Published: Jan 22, 2012 02:00 AM
Modified: Jan 20, 2012 06:25 PM
New University of North Carolina football coach Larry Fedora and his staff have received commitments from three high school recruits, including one who had committed to Fedora when he was the head coach at Southern Miss and another who had committed previously to East Carolina.
Quarterback Kanler Coker of Flowery Branch, Ga., (6-foot-4, 205 pounds) had committed to the Pirates in December after passing for 2,833 yards and 31 touchdowns and rushing for 837 yards and another 15 touchdowns.
Offensive lineman Caleb Patterson of Auburn, Ala. (6-4, 295) had committed to Southern Miss when Fedora was the head coach there. The Tar Heels also received a commitment from defensive back Clinton Heaven of Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee (6-0, 192).
N.C. State added commitments from two defensive ends this week: Sanderson High's Desmond Owino, who previously had been committed to North Carolina, and Lithonia (Ga.) King's Kenderius Whitehead (6-5, 220).
The commitments are not binding of the players or the schools. Players may sign binding national letters of intent beginning on Feb. 1. As the college recruiting season heads into its final weeks, UNC's football program also is awaiting word from the NCAA on whether there will be further sanctions related to nine major violations related to improper benefits and academic fraud.
Landing a quarterback in this year's recruiting class was a priority for the Tar Heels. Bryn Renner, the 2011 starting quarterback, is expected back for his junior season, but his backup, Braden Hanson of Charlotte, decided this offseason to transfer to North Dakota. Redshirt freshman Marquise Williams is the only other quarterback on UNC's roster.
Flowery Branch coach Chris Griffin said Coker is a tremendous athlete who is hungry to excel.
"Kanler only played for us one season," Griffin said. "He had been at a school that was run-oriented and enrolled here last spring and began learning the offense. I've never seen anyone make a smoother transition.
"...He ended up being one of the best quarterbacks we've ever had."Griffin said his offensive coordinator swears that Kanler is going to end up playing in the NFL.
"I think North Carolina is getting a steal," he said. "I think any major program in the country can develop him into an exceptional quarterback."
Coker had been excited about the possibility of playing at East Carolina, which was the first school to offer him a scholarship, Griffin said.
"But when this thing opened up at North Carolina," Griffin said, "he thought it was just too good to pass up."
Patterson's brother played for Fedora at Southern Miss, and Caleb had looked forward to playing for Fedora before the coach changed jobs.