UNC Football Recruiting: How National Signing Day 2011 Affected the Tar Heels

Matt FaulconerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 3, 2011

CHAPEL HILL, NC - OCTOBER 13: North Carolina coach Butch Davis reacts to a play against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Kenan Stadium October 13, 2007 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. South Carolina won 21-15. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

When Butch Davis approached the podium on Wednesday afternoon, he said, “Today was a very good day.” Considering the fact that they spent the entire year of 2010 under scrutiny, it was an even better day for UNC football.

The prize of the class for Carolina was DT Delvon Simmons, the fifth-best defensive tackle in the class, who selected UNC over both USC and Oregon.  

UNC finished the day with a top-20 class according to Rivals.com and had the third-best class in the ACC.  

The Tar Heels have been able to recruit very well under Butch Davis and that is part of the reason they were viewed as one of the favorites to win the ACC this past season, before the suspensions came to Chapel Hill.

The reason that the 2011 Signing Day was so important for the Heels was because they were able to land an elite class even though Butch Davis had his back against the wall.  Butch had a tough job trying to convince recruits that the program was on good terms with the NCAA and that they wouldn’t allow what happened last year to happen again, and they succeeded.

It is one thing for a school like USC to convince recruits that they have moved on from their NCAA sanctions, but it is a completely different thing for a basketball school in the ACC to convince recruits to come, not just to play football but also to convince them that the school is starting on a clean sheet. 

For that, kudos to Butch Davis.

Not only was UNC able to land a top-20 recruiting class, but they were also able to fill their needs. With UNC losing a lot of players in their front seven, they were able to bring in three 4-star recruits on the defensive line and Travis Hughes, one of the top linebackers in the country.

On the other side of the ball, the Heels were able to bring in three stud offensive lineman in Kiaro Holts, Jarrod James and Landon Turner. All three of these players were considered 4-star recruits and should be able to shore up some of the problems that UNC had on the offensive line. UNC was also able to land T.J. Thorpe, one of the top 15 receivers in the class of 2011, at a position the Heels could definitely use an impact player.

UNC also landed a lot of much-needed depth in the secondary. They signed five 3-star corners, which should help out a pass defense that was inconsistent in 2010.

Most importantly, UNC got what will likely be their quarterback of the future in Marquise Williams. Bryn Renner will likely start this season and Marquise Williams will be redshirted if he doesn’t win the quarterback battle in spring practices.

Depending on Renner’s performance, Williams could be starting by 2012. If Renner performs well, it is very possible you could see UNC play two quarterbacks regularly in 2012, like LSU did this past season with Lee and Jefferson.  

Williams is a dual-threat quarterback who can beat you with both his arms and his legs and is a straight-up playmaker. Having Williams on the Heels will really help Butch to open up the playbook.

Standing up and applauding Butch Davis for succeeding in landing this recruiting class is certainly in order as this may be one of the most exciting recruiting classes that UNC has had in quite a while.