North Carolina Tar Heels Top Prospects for 2012 and Beyond


The North Carolina Tar Heels had a ton of players drafted in 2011, and Butch Davis continues to do a fantastic job of recruiting and developing NFL ready players. Some of the top players in the entire country again are coming from this program, and a lot from the defensive side of the ball.

47 Zach Brown (Senior), LB, 6’2″ 225

Not the biggest linebacker prospect, but his size is good enough, and his speed is more than enough. According to the official team site, Brown ran a 4.28 second 40 yard dash in the team’s offseason workouts back in 2009. He probably won’t hit that number at next year’s scouting combine, but he should be one of the fastest linebackers in next year’s draft, and is one of the top overall linebackers in next year’s crop of players. Brown will likely play the WILL linebacker position in the NFL. Last year, he had 72 tackles and three interceptions following up a sophomore campaign where he had 47 tackles, four for loss, and an interception. He is very much capable against both the run and the pass, and will be one of the top 25 players going into next year’s draft at the start of the season. If he has a big senior season, his speed and overall upside could put him in the top 15 overall. As much controversy as has surrounded the UNC program over the last couple of years, he has been a real bright spot and should continue to shine in 2011.

90 Quinton Coples (Senior), DE, 6’6″ 275

Probably the top defensive end prospect in the entire draft. After a sophomore season where he had five sacks, he replaced suspended Robert Quinn and passed all tests with flying colors. Coples had 59 total tackles, 10 sacks, and 15.5 tackles for loss, proving he is more than capable of handling the full time load. Now, he will be receiving constant attention, even though the Heels return a pretty star-studded defensive line. Coples has the requisite size to be a dominant defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, but he needs to improve against the run. He will be on all pre-season award watch lists for defensive linemen, and is our top defensive end heading into the 2011 season. Tall defender who knows how to use his superior athleticism. Had one forced fumble in 2010, and with his size and strength, could show more of that killer instinct. This is a guy that has a lot of pressure on him this year to really perform at a high level, and I think he will answer the call.

91 Tydreke Powell (Senior), DT, 6’3″ 310

Had to wait his turn behind Marvin Austin and Cam  Thomas, but really had an excellent junior season where he finished with 47 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and two tackles for a loss along with a forced fumble. Has been very productive for the Heels as a rotational tackle, and really showed that he could take on double teams and create opportunities for others as the main man in the middle last year. This is a guy who will be 24 years old when he starts his first NFL game, so he could fall a bit due to that fact, but he is a productive gap clogging tackle who is probably a top five defensive lineman going into next season. He could be a real force, and while his stats won’t jump off the page, he makes plays for the guys around him like Quinton Coples and Donte Paige-Moss.

98 Donte Paige-Moss (Junior), DE, 6’4″ 260

At least against Tennessee in the Music City Bowl, Paige-Moss doesn’t seem like a quick twitch, typical weak-side end that you would see in college football. He seems more like a powerful end who can collapse the pocket and drive his man backward. In fact, he lined up at times at defensive tackle in that game, and used his lower body strength to simply drive the offensive lineman into the pocket. Had solid numbers as a sophomore and finished the season 49 tackles, seven sacks, and 10 tackles for a loss. He is not a flashy defender, but he makes plays and has a ton of upside. If he can improve his pass rush repertoire, he could be a high pick in next year’s draft, almost certainly a high choice in the 2013 draft. Graded as one of the top prep-school players in the entire country and the top overall defensive end in the nation by Still has a lot of room for growth, and should be on everyone’s radar in 2011.

45 Devon Ramsay (Senior), FB, 6’2″ 240

Big fullback prospect who ran into some trouble with the school but the ruling was reversed, and he has emerged as one of the top blocking fullbacks in the nation, an art that really seems to be lost in today’s NFL. Still, Ramsay has shown toughness and a solid ability as a receiver out of the backfield. Might not get drafted, but will make it to a camp and show that he has the toughness and ability to play in the NFL.

83 Dwight Jones (Senior), WR, 6’5″ 220

Big receiver capable of scoring any time he touches the ball. Not blazing speed, but hard to track down when he gets a full head of steam. Once a top WR prospect in the country, and now a top tier NFL prospect who could be a top ten receiver in the 2011 NFL Draft. Had 62 receptions for 946 yards and four touchdowns as a junior when he really had his first breakout season as a Tar Heel, and should be the “go to” guy in the passing game in 2011. Had a game against Florida State in 2010 where he caught 8 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown. Only had four games last year where he had over 100 yards, and was somewhat inconsistent, but showed he can really make an impact on the passing game. Can catch the ball in traffic, on go routes, and has solid body control. Still needs to develop his overall game as a receiver. Size indicates that he would be powerful after the catch, but he seems more of a finesse player. Would love to see him have another huge season as the top passing target in 2011.

48 Kevin Reddick (Junior), LB, 6’3″ 230

Speedy linebacker who has been a key contributor from the moment he stepped on campus for the Heels. Had 74 tackles, a sack, two interceptions, and a touchdown last year following up a stellar freshman campaign where he had 45 tackles, 5.5 for loss, and a pass break up on his way to being named to the All-ACC Freshman team, and received a vote as the ACC Freshman of the Year. Has a chance to be one of the top linebackers in the country if he continues to improve over the next year like he did from his freshman to sophomore year. Fast, physical linebacker who has a ton of upside. North Carolina always seems to recruit guys with a ton of speed, and this guy has shown that he can also bring it on the field. Led the team in tackles as a sophomore despite a star-studded cast for the Tar Heels at the linebacker position.

88 Erik Highsmith (Junior), WR, 6’3″ 185

Tall, lanky receiver prospect who has shown his ability to make the big play as a Tar Heel. Specifically, Highsmith had a huge touchdown reception against the Tennessee Volunteers in the Motor City Bowl, where he hauled in a 39 yard bomb from T.J. Yates for his third touchdown reception on the season. Regressed a bit statistically from his freshman to his sophomore year, which is something to monitor because he is a very, very talented player. Has 62 career receptions for 773 yards and five total touchdowns. Has solid speed and good hands, and could emerge as another big play threat.

87 Jheranie Boyd (Junior), WR, 6’2″ 190

Like most of the UNC wide receivers on this list, he has shown an ability to be a big time playmaker. Boyd had most of his production last year in the first game of the season against LSU where he had six catches, 221 yards, and a touchdown. Big play threat who has 26 career catches, 7 of which have gone for touchdowns. Also contributes to the Tar Heels out of the backfield, where he had a couple of big runs last year and in 2009. Has 30 career carries for 192 yards and a touchdown. Threat to score every time he touches the ball.

32 Ryan Houston (Senior), RB, 6’2″ 245

Big, powerful running back who is slated to be the team’s starting running back in 2011 and could breakout as one of the best power backs in the nation. He had shoulder surgery that will keep him out until August, but he could really emerge this season as one of the top runners in the country. Missed the 2010 season, so he has some durability issues, but is a guy who could really turn heads in 2011. Keep an eye out for this guy.

12 Charles Brown (RS Senior), CB, 5’11” 205

Brown is a late addition to our board here, as I missed him in my initial analysis of the UNC roster. Brown was part of on-going investigations last year at UNC for accepting improper benefits in the classroom (assignments done for him). Brown is a very, very good football player and was a top 40 player prior to being suspended, and the redshirt should really help out his NFL career. He’s a big, fast, physical cornerback who will be the leader of a very, very young secondary in Chapel Hill. Brown had a big year as a starter in 2009 with 66 tackles, two forced fumbles, and three interceptions. It will be interesting to see how Brown does coming back from a year off of football. Unlike his fellow Tar Heel teammates like Robert Quinn, he will not be going right into the NFL. He also led the team in 2009 with nine pass breakups, and was fifth in the ACC in that category.

As you can clearly see, this is a supremely talented team, and a list that will likely grow as the season progresses. With all of the talent at his disposal, whoever becomes the Tar Heels’ quarterback is going to have one of the most coveted jobs in the country.