September 8, 2011

Batten: Recruiting elevates UNC-Rutgers rivalry

Rarely does the outcome of a single game have a major impact on recruiting.

But when Rutgers comes to Kenan Stadium on Saturday, the Tar Heels will be facing a program located in what has become a fertile recruiting ground for UNC.

Yes, the state that has given us Bruce Springsteen, Tony Soprano and the kids from the Jersey Shore - OK, two out of three ain't bad - has become a significant source of talent for college football prospects over the past decade.

North Carolina has managed to regularly tap into its share of New Jersey's talent pool. The Tar Heels have signed nine players from The Garden State since 2002, including three current roster members in senior fullback Devon Ramsey, sophomore punter C.J. Feagles and freshman tight end Jack Tabb.

To refresh your memories, here are the other Jersey products who have played with UNC since 2002 include:

*MELIK BROWN, Camden, N.J. (Wilson HS) - Brown was a four-year letterwinner from 2003-2006. He came to UNC as a linebacker, but wound up playing defensive end his final three seasons.

*LEWIS BURNHAM, Moorestown, N.J. (Moorestown HS) - Burnham was a tight end for four seasons at UNC, but never lettered.

*NICK CANGELOSI, Cherry Hill, N.J. (Camden Catholic HS) - A quarterback who never saw action in one season at UNC, Cangelosi transferred after 2003 to Georgetown where he started as a senior in 2005.

*JESSE HOLLEY, Roselle, N.J. (Abraham Clark HS) - A four-year letterwinner and three-year starter at receiver for the Tar Heels, Holley finished eighth on UNC's career receptions and receiving yardage lists. He's now a member of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys.

*JOE KEDRA, Cherry Hill, N.J. (Camden Catholic) - Kedra appeared in 10 games and lettered a true freshman at linebacker in 2003 for UNC. But injuries forced Kedra to give up his playing career, although he did earn his degree from North Carolina.

*KENTON THORNTON, Blairstown, N.J. (Blair Academy) - Technically, Thornton is from Texas, but he was the 2004 New Jersey Prep Player of the Year as a wide receiver at Blair Academy. He lettered three years at UNC (2006-08) before transferring to North Alabama for his final season.

*DEVON RAMSEY, Red Bank, N.J. (Lawrenceville Prep) - Ramsey emerged as UNC's starting fullback in 2009, but only saw action four games last year before being sidelined due to the NCAA investigation. He suffered a season-ending injury in this year's opener against James Madison, but the school is looking into appealing to the NCAA to get him a sixth year of eligibility.

*C.J. FEAGLES, Ridgewood, N.J. (Ridgewood HS) - A highly rated prep punter, Feagles lettered last season as a redshirt freshman at UNC. He gave way to walk-on freshman Thomas Hibbard as the punter in last week's season opener against James Madison.

*JACK TABB, Red Bank, N.J. (Catholic HS) - Tabb is a true freshman tight end, who saw action in the season opener against James Madison, but didn't register a catch.

Two more New Jersey products have already made oral commitments to UNC's recruiting class of 2012.

Linebacker Dan Mastromatteo from Holy Spirit High in Absecon, N.J., chose the Tar Heels in August, while offensive lineman John Ferranto of Township High in Burlington picked UNC in July.

Offers from the Tar Heels have also been extended to at least 11 other New Jersey prospects for 2012, although six of those have made commitments to other schools.

Two of those, wide receiver Leonte Carroo from Ramsey and athlete Davon Jacobs from Wayne, have given their pledges to Rutgers.

UNC and Rutgers have gone head-to-head for several New Jersey recruits, with the most recent competition occurring last year for running back Savon Huggins.

Huggins, from Jersey City, was rated the nation's No. 7 running back prospect by Rivals.com. He narrowed his list of schools to Notre Dame, Rutgers and UNC before choosing to sign with the Scarlet Knights.

Perhaps that was payback by Rutgers for the Tar Heels landing Giovani Bernard out of Florida a year earlier.

Coach Greg Schiano mentioned in his weekly press conference that the Scarlet Knights attempted to recruit Bernard.

"He's a guy that we recruited who is an exceptional running back,'' Schiano said. "I mean, really, really good. In high school he's as good as there was in America. We didn't really get very far with him, I didn't feel, but we sure liked him.''

The Scarlet Knights and Tar Heels are sure to be engaged in more recruiting battles for New Jersey stars in the future. Thanks to the ACC Network, viewers throughout the metropolitan New York area, which includes most of New Jersey, will get to see Saturday's game. That should provide an extra boost of exposure in the area for the winner.

So there's more at stake Saturday than merely a victory on the field for the Tar Heels.







 

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