Back Second Mack Brown Era Bringing Excitement to UNC

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Second Mack Brown Era Bringing Excitement to UNC

By Dave Holcomb
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the excitement around North Carolina football is as if the program is coming off an 11-win season.

North Carolina will always be a basketball school first, but for a brief period this decade, the Tar Heels were an elite football program.

From 2015-16, North Carolina went 19-8, and during the 2015 season, the Tar Heels won 11 games, which was the first time they accomplished that feat since going 11-1 during Mack Brown’s final season at Chapel Hill in 1997.

After limping to a 5-18 record over the last two years since that very successful two-year stint, Brown is now as head coach. With his return, the excitement around North Carolina football is as if the program is coming off an 11-win season. It’s evidenced from the Tar Heels recruiting success this summer.

It’s still early, but North Carolina has already landed 21 prospects for the 2020 recruiting class. Of those 21 players, five of them are 4-star prospects, and according to 247Sports, the 2020 class North Carolina holds as of the end of July is fourth-best in the ACC and the 15th-highest ranked in the country.

However, Brown’s recruiting success stems past the 2020 class. Last Friday, former 4-star cornerback transfer Kyler McMichael committed to North Carolina. He is the third defensive back to transfer to Chapel Hill this offseason.

McMichael isn’t the average 4-star prospect. 247Sports ranked him the 56th-best player and eighth-highest ranked cornerback (also the eighth-best player in Georgia) during the 2018 recruiting class. He arrived at Clemson as part of a class for the Tigers that was rated seventh in the country, but included seven players in the Top 60, counting McMichael.

But the Tigers landed two more top rated cornerbacks (one 5-star and another 4-star) in the 2019 class, and according to Tiger Illustrated, former 5-star wide receiver Derion Kendrick moved to the secondary and passed McMichael on the depth chart. That ultimately pushed McMichael out of Clemson and into the transfer portal.

Despite falling out of favor with the Tigers, landing McMichael is a rather big recruiting win for Brown and the Tar Heels. He will probably have to sit out this fall, but McMichael has three years left of eligibility and should be a long-term solution at cornerback.

As a freshman last season, McMichael posted 101 snaps in 12 games while playing both defense and special teams. That isn’t much playing time, but the experience of practicing against quarterback Trevor Lawrence and playing for a national champion should tremendously help McMichael’s development.

As Jake Lawrence of Tar Heel Blog wrote, the cornerback’s decision to transfer is “probably more of a testament to Clemson’s insane amount of talent than it is an indictment on McMichael’s skill level or potential.” He’s not some washed up 4-star; he was just likely to be buried on the best defensive depth charts in the ACC.

North Carolina lost multiple defensive backs this offseason for various reasons -- transfers, injuries and position changes, so the Tar Heels needed an influx of talent at the position. Three transfers, including McMichael, give North Carolina that and accomplished it without resorting to one-year graduate transfers.

Most importantly, Brown’s recruiting success indicates how quickly he already appears to have North Carolina football headed in the right direction. McMichael is just the latest example of why that’s true.

As is the case with any rebuilding program, winning is the best way to make strides in recruiting. Another way is to pick up small recruiting victories in the transfer portal before even coaching a game. Brown is doing that in Chapel Hill.