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North Carolina Tar Heels

Will down year cost North Carolina on recruiting trail?

North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora watches during the second half of an NCAA college football game against California in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017. California won 35-30. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Gerry Broome/AP photo

It’s all about building for the future. 

If there is to be one positive takeaway for North Carolina after what’s so far been a disastrous 2017 season, it’s that this fall is simply an investment that will pay off in the coming years. With the bulk of last year’s offensive talent gone, numerous young players have gotten experience under their belts. Quarterback Chazz Surratt, even through a 1-5 start, has shown flashes of a player who could blossom into a dominant playmaker.

But as the Tar Heels have built for the future on the field, they may end up facing setbacks off of it. A key recruiting domino fell over the weekend, and the coming months will reveal whether or not more will follow.

Consensus 4-star quarterback Tyler Shough flipped from the Tar Heels to Oregon on Saturday. The 2018 passer had been the third-highest-rated player committed to the Tar Heels, per 247Sports’ composite rankings.

A number of factors could have prompted Shough’s decision to decommit. With the signal-caller hailing from Chandler, Ariz., geography was never on UNC’s side. In addition, with Surratt taking the lead to become the program’s quarterback of the future, Shough’s chances of playing before 2021 were uncertain at best.

It also probably didn’t help that the Tar Heels took a major step back this season.

Four of the team’s losses to date have come by double digits. An offense that ranked No. 1 nationally in yards per play two seasons ago now sits at No. 91 in the same category. With Virginia coming to Chapel Hill this Saturday, UNC’s seven-game winning streak versus the Cavaliers appears to not only be in jeopardy; it looks likely to come to an end.

North Carolina hasn’t defeated a Power Five opponent since Nov. 5, 2016. After finishing undefeated at home in 2015, the Heels are winless at Kenan Stadium after four tries so far this season.

UNC’s coaches will be hoping this year’s slump won’t lead to other commitments rethinking their decisions.

According to 247Sports’ composite rankings. Larry Fedora’s 2018 recruiting class ranks No. 45 in the country. What it lacks in numbers, however, it makes up for in quality. Four of the program’s pledges rank in the nation’s top 260, with two in the top 100. The 10-man class has been a success to this point and could get even better should the coaching staff land its top remaining targets.

But questions linger regarding what the class will look like come February. While the beatings UNC has taken on the field present their own set of questions, the school will soon receive its infractions report from the NCAA following a long-running case that, in some ways, dates back to 2010. Should the potential penalties include a postseason ban, all recruiting bets would be off the table.

At least one current commitment has drawn attention as a possible candidate to flip elsewhere. Linebacker Payton Wilson — a 4-star recruit and the top-ranked player in UNC’s class — had NC State coaches at his high school game last week. A potential instant-impact player, Wilson’s signature could immediately affect North Carolina’s future at linebacker.

With half of the season left and the early signing period still two months away, a lot can change — both good and bad — with the Tar Heels’ recruiting class before all is said and done. It may be too late for UNC to turn its season around, but there’s still time to build for next season.

Keeping this recruiting class together would go a long way.

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