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Rath’s Thoughts – McCaffrey Factor is Real – Bears get great recruiting class

So, this has been quite the offseason for UNC Bears football.  It started with the firing of their long-time head coach whom was replaced by NFL legend, and 3-time SuperBowl Champion, Ed McCaffrey.  Coach McCaffrey came in guns blazing and put together an experienced staff that is ready to win in the Big Sky.

But many people wondered if Coach McCaffrey was ready for the recruiting trail and if his name would carry and that would help bring in some big recruits.  After the Bears completed their first signing class under Coach McCaffrey with 23 signees and two mid-year transfers, I would have to say that his name carries and his staff has done a great job after getting in the game late.  The Bears got 15 offensive and 10 defensive additions to the team.

Another name that is familiar with those in Colorado spawned the first recruit on our list as the Bears signed Andrew Brister (the son of Denver Bronco Bubby Brister).  Brister comes to the Bears out of Louisiana where he played at Neville HS.  He is tall and can sling the ball, which is going to be needed in the Pro-Style offense that the Bears will take on next season.  Brister had 3 other offers with the biggest of them from Army.  Brister will compete with the incoming Bears and also mid-year quarterback Nate Overholt, transferring from Tyler Junior College.  Overholt played high school ball in Oregon, where he was the 2018 Oregon Gatorade Player of the Year after throwing a state record 59 touchdowns as a senior at Wilsonville HS.  Overholt is the shorter of the 2 coming in at 6’2” while Brister comes in at 6’4”.

The Bears added some targets for their new QBs to throw to as well.  Adding height and speed to the receiver corps was a must for first year head coach McCaffrey.  He added Noah Ford at 6’1”, Jihad Marks at 6’1”, Donovan Payne at 6’5”, Jasiah Snow-Marshall at 6’1”, and Zain Zinicola at 5’10”.  Zinicola has the speed and will compete for the slot position for the Bears.  If the name Marks sounds familiar to Bears fans…it should.  His older Brother Elijah Marks played for Northern Arizona and graduated in 2017, but not before he had 106 yards and a TD on the Bears.  This pack of receivers will fit nicely with the pieces that the Bears already have.

The pro-style offense that the Bears aim to run requires some big Tight Ends, and the Bears added a major player that can block and catch the ball.  They added Max Pierce, a 6’2” 248-pound TE out of California as a transfer from the City College of San Francisco.  He had offers from Lamar, UMass, and UTEP.  They got a real player that can instantly add to the offense.

The running game has been good for the Bears, but they wanted to add some size here too.  The players on the roster already have been challenged with gaining weight and muscle, but the coaches took it on themselves and added some more muscle.  I love this first guys last name and I am sure that Troy Coverdale and I will have some fun as the Bears get Gene Sledge out of Huntsville Alabama.  Sledge comes in at 6’2” and 235-pounds.  He played high school ball in Aurora at Vista Peak where he had two 1,000-yard season.  In addition to Sledge, the Bears added Darius Stewart to the backfield.  Stewart comes to the Bears from Las Vegas and is 5’9” and 182-pounds.  He chose UNC over 4 FBS schools in BYU, Wyoming, Nevada, and Utah State.

The offense needs the beef up front, and the coaching staff got some new o-lineman to help the new offense out.  They added Joe Brown who is listed as an OL/DL out of Flint Michigan coming in at 6’2” and 328 pounds.  He played high school ball with 2 other signees in Darius Stewart and Elijah Wade.  The Bears also added Julian Clemons out of Quartz Hill California.  Clemons comes in at 6’2” and 253 pounds.  He chose UNC over UNLV, Cal Poly, Linfield and Azusa Pacific.  Lastly the gained Ethan Kramer, a much sought after OL from Pine Creek HS in Colorado Springs.  Kramer is 6’5” and 285 pounds and passed on Idaho State, Murray State, Columbia, and Penn to join UNC.

On the defensive side of the ball the 10 players that the Bears got added size and speed to all three levels of the defense.  They grabbed FS Giancarlo Duplessy out of Fort Myers Florida.  He comes in at 5’11.5” and 174 pounds and is a speedy back.  Also coming in the defensive backfield is DB Makhi Johnson out of San Antonio Texas coming in at 6’ and 185 pounds.  Additionally, the Bears added J’onta Waller out of San Antonio at 6’1” and 187 pounds.

At the linebacker level the Bears got a couple solid players to include a transfer from Cincinnati in RJ Potts.  Potts didn’t play at Cincy very much but was a top-30 prospect coming out of high school.  His 6’2” 231-pound frame will help fill the gaps.  Joining him out of Las Vegas is Elijah Wade coming in at 6’3” and 235 pounds and Tofa Wilson, also out of Las Vegas at 6’1” and 209 pounds.

The Bears added some size up front in a local kid from Fort Morgan in Nick Norris at 6’4” and 225 pounds.  Norris passed on NM State, San Diego, CSU Pueblo, and Chadron State to join UNC.  Joining Norris up front is Justin Martz at 6’1” and 250 pounds from Palos Verdes Estate CA and Brycen Heil at 6’ and 264 pounds from Grandview HS in Aurora.

As always, make sure to check back at 1310kfka.com for more Bears coverage and follow @troycoverdale and @aaronrath_unc for the best coverage in Northern Colorado.

Name Position Height Weight City/State Other offers
Andrew Brister QB 6-5 198 Monroe, LA Army, Jacksonville State, LA-Monroe
Joe Brown OL/DL 6-2 238 Flint, MI New Mexico, University of Mary and Ferris State
Julian Clemons OL 6-2 253 Quartz Hill, CA UNLV, Cal Poly, Linfield, Azusa Pacific
Giancarlo Duplessy FS 5-11.5 174 Fort Myers, FL Bryant, St. Thomas, Tuskegee, Valdosta State, West Florida
Noah Ford WR 6-1 170 McKinney, TX SF Austin, Angelo State
Brycen Heil DL 6-0 264 Aurora, CO Colorado State, Wyoming, Air Force, CSU Pueblo, Chadron State
Makhi Johnson DB 6-0 185 San Antonio, TX
Ethan Kramer OL 6-5 285 Colorado Springs, CO Idaho State, Murray State, Columbia, Penn
Jihad Marks WR 6-1 189 Goodyear, AZ Northern Arizona, South Dakota State, UTEP, Idaho
Justin Martz DE 6-1 250 Palos Verdes Estate, CA Cal Poly, Fresno State, Morehead State, Mercer
Nick Norris DE 6-4 225 Fort Morgan, CO NM State, San Diego, CSU Pueblo, Chadron State
Nate Overholt QB 6-2 210 Wilsonville, OR Davidson
Donovan Payne WR 6-5 208 Mesquite, TX Northwestern State, Lamar, Alcorn State
Max Pierce TE 6-2 248 Gilroy, CA Lamar, UMass, UTEP
RJ Potts LB 6-2 231 Fishers, IN Transfer from Cincinnati – out of HS recruited by Notre Dame, Indiana, Purdue, Nebraska
Gene Sledge Jr. RB 6-2 235 Hunstville, AL CSU Pueblo, Nebraska Kearney
Darius Stewart RB 5-9 182 Las Vegas, NV BYU, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah State
Jasiah Snow-Marshall WR 6-1 209 Tacoma, WA Eastern Washington, Central Washington, Montana, Montana State
Elijah Wade LB 6-3 235 Las Vegas, NV Dixie State, Hawaii, Weber State
J’onta Waller DB 6-1 187 San Antonio, TX Abilene Christian, Tarleton State, West Texas A&M
Tofa Wilson LB 6-1 209 Las Vegas, NV BYU, Weber State, University of Mary, Pacific University
Zain Zinicola WR 5-10 178 Highlands Ranch, CO






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