Kevin Keatts and Dave Doeren have both picked up recent recruiting wins and will look to continue that headed into the early signing periods (November for basketball, December for football).
Joe Babros is a JUCO DE who committed after the win over Louisville. With the remaining targets available, my guess is that the Pack wanted him because we will need players to play immediately on the defensive line next year which is what Babros will bring to the table as a developed JUCO guy.
After this commitment, and Riley Nicholson’s retirement, we will likely take six more players in the 2018 class. It is my belief that defensive lineman Alim McNeill and linebacker Payton Wilson will have spots held for them no matter what happens, but I don’t think that applies to any other player.
I’ve mentioned how important McNeill is, and the importance grew when he announced that he will announce his college decision at the Army All-American game on January 6th on NBC. Before the season, it seemed he would be a Wolfpacker as long as Dave Doeren was still in Raleigh after the season. Well, Alim, we can do you one better and give Doeren a contract extension. He has visited FSU and VT, but has been at every State game as far as I know, and is still considered a big State lean.
Payton Wilson is currently committed to UNC-Chapel Hill (who is 1-6 if you haven’t heard), but visited State for the Syracuse game, and I’ve heard he could be back for the Clemson game. State received a crystal ball prediction for Wilson from Anna Hickey, who works for the Clemson 247 site. This is significant because she has an excellent track record, and because if Wilson decommits, Clemson was thought to be one of the contenders. Wilson is the 69th overall ranked player in the country on 247 (nice). He is a consensus four star, top 100 recruit and would be an absolutely massive get if we pulled this one off. (Wilson was on the Inside Carolina podcast this week and basically reaffirmed his commitment, so take that for what you will.)
Eriq Gilyard is a four-star linebacker who will decide on Sunday. He’s down to UCF and the Pack. I’m not 100% sure that we actually want him but we’ll see how it turns out. If he doesn’t run with the Pack, that should make us feel better about other linebackers we are after, because it likely means we backed off. Wilson, Keshon Artis, Fa’Najae Gotay would be those linebackers and my guess is we prefer each of them to Gilyard.
There’s a bunch of other guys who haven’t decided and could lose their spot in Raleigh depending on how things shake out. We’ll take a defensive back, likely either Joe Wilkins or Kendall Williamson (Edit: Williamson committed to Stanford on Monday). We’ll take an offensive lineman, either Jovaughn Gwyn or Kahric Belle. (Gwyn has just been waiting for a while after he was a big State lean and seems to be infatuated with playing in the SEC at USC, so my guess is we get Belle). We’ll look to take one other defensive lineman besides McNeill (hopefully). Jordan Davis and Joe Boletepeli are guys we’ve been on for a while but Davis is tight lipped and seems to be looking another way and Boletepeli is slow-playing us, so he could lose his spot.
Three guys who were at the Louisville game to keep an eye on for next year are Drake Thomas, Quavaris Crouch and Savion Jackson. These are all national level recruits who have offers from the who’s who of college football.
Thomas is a linebacker at Heritage and his brother is a walk-on at State right now. He is also high school teammates with commit Ricky Person (monster). I have personally seen him at every game so far, but he also has been to see the 1-6 team a few times (The more he sees said 1-6 team play “defense” the more I like our chances). He is a four-star who is also looking at Virginia Tech and Michigan. I believe Clemson has also offered.
Jackson is a local defensive end from Clayton (same school as commit WR Devin Carter). He is a high four-star who has offers from Alabama and Ohio State, among others. I have no idea where we stand with Jackson but I’ve heard if he had to commit now, it would be us. Obviously, having four or five defensive lineman get drafted this year wouldn’t hurt.
Crouch is on a whole other level as a recruit. He is a consensus five-star from Charlotte and by many accounts the top running back in the country. If you follow recruiting, I could see this being similar to Dexter Lawrence in terms of significance of us getting such a highly rated recruit, if it were to happen obviously. He would be the second-highest rated recruit we’ve ever signed according to 247 (Behind DeMario Pressley). His brother is Malik Dunlap, one of our defensive back commits. I honestly have no idea if he is seriously considering us, but having his brother can’t hurt and certainly, if you want to win a national championship, you aren’t going to Alabama or Clemson, you’re coming to Raleigh.
All three of those guys would be excellent to build a class around. Personally, I would bet we get Thomas and that we have a very good shot at Jackson. As for Crouch, I’m not holding my breath (but keep winning games and who knows).
On the basketball side of things, Keatts shored up the front line by adding high school teammates Ian Steere and Manny Bates. I don’t think we will take another freshman big guy this year, but my guess is that Yurtseven will go pro and we will turn to the grad transfer market for our third big after Abu and Freeman graduate. The attention now turns to wings, with the early signing period in the second week of November.
Jericole Hellems committed Friday night which surprised me. I had assumed he was a backup option behind the next two guys but either a) I was wrong or b) the staff knows they won’t get one of the next two guys. Hellems is a decent athlete and good shooter who will play most of his minutes at the three..
Saddiq Bey is a four-star who we want as a stretch four. His decision appears imminent, so imminent that he may have already made it and is just waiting to announce. He has been super quiet but it appears State and Xavier are the final two.
Keldon Johnson is a five-star, potential one-and-done wing who we threw our hat in on and now it seems we are in the final four. Texas has been on him a long time, Kentucky has joined in, and we are considered the dark horse. Maryland is also in the top four. I’ve heard we have a very legitimate shot here, but when Kentucky is involved… (He was supposed to commit to Maryland two weeks ago and Kentucky this week, but neither happened so that makes you feel good about our chances).
Many have asked about Jairus Hamilton. State has backed off because he didn’t play well over the summer and his stock dropped. He and Bey are both stretch 4s so we wouldn’t take both of them. We prefer Bey at this point, but if Bey doesn’t pick the Pack, I’m not sure if we would try to get back in with Hamilton, or if we have decided we no longer want him at all.
I’m not 100% sure about how many guys we take next year. I’ve heard we are taking four, but assuming Omer goes pro that leaves five spots so that would leave room for Bey and Johnson but, I’m sure they would like to hold an extra scholarship for the spring in case somebody pops up, so that complicates things. Either way, it’s nice that we have three guys set to sign in November, but I think we’ll add either Bey or Johnson as well. I can’t remember the last time we had four, or even just three, guys signed in the Fall.