Is Charlotte area the real recruiting battleground for the North Carolina-N.C. State football rivalry?

By Richard Walker

When North Carolina hosts N.C. State on Saturday at noon, the winner will likely speaks of how its victory will help the school on the recruiting trail.

With that in mind – and based on recent and future rosters for each school – that means the real battleground is the Charlotte area.

Consider that the two nationally-ranked teams – North Carolina is No. 14 and N.C. State No. 23 – have a combined 31 players on their rosters from Mecklenburg County or counties close to Charlotte.

That includes three North Carolina starters and one backup and five N.C. State starters and three backups.

North Carolina’s starters are wide receiver Dyami Brown (West Mecklenburg High School), quarterback Sam Howell (Sun Valley) and linebacker Chazz Surratt (East Lincoln) with Obi Egbuna (Charlotte Christian) a backup defensive back. Also on the Tar Heels roster from the Charlotte area are defensive back Cameron Roseman-Sinclair (Myers Park), wide receiver Ray Rose (South Point), linebacker Jake Harkleroad (Myers Park), linebacker Cedric Gray (Ardrey Kell), running back British Brooks (Ashbrook), defensive lineman Kedrick Bingley-Jones (Providence Day), offensive lineman Chance Carroll (Hough), long snapper Spencer Triplett (Shelby), offensive lineman Malik McGowan (Charlotte Catholic), offensive lineman Triston Miller (Charlotte Country Day), offensive lineman Wisdom Asaboro (Covenant Day) and tight end Kendall Karr (Stuart Cramer).

N.C. State’s starters are defensive end Terrell Dawkins (Cox Mill), cornerback Malik Dunlap (Harding), center Grant Gibson (Mallard Creek), offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu (Providence Day) and wide receiver Emeka Emezie (Marvin Ridge) with linebacker Jaylon Scott (Shelby), wide receiver Porter Rooks (Myers Park) and defensive tackle C.J. Clark (North Stanly) listed as backups. Also on the Wolfpack roster from the Charlotte area are cornerback Chris Ingram (Mooresville), defensive back Jalen Frazier (East Lincoln and Hough), wide receiver Nicholas Treco (Mallard Creek), tight end Matthew Alderfer (Cox Mill), tight end Timothy Dawkins (Cox Mill), offensive lineman Anthony Carter, Jr. (Butler) and kicker Ian Williams (Weddington).

Charlotte area players haven’t always been so prominent on the rosters of the two longtime rivals.

In 1993 – or the last time both rivals were ranked for their matchup – North Carolina had 10 players from the area and N.C. State five.

The Tar Heels, who won that contest 35-14 in Raleigh to snap a five-game Wolfpack winning streak in the rivalry, had standout players like defensive backs Sean Boyd (Ashbrook) and Jimmy Hitchcock (Concord), offensive lineman Roge Purgason (South Mecklenburg) and linebacker Mike Morton (A.L. Brown) on their roster while N.C. State’s five players were all recruited walkons.

Considering the recent recruiting efforts of North Carolina and N.C. State, expect the large number of Charlotte area players on their rosters to continue.

Of the Tar Heels’ 17 recruiting commitments in the Class of 2021, seven are from the area – quarterback Drake Maye (Myers Park), athlete DeAndre Boykins (Central Cabarrus), wide receiver Gavin Blackwell (Sun Valley), athlete Gabe Stephens (Mountain Island Charter), defensive back Dontavius Nash (Hunter Huss), wide receiver Kobe Paysour (Kings Mountain from 2017 to 2019 and Gaffney, S.C. this fall) and linebacker Power Echols (formerly Vance but recently renamed Chambers High School).

Of the Wolfpack’s 19 recruiting commitments in the Class of 2021, six are from the area – athlete Jordan Poole (West Stanly), defensive end Travali Price (North Lincoln), wide receiver Julian Gray (Hough), defensive backs Mario Love (Hough) and Sean Brown (Hough) and long snapper Jayden Tate (North Lincoln).