National Signing Day: Will Larry Fedora Ever Sign a Top-10 Class?


As you may have heard, today is National Signing Day.  For the football teams all around the country, today is the day that will decide future success.  A good signing class can mean being a national championship contender, while a bad class can spell future disaster for teams.  In Larry Fedora’s tenure at the University of North Carolina, the Heels have been somewhere in the middle every year.  According to, Carolina’s current recruiting class is 23rd in the nation, the same spot they had last year.  So far, these have been Fedora’s best recruiting classes, as his first two classes were ranked 44th and 42nd respectively.  While these aren’t great classes, they have got better each year, which is a good sign.  But will Fedora ever be able to have a great class, a top-ten class, with players that can lead Carolina to a berth in the College Football Playoff?

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The short answer–probably not, at least not under his current contract, which is good through the 2018 season.  At this point, Carolina has not played good enough on the field to get top recruits.  In many ways, it’s a catch-22: you can’t get great players unless you have a history of great teams, but you can’t get a history of great teams if you don’t have great players.  It’s especially difficult for North Carolina, which is seen as a “basketball school” instead of a “football school.”  Most recruits want to play at a school where football is huge, and where they know they will have the chance to win a national championship.  To be honest, they won’t find that at Carolina in the near future.  The Heels just will never have the same kind of tradition as schools like Alabama and Southern California.

Jul 1, 2013; Beaverton, OR, USA; Elijah Hood was the best in-state player Carolina got last year. But he was only the sixth best recruit in the state according to ESPN. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Because of this lack of tradition, Carolina will struggle to pull top recruits from out-of-state.  And while Fedora has begun to “put a wall around North Carolina”, there are too many élite teams in the Southeast.  These schools – Florida State, Miami, the Southeastern Conference – will draw a lot of top talent away from the state because of their rich history and success.  Perhaps more importantly, UNC has to compete with schools like Duke and NC State for in-state recruits.  Because of this, Carolina has fought a losing battle trying to get the best players in the state.  This year, for example, Carolina has 2 of the top ten recruits in North Carolina.  NC State has three, Stanford and Clemson each have two and Tennessee has one.  In 2014, Carolina had just three of the top 20 prospects.  NC State had four that year and Duke had two.  Getting just a few of the best in-state players is certainly not going to cut it, especially when ACC rivals like Clemson and NC State are getting just as many, if not more, of the top recruits.

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  • Another reason Larry Fedora will not be able to get a recruiting class that is ranked in the top-ten nationally is because there are too many other schools who have top-ten classes every single year.  I’m talking about perennial powers like Alabama (which has had the top recruiting class five straight years), Texas, Louisiana State, Ohio State, Clemson, Florida, Florida State and Southern Cal.  All of these schools pull players from large areas and have football programs which are consistently very good.  Every year, these programs grab the best players, leaving schools like Carolina to fight for the scraps.  This year, for instance, there have been 28 five-star recruits who have committed.  These 28 players were divided among just twelve schools, and five schools (Alabama, Florida State, LSU, Clemson and Tennessee) got 19 of the players.  That left just nine five-star players for the rest of the country to fight over.  And, unfortunately, a player that good is just not very likely to pick Carolina over schools like defending-champion Ohio State.

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  • If Fedora is going to get a top-ten recruiting class during his tenure at Carolina, he needs to start winning.  He doesn’t need to win a national championship and the Heels don’t need to play in the College Football Playoff, but they need to do better than they have the last few years.  I mean, this year, they had a losing record and got blown out by Rutgers in the Quick Lane Bowl.  Recruits do not want to spend the next four years playing in mediocre bowl games like that.  Until Carolina can win consistently and show that they can compete for the ACC Championship every year, they will not be getting great recruits.

    I expect that Carolina’s recruiting classes will continue to improve in the years to come, and they will continue to get some good, solid players.  But there is simply not enough room at the top of college football for a team like North Carolina, which just doesn’t have the prestige of a lot of other schools.  But if Carolina’s teams play well in the next few years, that could change.  I think a ten win season and a berth in the ACC title game would give a huge boost to Carolina’s future recruiting classes.  Unfortunately, if this year’s debacle is any indication, it will be at least a few years until Carolina is anywhere near that good.