TarHeelIllustrated - Bateman Excited About Strong Class Of 2022 On Tap
{{ timeAgo('2021-12-21 12:09:52 -0600') }} football Edit

Bateman Excited About Strong Class Of 2022 On Tap

UNC DC Jay Bateman is thrilled about the group that signed last week, notably 5-star DT Travis Shaw.
UNC DC Jay Bateman is thrilled about the group that signed last week, notably 5-star DT Travis Shaw. (Jacob Turner/THI)

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CHAPEL HILL – As Phil Longo is thrilled with the offensive prospects North Carolina signed last week in its recruiting class of 2022, so is defensive coordinator Jay Bateman. And for good reason.

His side of the ball landed a 5-star player in the trenches, too. As Travis Shaw put pen to paper and is now a Tar Heel. In addition, Bateman’s group landed six 4-star kids, too. Shaw, however, was the biggest fish in a sea of many.

“I think Travis was the first kid I watched when I got hired,” Bateman said Tuesday morning. “He was a freshman at the time, and we're like this kid’s gonna be one of the top five or six players in the country, and it was true. Lonnie Galloway and Tim Cross did a great job recruiting him. (UNC) Coach (Mack) Brown. Obviously, we think he has a chance to impact our team immediately.”

Raleigh native Beau Atkinson drew considerable praise from Bateman. A defensive end/outside linebacker who also played tight end at Leesville Road High School, Atkinson is already on campus working out with the team as it prepares to face South Carolina on Dec. 30 in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. Just-signed players who are recognized as high school graduates can practice but cannot have live contact or participate in bowl activities when the team heads to Charlotte or receive bowl gear.

Beau Atkinson was a 4-star prospect at Leesville Road High School.
Beau Atkinson was a 4-star prospect at Leesville Road High School. (Kevin Roy/THI)

“We felt like we had to get some guys that had a real edge rush, outside backer potential in this class,” Bateman said. “Beau Atkinson is here right now, we’re really excited about him. I can’t tell you how many high school coaches in North Carolina – and I’ve got a lot of respect for the high school coaches in North Carolina – have called me and said, ‘Man, Atkinson is a dude.’

Malaki Hamrick is fresh off a second consecutive state championship at Shelby (NC) High School, and could be a candidate to also get on the field next season. Bateman is thrilled to have him on board, too.

“And the second guy they’ve called me about is Malaki Hamrick, who I think was MVP of two state title games,” Bateman said. “You’re talking about a kid who in the biggest games is going to play.”

UNC signed nine defensive players in the class of 17, so in addition to the one 5-star and six 4-star prospects, two 3-star players fill out the defensive part of the class.

A couple of other 4-star players’ names rolled off Bateman’s tongue when discussing how much he appreciated the quality of the group. The first three kids he noted are in-state players, most of the rest are from outside of North Carolina.

“And then Bryson Jennings (Midlothian, VA) is a kid with, I think, a huge upside. Sebastian Cheeks (Evanston, IL); Tommy (Thigpen) did a great job recruiting him. A national recruit, a kid who could have gone anywhere in the country really. Big linebacker, he’ll be here in a couple of weeks. We’re excited about him…

Malaki Hamrick has won MVP awards in two state championship games.
Malaki Hamrick has won MVP awards in two state championship games. (Deana King/THI)

“Deuce (Caldwell, Mauldin, SC) we’re really excited about at inside backer. And I think the three DBs, Tayon (Holloway, Virginia Beach, VA), and Marcus (Allen, Marietta, GA), and Will (Hardy, Norcross, GA) – we were fortunate to get Will at the end – I think those are three really smart, long, fast DBs.”

Shaw enters with extremely high expectations, but there are challenges for a true freshman defensive linemen at getting onto the field. College football is much more different than high school for them than skill position guys.

Shaw is expected to practice some before the bowl game, but it hasn’t yet been finalized. Either way, he will be on campus in early January and go through spring practice.

“The thing about being a defensive lineman versus being in the secondary or at linebacker is, it’s a little bit less knowledge-based, it’s a little bit more physical readiness,” Bateman sad. “So, I think when you have a kid that’s physically closer to being ready, like Jahvaree (Ritzie) was – Jahvaree was very physically ready to play, and he’s played pretty significant snaps the whole year.

“I think when you’re physically ready as a d-lineman you have a better chance to play early.”

Terrific group and the man that runs that side of the ball is quite pleased.

Jay Bateman Tuesday Interview