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Opening Comments –
“This is always a day of celebration with the new signees coming in. Obviously we’ve been working really hard for this moment. My coaching staff has done a terrific job. I think this is the best recruiting class we’ve had. There are a number of really great, great players. There’s a lot of character in this group. 17 North Carolina players, which is something we’ve been trying to do since we’ve been here. Our coaches did a marvelous job identifying who those great players were, getting them on this campus, getting them into our camps – 20 of the 28 signees were in our camps this past summer so we could evaluate them as people and as athletes. So I feel extremely good about our evaluation process which I think has been good. I feel really good about our coaches cross-recruiting, working together throughout the process to ensure that we kept our commitments and then get a couple more at the end.
“Going out and trying to continue to build the offensive and defensive line … I feel that we’ve been successful getting [some] quarterbacks here to compete. Tight ends have been a problem for us to get them here and we got some in this class … Running backs, linebackers, I’m just really pleased with the overall depth of this recruiting class. And I think it’s just going to get better.
“I tried to tell Brad Lawing this morning when I came in ‘It’s over finally’ and he said ‘No, it’s not over – ’07 starts today.’ Actually ’07 started before that. And that’s where Brad and the rest of this group has taken recruiting at UNC. We’re getting in on juniors and sometimes sophomores – we’re getting to know those players, identify those players sooner, get to know more about them sooner, being able to get offers out sooner and therefore we’re getting early commitments. We get them on campus, get them to our camps, we show them how we coach, they watched us play this fall – they know we didn’t go to a bowl game but they saw us compete in every single game, there was a lot of confidence in this group that this program is going in the right direction. This is a big, big day for us and I’m excited about our future.”
When did you find out that Aleric Mullins had chosen UNC?
“We had a good feeling after the weekend, but he was real good – he’d be a good poker player. We didn’t know for sure. We thought we had a good chance, I talked to him some last night. Kenny Browning did a marvelous job in his recruitment, as did the rest of the staff, and our current players. … I know that Aleric also felt like he developed good relationships with the Shrine Bowls. Right around noon, we got a call that this might happen and we knew he was going on at 1:30 to announce. I actually knew when I saw him put the hat on.”
How important was it to close out the class with a big name like that?
“It’s important because he’s a good player. And he loves the game of football. I think he came to three camps – the guy couldn’t stay away from our camp. He loved coming and competing. But it’s always important to get one more so-called marquee player at the end and we haven’t had that happen to us much here. So that’s a little new for us and it’s a good thing.
But, to be honest, I liked having 17 North Carolina kids in this class, 20 of 28 were in our camps. These high school coaches in this state believe in us, we’ve developed great relationships with them. I appreciate all the help they do when they have us in their schools and share information with us, come to our clinics, we go out and clinic for them – that’s a real important part of our recruiting this year and it’s really starting to hit home. People talk about players going out of state, probably three or four players wanted to come to North Carolina that we didn’t have room for. Maybe made an early offer and we didn’t have room in the end. It’s a shame, but that happens. It was really good to work with these coaches in North Carolina and they know we’re doing things right.”
You’ve had some last-minute setbacks in previous years, how does it feel to turn the table?
“You’re going to have your heart ripped out when you’re in this stuff. Sometimes it’s early – sometimes you might find out early that there’s no chance or you might have a commitment that goes away. Look at what happened at other schools today, a lot of guys backed out. We’ve seen some strange things happen in the end and this time around – it doesn’t guarantee anything in the future – but this time around we didn’t have any strange things happen in the end. We didn’t have any brokers come out of the woodwork and take over the recruitment of a kid. And that’s the hard part to do. Sometimes there are unknown factors and the harder you try, you still don’t completely know what’s going on at the home.”
What about the signing of Hakeem Nicks and the significance of getting a player from Independence High School in Charlotte?
"Over the five years I've been here, I've developed a very good relationship with Tommy Knotts and the Independence staff down there. We all know they play great football and win all the time - 92 straight. He's a great coach and he's become a friend. I'm not going to say he'll always 'send us a player,' but he recommended Hakeem Nicks to us long in advance of the school year ... We hadn't had him in our camp and there wasn't much tape to watch, but I believe in Tommy Knotts, he told me this guy would be a great player and he's turned out to be a tremendous player. You ask Brad Lawing ... he said he was one of the best wide receivers he's ever seen perform in high school. So I love this kid..."
How will you deal with having more than 25 signees?
"I dealt with that my first year when I saw a school in this conference take 31. I called up John Swofford - 'How'd they do that?' And he explained to me that sometimes there is some fallout. There are some things we know that may affect their entry in admission relative to either scholastic or possible injury. So there are some things that will probably have us at the 25 mark when we start school in August."
You got so many commitments early - was that the goal?
"We were fortunate to get some of these so early. Sometimes the way these players are rated, they hold out until the end and their ratings go up because more schools are attracted to them. I give you a guy like Deunta Williams - if he had held out until the last day he might have been a five-star player right now. He's a great player - we were fortunate to have him committed early. Shaun Draughn, another one, is a tremendous athlete. Tavorris Jolly, who was our first commitment, he is a tremendous player - the MVP in the championship game right here in Kenan. Darius Powell out of Westlake is a guy that has a tremendous upside. Getting Jarrell Miller late, and beating some schools out of state - some so-called powerhouses - makes you feel pretty good, too."
Since T.J. Yates was under the radar because he took his junior year off from football - do you think you got a steal there with him?
"No doubt about it. Since I've been here, we want to get one of those guys who plays on Sundays and one of these guys might be that guy. I'll continue to recruit that way. We want to get a Sunday quarterback in this University."
With all the adjustments you've made with the coaching staff, and taking into account this recruiting class, where do you believe the program is at at this point?
"We got a lot of early commitments because of what the University has to offer and where these players felt like this program was going. But then when they came to watching us play this year, they saw how competitive we are, how close we are to being a team that can compete for an ACC championship. Everyone knows our record -- 9-7 -- in this new ACC. 4th best. So they see the opportunity that's here to be part of something special. As we continue to get in on players early ... Brad Lawing has brought our recruiting to another level by being here now in his third year. Knowing players early, the North Carolina coaches trust us -- they know how we recruit, they know how we coach, they know what this program stands for. I think we're going to continue to get in on players early, get them to our camps and be able to make earlier offers. If we start winning all the time, which I expect us to do starting next year, we'll be on a roll."