys that can play multiple positions and that was as important for us as anything.”
Associate head coach for defense Vic Koenning admitted that UNC wanted one more interior defensive lineman and one more defensive back in this class. Both position groups, however, will gain versatile players.
On the defensive line, Marquis Haynes (6-3, 220) and Dajaun Drennon (6-4, 230) can both play Bandit or defensive end. Fedora noted their length and indicated that both can give UNC immediate pass rush help in the fall.
“[Haynes] is a kid who came to camp and just wowed us because he was so explosive, such a quick first step,” Fedora said. “Then you got to watch him on the basketball court and he can dunk it any which way he wants. He was in a dunk contest. You could see the explosiveness and power in his hips.”
At defensive back, Desmond Lawrence (6-1, 175) and Donnie Miles (5-11, 200) will give defensive coordinator and secondary coach Dan Disch plenty of options. Fedora said Miles could play nickel, safety or Ram, while Lawrence could play those three spots as well as corner.
Fedora indicated that all three defensive backs could be in the mix for early playing time.
On the other side of the ball, UNC found a versatile offensive lineman in Brad Henson (6-5, 295).
“What we liked about Brad is that he’s got great arm length so he can still play on the edge at tackle,” Fedora said. “He played guard and he’s also played center. So there’s that versatility that we talked about. When you have a guy like that that can play any of the three positions, he obviously becomes more valuable to you.”
Manufacturing depth in the trenches, as well as in a trouble area for UNC such as the defensive backfield, is a requirement by a coaching staff that’s two years into a three-year reduction in scholarships. Beyond those primary position groups, however, UNC also added depth to its special teams ranks.
“We’ve literally added six or seven kids that returned kicks for touchdowns in their career, so we’re going to get more dynamic in the return game,” recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach Walt Bell said. “Then, also, those six bodies will add so much depth on special teams, covering kicks, covering punts, which is an area where we really lack in depth. I feel like that’s one of the overlooked aspects of this class.”
ESPN.com ranked North Carolina’s recruiting class 18th nationally. While UNC may have 17 players on its official Signing Day list, the coaching staff is hoping their versatility will make that total seem even larger.