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North Carolina Football: 5 Newcomers to Watch for the Tar Heels

North Carolina Football: 5 Newcomers to Watch for the Tar Heels

North Carolina has added another top-15 recruiting class a key transfer in hopes of contending for the ACC Coastal title this fall

Year 4 of the second Mack Brown era in Chapel Hill will see plenty of changes. Gone are quarterback Sam Howell, running back Ty Chandler, and a good chunk of the offensive line. Also departing is defensive coordinator Jay Bateman and several of his key components including linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel, edge rusher Tomon Fox, and defensive back Trey Morrison.

The good news is that the Tar Heels have recruited very well over the past three years, including bringing in the No. 11 class this cycle, according to the 247Sports Composite. Many of the now-vacant positions could be filled by players with virtually no game experience, including some that are brand new to the North Carolina program.

Related: Ranking the ACC Rosters for 2022

Here are five newcomers that could make an impact for the Tar Heels next fall.

Andre Greene, WR

Josh Downs will again be one of the nation’s best collegiate receivers, but there was a lack of production from the other pass catchers in 2021. Greene is a rangier (6-3) target who could prove to be an excellent complement to the shiftier Downs. The Richmond product was a four-star prospect that picked Carolina over Clemson, Georgia, and Oregon.

George Pettaway, RB

British Brooks and D.J. Jones are the leading returning rushers, but the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Pettaway will do his best to earn the starting running back job. A top-100 recruit in the 247Sporrts Composite, Pettaway rushed for 1,683 yards and 23 scores as a senior at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy in Suffolk, Virginia, and enrolled at UNC in January. Michigan, Penn State, and Florida were the schools North Carolina beat out to land Pettaway.

Zach Rice, OT

Listed as a 5-star prospect by just about every service, Rice is Carolina’s highest-ranked recruit since they landed Marvin Austin in 2007. It's not often that a true freshman offensive lineman locks down a starting spot, but the 6-foot-6, 300-pound Rice is already on campus and has the size and skill level needed to compete right away. Alabama, Ohio State, and Notre Dame were among the schools that Rice also considered.

Travis Shaw, DL

Zach Rice was not the only 5-star that the Heels secured in this cycle. Like Rice, Shaw is a top-end prospect that comes in with enough size (6-5, 330) to battle for snaps as a freshman. Another early entry, Shaw’s offers included Georgia, Alabama, and Clemson.

Noah Taylor, LB

As a transfer from Coastal Division rival Virginia, the North Carolina staff knows all about Taylor, who was a very productive player during his time with the Cavaliers. In three games against the Tar Heels, Taylor totaled 24 tackles, including 12 in the 2021 contest. Taylor has 169 total tackles and 12.5 sacks in his career and his arrival not only helps Carolina, but it also makes one of its primary competitors a bit weaker.

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.