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"What we wanted to try to do was to balance out and compliment the '07 [class]," Davis said during his Signing Day press conference. "This year's signees are decidedly more defensively slanted than the offensive side of the ball…
"Another thing – after going through the '07 season – was the number of times that we really felt like we needed increase in numbers of available players that could play a significant role in special teams. Subsequently, an emphasis on linebackers, on safeties, corners and defensive ends. Guys that can run and really help you make an impact on special teams."
The Tar Heels landed four-star prospects at all four defensive positions, with defensive ends Quinton Coples (Kinston, N.C.) and Richard Quinn (Ladson, S.C.) and safety Herman Davidson (Long Beach, Calif.) faxing in their National Letters of Intent on Wednesday. Defensive ends Michael McAdoo (Antioch, Tenn.) and Dion Guy (Washington, D.C.) made their decisions in the last week, and defensive back Melvin Williams had already enrolled for the spring semester.
Davis was pleased with his program's defensive hauls for the 2008 class, and it is expected to revive one area that North Carolina has sorely lacked on that side of the ball for years – team speed.
"One of the characteristics that epitomizes this class is the fact that it's got speed," Davis said, who's first full recruiting class finished ranked 30th nationally with only 17 signees. "This is a class that can run extremely well, and it's also a class that has got playmakers… I think that speed for all of these kids for all of these kids on defense, for every single one of them – I think that they are uniquely fast at the position that they play."
The coaching staff watched Super Bowl XLII last Sunday, and New Yorks ability to pressure New England's Tom Brady with a four-man pass rush only furthered Davis' beliefs that a defense's success starts up front on the line.
"That's kind of the way the defenses that I had with the Cowboys [and] the defense that we had at Miami and the defenses that we'll eventually have here, is getting defensive linemen that are fast, that are athletic, sometimes that are even former outside linebackers that are like Dion Guy, who's 6-foot-4, 225 pounds [and] is probably one really good offseason away from being 255," Davis said. "Guys that can grow in to it, but yet retain that athleticism to be able to run."
Coples, Quinn, Guy and McAdoo represent the type of long, rangy athletes that excel in basketball as well as on the football field, and their impact is expected to immediate. CSTV.com's Tom Lemming ranked Coples and Quinn as two of the top-10 defensive end prospects in the country.
North Carolina locked up one of the ACC's top linebacker classes with three four-stars (Kevin Reddick, Ebele Okakpu and Zach Brown) and one sleeper prospect (Kenneth Harris). The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Brown recorded an astounding 4.39 40-yard dash and a 4.25 shuttle time at Hargrave Military Academy's winter workouts in December.
"His name comes up in discussions about the possibility of even being a kick returner," Davis said of Brown. "It's very unique and rare when you see a linebacker that you would throw into that discussion."
The Tar Heels also landed arguably the top in-state linebacker in New Bern's Kevin Reddick.
"We felt like he was one of the most dynamic linebackers in the state," Davis said of Reddick. "He was a big, physical kid. He's got the presence and the strength to be a dominating force inside to stop the run. He's a good athlete, he's got speed and he can make plays extended outside the box."
Ironically, Reddick represented one of the few in-state LOI's that rolled across the Kenan Football Center's fax machine on Wednesday. Thomasville's highly-touted wide receiver E.J. Abrams-Ward opted for Tennessee over the Tar Heels at a mid-morning press conference at his high school, leaving the Tar Heels with just two of Scout.com's top-10 N.C. prospects (quarterback Braden Hanson and Reddick) and only five overall (offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper, athlete A.J. Blue and Coples).
But despite receiving signatures from 10 different states, Davis reiterated his staff's dedication mining the state of North Carolina.
"Our biggest emphasis is always going to be in North Carolina and in the immediate area," Davis said. "The Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina – I think that's got to be where we do well year-in and year-out recruiting. And then we're going to go after the best players. If there are kids in 4-5-6 state area, a 10-hour drive area, where Mom and Dad have an opportunity to come and visit and watch them play, and if they show interest, then we will definitely show interest in them."
And while this recruiting class revolved around the defensive side of the ball, the Tar Heels filled significant needs on offense with Hanson, Cooper, Blue, running back Jamal Womble, wide receiver Todd Harrelson, tight end Randy White and H-back Christian Wilson.