The hashtags fly around Twitter like the latest movement is going on in the world.
At any given time those on the social media site might catch tweets using #MackIsBack or #LightItRed. Those phrases mean a good day in football recruiting -- usually a verbal commitment from a top prospect -- for coach Mack Brown and North Carolina or Dave Doeren and N.C. State.
The teams don’t report to camp until August, and won’t play against each other until November, so for the time being the battles are taking place on the recruiting trail, where the Wolfpack and Tar Heels are jockeying for top position in the state.
Under Doeren, who has put an emphasis on keeping the state’s top football talent in North Carolina, N.C. State this year passed UNC in the league in recruiting for the first time in 11 years. For the 2019 recruiting class, the Wolfpack has the fifth best class in the ACC, UNC has the sixth.
Doeren, who was hired by N.C. State in late 2012, fell behind the Tar Heels in recruiting in each of his first five seasons with the Wolfpack.
Brown’s 2020 class currently sits two spots (4) ahead of N.C. State (6) in the ACC, according to 247Sports’ rankings.
When Brown was hired in November to replace former coach Larry Fedora, he quickly made an impact, recruiting, and signing 10 in-state players.
Within the past week, however, Doeren got commitments from two Class of 2020 Top 50, three-star in-state players - Cary defensive lineman Davin Vann (6-2, 273) and Terry Sanford tight end/defensive end Ezemdi Udoh (6-5, 242). The addition of Vann and Udoh bring Doeren’s class of 2020 commitments to 14. The Tar Heels, who are ranked 11th nationally, have 15 verbal commitments, including four four-star players. The Wolfpack so far has a commitment from one four-star player.
Brown and Doeren both talk openly about keeping the top high school players in state for college, and so far that’s where Doeren has a very slight edge. The Wolfpack currently has seven Class of 2020 North Carolina-based players, while UNC has six.
Most of the top-ranked Class of 2020 players in the state are from around Charlotte. All six of Brown’s in-state commitments are from Charlotte or the surrounding area. N.C. State’s top two ranked 2020 commitments, wide receiver Porter Rooks and cornerback Ayden White, are from the Charlotte area. Two of Doeren’s seven in-state commits are from Wake County.
Duke’s Class of 2020 includes six commitments so far, and only one, safety Isaiah Fisher-Smith, is from North Carolina. Wake Forest has five in-state verbal commitments. East Carolina, under first-year head coach Mike Houston, has secured just two in-state commitments.
The final stretch to secure the most in-state recruits should be an interesting one to watch before the early signing day in December, when prep players can first sign a National Letter of Intent.
The Wolfpack has made scholarship offers to eight players in the state who have yet to commit. UNC has 13, and both schools are recruiting some of the same players. Desmond Evans, a Lee County defensive end and the top player in the state and No. 2 weak-side defensive end in the country, has gotten offers from both schools.
According to recruiting website 247Sports’s crystal ball prediction, there is a 60 percent chance Evans, who’s 6-6 and 238 pounds, will sign with the Tar Heels.