ACC

North Carolina Football: Tar Heels starting to recruit at blue-chip level

North Carolina football has picked up some big commitments in 2022 and it’s yet another sign that the Tar Heels are becoming elite on the recruiting trail. 

Mack Brown was always known as an elite recruiter. He first gained that reputation at North Carolina football, in his first stint as head coach and then, later at Texas, where he led the Longhorns to the national championship.

There is always a great debate about what’s more important — having great talent or a great tactician at head coach. In the end, you need both, but in terms of winning in big-time college football, you need talent and Brown knows how to get it.

And it’s the biggest reason why the North Carolina football program is no longer an afterthought and also why, the Tar Heels might be more than just one-year contenders for the College Football Playoff.

You see, Bud Elliott of 247 sports has developed what’s known as the blue-chip ratio. It’s not complicated really. It simply measures which teams, over the prior four years have recruited enough blue-chip prospects (four/five-stars) to win a national title.

According to Elliott, no team in the era of internet recruiting rankings has ever won a national title without having at least 50 percent of its signees over a four-year period be ranked as four or five-star prospects via the 247 sports composite rankings.

For the 2021 season, North Carolina football, for all its preseason hype, is not one of the 16 teams deemed talented enough by the blue-chip ratio to win it all.

North Carolina football is starting to recruit at an elite level

That doesn’t mean UNC can’t get fortunate and make the playoff, especially thanks to former top-100 quarterback Sam Howell, who has been an essential part of this rebuild.

However, when Howell signed back in the 2019 recruiting class, he was one of just four blue-chip prospects out of 30. That’s a 13 percent ratio. In 2020, North Carolina football made a big leap and went up to 40 percent (10/25).

Then, in the 2021 recruiting class, following Brown’s best on-field result which included an Orange Bowl berth, the Tar Heels signed 19 recruits, with 12 of the blue-chip variety, making their ratio an impressive 63 percent.

That’s how you compete for national championships. Of course, it’s tough when Alabama is in the 80-90 percent range, but elite quarterback play can be the great equalizer and Howell is a great example of that. Without him, the 2021 Tar Heels wouldn’t even be considered a dark-horse contender for the playoff.

But in the 2022 class, on the heels of landing four-star defensive end Beau Atkinson, who is ranked 359th overall, UNC has five commitments total and four of them are of the four-star variety. The other three are all ranked in the top 200 and of the 12 four-star recruits signed in 2021, 10 of them were ranked in the top 253.

One of those 2021 signees was Drake Maye, another highly-ranked quarterback. He was 55th overall in the 2021 class and the 6-foot-5 passer was also eighth at his position.

So if you were surprised by the results last season, you shouldn’t be going forward. Brown is building the Tar Heels into a legitimate ACC contender, and he’s doing it by being elite once again on the recruiting trail.