football Edit

Success And Maye's Attention Helping On The Trail

North Carolina winning and Drake Maye's national attention are helping the Tar Heels on the recruiting trail.
North Carolina winning and Drake Maye's national attention are helping the Tar Heels on the recruiting trail. (Jacob Turner/THI)

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CHAPEL HILL – One of Mack Brown’s primary missions when he took over the North Carolina football program nearly four years ago was to make it the “cool place to be.”

That obviously meant giving players the best facilities possible, gear as only Jordan Brand can deliver, a great culture in which to play, and to win games in a fun manner.

Brown and the program are delivering on all fronts, as the renovations remain in full swing, and the Tar Heels are winning again. Two seasons after playing in the Orange Bowl, UNC is 7-1 overall, 4-0 in the ACC, and ranked No. 17 in the nation. And, they are a treat to watch, courtesy of quarterback Drake Maye, who has inserted himself into the Heisman Trophy talk with his play and Carolina’s success.

The effect? Kids on the recruiting trail are definitely noticing, even those who had previously moved on the from Tar Heels.

“Kids wants to play with really good players, and when they see what we’re doing offensively, and they see the improvement on defense, we’re having some kids call us back in recruiting,” Brown said during his weekly press conference Monday at the Kenan Football Center. “They are saying, ‘Hey, would you still be interested?’ That’s a cool place to be. That’s why it’s important we finish.”

Antoine Green is one of 10 UNC players to catch a touchdown pass from Drake Maye this season.
Antoine Green is one of 10 UNC players to catch a touchdown pass from Drake Maye this season. (Kevin Roy/THI)

Finishing means taking care of business over their last four games. The Tar Heels are at Virginia this weekend before heading to Winston-Salem for their final road game of the regular season, which will be at Wake Forest. Then they return home to host Georgia Tech and NC State.

In addition to Capturing the ACC Coastal Division and possibly getting back to another major bowl, UNC can continue its wave of recruiting interest by winning in electrifying fashion.

Maye is among the top 10 nationally in pretty much every passing category, including tops in passing yards per game (333.8) and touchdown passes (29). His season PFF grade is an incredible 92.1, also tops in the nation. Furthermore, he has thrown touchdown passes to ten different players, and 11 different players have caught passes for 15 or more yards.

“He’s got an amazing knack to find the open receiver, and yes, I do think the hype really helps us across the board…,” Brown said. “If you’re a receiver right now, why would you go anywhere else?”

THI has learned that many of the class of 2023 prospects with revived interest in UNC are committed elsewhere, some of whom are very highly touted kids. Conversations are certainly taking place, but just because a kid is extremely talented and now interested in Carolina again doesn’t mean the staff will drop someone for them, or simply make room.

There is more to this element of the process. Winning and Maye’s attention has made UNC more appealing than it was in the spring and summer, but the program won’t change its approach on the trail.

Kamari Morales and UNC's tight ends have been recipients of many passes from Drake Maye this fall.
Kamari Morales and UNC's tight ends have been recipients of many passes from Drake Maye this fall. (Brandon Peay/THI)

“When you have a quarterback like Drake is and the way he’s playing right now, I think, particularly on the offensive side, and particularly the skill positions, you’ve got some guys that are looking at the points and the yards and the wins and the caliber of quarterbacks that we actually have here…,” UNC offensive coordinator/ quarterbacks coach Phil Longo said.

“Coach Brown will tell you the same thing also, he really doesn’t care, nor do I, how good a kid is. If he doesn’t have a burning desire to come here, you let him move on. Because otherwise, they’re gonna look at the grass is greener on the other side anyway. You just want kids that are dying to be here.”

Longo absolutely applies that to recruiting quarterbacks. He tells them if he has to convince them to go to UNC, they aren’t the right guy for the program. And really, it applies to everyone that shows interest.

The shine is back on North Carolina because it is the cool place to be and also winning, and doing so while generating attention. And a byproduct of that is obvious on the recruiting trail.

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