In-state defensive line crop could be boon for UNC

The 2015 recruiting cycle could be good for North Carolina- very good.

The key for current head coach Larry Fedora- or anyone- to building the Tar Heels into a big winner is and always has been keeping the top in-state talent at home and playing in Chapel Hill, particularly those hard-to-find defensive linemen that the state seems to annually produce in bundles.

This cycle, UNC is set up to not only stop the annually exodus, but to land perhaps one of the best defensive line classes in the country.

Consider the following trio of prospects that Fedora and company are in good shape for at this early stage...

The No. 1 prospect in the state this cycle- defensive tackle Shy Tuttle (Lexington, N.C./North Davidson) is considered a Heels lean. 247Sports Crystal Ball has him predicted to the Tar Heels at 71 percent. Tuttle is the No. 4 defensive tackle prospect nationally according to 247Sports Composite Rankings and a five-star prospect.

Elite defensive end Jalen Dalton (Clemmons, N.C./West Forsyth), a 6-foot-5, 220-pound rangy edge rusher, is a 75 percent prediction to UNC at present. He is the No. 7 weakside defensive end prospect in the country and the No. 2 overall prospect in North Carolina this cycle.

Defensive end/tackle Sterling Johnson (Clayton, N.C./Cleveland) has family ties to UNC and the 6-foot-5, 274-pound U.S. Army All-American is predicted to the Tar Heels at 88 percent and it’s safe to say he’s a strong lean there at this time, even with Alabama and others pushing. Johnson is the No. 10 strong-side defensive end prospect in the country (though he may project highest inside). 

Defensive tackle Lee Autry (Albemarle, N.C.) may not have the national ratings that the others do, but on film the 6-foot-2, 265-pounder is a player and if he can fill out, develop and get stronger, he can have an athleticism advantage on the inside. He's considered a UNC lean.

That's quite a quartet for any program.

Those are just the in-state defensive linemen that North Carolina is sitting pretty for. There’s more. Darian Roseboro (Lincolnton, N.C.) has a national offer list and the 6-foot-4, 255-pound end/tackle currently is considered an N.C. State lean in-state. Kengera Daniel (Raleigh, N.C./Millbrook) is a 6-foot-5, 240-pound end with heavy attention from Florida State (considered a lean), Alabama and others. Plus, you never know what other defensive linemen will emerge from the Old North State- it seems to happen every cycle.

There’s no question given Fedora’s up-tempo offensive system and skill talent already on campus that North Carolina will be able to score and move the ball. Solidifying the defense is the key here and having elite talent on the defensive line is perhaps the hardest part of building it. If 2015 turns out even somewhat like it looks like it is at this time for the Tar Heels, it’s as sturdy of a foundation as you are going to find defensively moving forward.

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