UNC Football: Tar Heels welcome five early enrollees

Running back Elijah Hood is arguably head coach Larry Fedora's biggest catch on the recruiting trail in his time at North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Rivals.com)

Running back Elijah Hood is arguably head coach Larry Fedora’s biggest catch on the recruiting trail in his time at North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Rivals.com)

Now that the 2013 season is officially over for the UNC football team, the Tar Heels and head coach Larry Fedora have welcomed the first five recruits of the 2014 class to campus on Wednesday.

The five recruits began class on Wednesday as part of an early-enrollment program. These players will be able to take part in all of the offseason conditioning and spring practices with the current team as a reward for enrolling into the University of North Carolina a semester early.

The five newest Tar Heels are safety Allen Artis (Marietta, Ga.), tight end Brandon Fritts (Mentor, Ohio), running back Elijah Hood (Charlotte, N.C.), offensive tackle Bentley Spain (Charlotte, N.C.) and defensive back M.J. Stewart (Arlington, Va). All five of these players graduated from their high school early, in December 2013.

According to ESPN, Hood and Spain are the top two recruits Carolina will bring to campus in their entire 2014 recruiting class. Hood is ranked as the sixth best running back in the country according to ESPN, and is considered the top-ranked player from the state of North Carolina. The Associated Press named Hood the North Carolina High School Player of the Year.

Spain is considered the 12th-ranked offensive tackle in the country and is one of the top-140 players in the entire country. With four-year starter James Hurst leaving the left tackle position open after graduating this year, Spain is expected to be in a competition to claim the blindside position during this upcoming off-season.

Both Hood and Spain are arguably Fedora’s biggest recruits in his short time at UNC, as the coach is proving he can get the top talent from North Carolina to come to the flagship university. In-state recruiting is something that Fedora has stressed time and time again as one of the most important keys to building a successful football program.

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Artis is ranked as the 48th-best safety in the country according to ESPN and had offers from several other schools across the southeast including Clemson, Tennessee, and Ole Miss. Standing six feet tall and weighing just less than 200 pounds, Artis should bring some much needed size to the back-end of the North Carolina defense.

Fritts is ranked as the 18th-best tight end in the country by ESPN, and has been committed to UNC since last April. With starting tight end Eric Ebron leaving early for the NFL draft, Fritts will add some needed depth to the tight end position for the Tar Heels and possibly look for playing time as a freshman.

Stewart is an interesting player for Fedora and his staff as he has experience at cornerback and safety in high school. ESPN ranks him under their “athlete” category, as his college position is yet to be determined. However, he is one of the top-20 recruits from the state of Virginia this year and will look to make an impact in the UNC secondary that is losing several players, including senior safety and four-year starter Tre Boston.

No matter the ranking, there is no disputing that these five young men are getting a great head start on the rest of their recruiting classmates by enrolling in January. It would be no surprise if at least two or three of these five newest Tar Heels made a significant impact come next fall.

Read more news, rumors, and opinion on our North Carolina football page.