CHAPEL HILL – Former Miami head coach Butch Davis utilized his connections in Florida when he came to North Carolina, stocking his roster with recruits from the Sunshine State.
Though Davis is long gone, the current staff has continued to have success in Florida behind defensive coordinator Dan Disch, particularly in the northern part of the state.
The Jacksonville, Fla., native and Florida State graduate spent 22 years coaching high school football in the Jacksonville area before joining the University of Florida staff at the same time UNC coach Larry Fedora was the Gators’ offensive coordinator.
UNC picked up another commitment from Jacksonville in mid-October – Class of 2015 Trinity Christian Academy middle linebacker Andre Smith, who picked the Tar Heels without even visiting campus.
Smith, who had also received offers from Florida A&M, Samford and Massachusetts, told 247Sports that his relationship with Disch was a big reason why he chose the Tar Heels.
“Coach Disch is my homeboy,” Smith said. “He is from the same neighborhood and area that I’m from. We have a great bond, and that’s my guy.”
Disch was also instrumental in getting UNC’s other current 2015 commitment, Florida State University School safety Ronnie Harrison, who is from Tallahassee and had offers from East Carolina, Wake Forest, South Florida, Massachusetts and Northern Illinois.
UNC has two Jacksonville players in the 2014 class – guard Josh Allen and defensive end Marquis Haynes. Allen had a slew of offers from ACC and SEC schools, and Haynes originally committed to Louisville but changed his mind in June 2012 after developing a close relationship with Disch at a UNC football camp.
“He’s real cool, and he’s a great guy,” Haynes told the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer.
Haynes was originally in the 2013 class, but is currently spending a prep year at Hargrave Military Academy.
The Tar Heels currently have five former or current starters who hail from the Jacksonville area – redshirt freshman right tackle Jon Heck, junior wide receiver Sean Tapley, sophomore wide receiver Kendrick Singleton, sophomore cornerback Sam Smiley and sophomore bandit Shakeel Rashad. Redshirt freshman safety Joe Jackson is also a Jacksonville product.
Other Florida talent in the starting lineup includes defensive tackle Tim Jackson (St. Petersburg), cornerback Jabari Price (Pompano Beach) and safety Tre Boston (Cape Coral), who all came to Tar Heels when Davis was in charge.
In total, UNC has 18 players from Florida – no other state besides North Carolina is represented by more than eight players.
UNC still has interest in two other highly rated 2014 prospects from Jacksonville, four-star offensive tackle David Sharpe and two-star running back Alex Gardner.
Carolina is also still involved in plenty of 2015 standouts from that city, including Jeffery Holland, one of the top outside linebackers in the country. The Tar Heels are also in the mix with guard Kendrick Norton, safety Ben Edwards and running back Javaris Davis.
All coaches, especially in the South, hit Florida hard. While Davis’s connections to South Florida paid dividends, UNC is having success in the northern part thanks to Disch.
Williams Ponders Hairston Penalty
At North Carolina’s preseason media day, Roy Williams used his opening statement to go ahead and address the question that he knew was on the minds of everyone in attendance.
When, exactly, will junior shooting guard P.J. Hairston be allowed to play?
Williams joked that he’d borrow a tactic from his NFL counterparts and just say Hairston, last season’s leading scorer and the team’s most talked about player, is just “inactive.”
Hairston’s status is up in the air thanks to three summer traffic stops, one of which resulted in charges of driving without a license and marijuana possession. That incident uncovered a probable NCAA violation after it was discovered that he was driving an SUV rented by a Durham businessman with a criminal past.
During his comments on the matter, Williams stressed that the he would be the one making the final call on how long Hairston sits out.
“I can’t speak for what the NCAA is doing or not doing,” Williams said. “But I do know that Roy Williams has a tremendous voice in what else is going to be done.”
He said he’d announce the full length of the suspension at some point before the season-opener on Nov. 8. He felt that by then, he’d have all the facts he needed.
By now, many of those facts are known.
The charges from Hairston’s Durham arrest were dropped and the cases stemming from the other two stops have been resolved. As it turns out, the legal result of an offseason that fans of rival schools were happy to portray as a virtual crime spree ended up being just two speeding tickets.
Williams also said Hairston accepted the other forms of punishment he dished out, which ranged from lots of running to losing his spot on the cover of the media guide. Williams reported that Hairston had also lost his say in team decisions such as where to eat or what movie to watch.
But the one detail that has yet to be worked out is by far the most important.
In theory, it will be up to the NCAA to determine the value of the benefits it finds that Hairston received and sit him for a corresponding number of games. Williams said he doesn’t know when the NCAA will determine how long he sits, but he hopes it’s soon.
“Crap, the NCAA made a decision on Johnny Manziel in two days,” Williams said.
If that clears the ledger of any NCAA infractions, the rest of Hairston’s transgressions may not be the kind of thing that could keep him out any longer.
If Williams tacks more games on to whatever the NCAA hands out, it will likely be more for the angst he caused than his actual offenses. Considering that Hairston is the team’s most dynamic player with little in the way of proven alternatives at his position and that the Tar Heels have a rough non-conference schedule, adding games to the NCAA’s punishment would be a risky move, especially if it’s only done to appease those who felt aggrieved by his missteps.
So with little incentive to add to Hairston’s inevitable suspension, the decision Williams says will be his could largely end up being made for him.