CHAPEL HILL — Football coach Larry Fedora didn’t begin work at North Carolina until late December, so it would have been difficult enough for him and his new staff of assistant coaches to formulate a recruiting plan and then execute it.
But the process has been more difficult given that Fedora and his staff have had to recruit while they wait for the NCAA to rule on the impermissible benefits and academic fraud cases that for the past year and a half have hung over the UNC football program.
Two days before national signing day, the NCAA still hasn’t released its verdict. The final penalties that UNC will face remain unknown. And yet Fedora and assistants managed to salvage a recruiting class that had been floundering until about a month ago.
Since Fedora took over the Tar Heels have received eight of their 22 verbal commitments, according to Rivals.com. The most heralded of those commitments came from James Summers, a quarterback from Page High in Greensboro.
Summers had been committed to N.C. State until last Thursday, when he switched his commitment to UNC. In an interview with the Greensboro's WFMY television affiliate, Summers said that Fedora had told him he would have a chance to compete for the Tar Heels’ starting quarterback job as early as next season.
Summers, who led Page to a 35-21 victory against Garner in the class 4AA state championship, is a versatile athlete who fits the mold of what Fedora seeks in a quarterback for his up-tempo spread offense.
“I have a better chance of making things happen over there,” Summers said during the TV interview.
Rivals.com ranks Summers as a four-star prospect. J.J. Patterson, an offensive lineman from Roanoke Rapids High, is also listed as a four-star prospect by Rivals. Summers and Patterson are UNC’s highest-rated commitments.
Earlier this month, Fedora said he and his staff hadn’t yet prioritized positions of need. Instead, Fedora said, he simply wanted to target “great players.”
Fedora acknowledged the difficulty of recruiting amid the uncertainty of what sanctions might await UNC. He had been hoping for a ruling by now, so that opposing schools could no longer use worst-case scenarios against the Tar Heels in recruiting battles.
“We obviously have to go out there and dispel those myths and the things that aren’t true,” Fedora said earlier this month. “… I think the unknown is the toughest thing because as long as there’s this unknown sitting out there, that’s what everybody’s going to use – they’re going to make it the worst-case scenario possible.”