Class of 2020 signee Tony Grimes was North Carolina's first consensus five-star football recruit since Donte Paige-Moss selected the Tar Heels in 2009, and it didn't take the Virginia Beach native long to make an impact. As a freshman, Grimes appeared in all 12 games, starting four, and registering four passes defended with an interception.
This January, another five-star product enrolled at UNC along with several other coveted prospects in the nation's 14th-ranked recruiting class. Head coach Mack Brown will play the guys that give the team the best chance to win, regardless of their class. So despite the Tar Heels returning much of their talented 2020 roster, there will be opportunities.
Here are four incoming freshmen and one transfer to keep an eye on this coming season.
Ty Chandler, RB
With the departures of Michael Carter and Javonte Williams, there will be plenty of carries available to new running backs in 2021. Based on experience alone, the Tennessee transfer could top the depth chart entering fall camp. During his four years in Knoxville, Chandler totaled 2,046 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns while also showing the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
Kamarro Edmonds, RB
Of course, the Heels lost two 1,000-yard rushers, so Chandler will need some help. That's where Edmonds comes in. The four-star prospect out of Havelock, North Carolina, rushed for more than 1,400 yards as a junior in high school, generating interest from schools such as LSU, Tennessee, and South Carolina.
Keeshawn Silver, DE
The Heels return their entire defensive line, but that doesn't mean Silver won't see the field. A five-star recruit on the 247Sports Composite Rankings, Silver has the length and size (6-6, 275) to make an immediate impact. His frame makes him a perfect fit in defensive coordinator Jay Bateman's 3-4 system, and his skill set that drew interest from programs like Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, and Georgia may lead to early playing time.
Raneiria Dillworth, OLB
The same could be said for Dillworth. Chazz Surratt is the only player on the second level that is moving on, but Dillworth may be too good to sit. Like Silver, he is already on campus, and the 205-pound linebacker will be making an effort to bulk up a bit. But his speed is a trait that can't be taught.
Drake Maye, QB
Obviously, Maye will not be starting this coming fall. But there is the chance that another big year by Sam Howell could lead to the star signal-caller declaring for the 2022 NFL Draft. In that case, Carolina will have to start preparing for the future, and Maye is considered the next big thing. The Charlotte product comes to Chapel Hill with higher ratings than Howell had when he signed in 2019 and was originally an Alabama commit before flipping to the Heels.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.