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October 13, 2011To use a political analogy, North Carolina will oppose a team from one of its battleground states on Saturday at Kenan Stadium.
When the Tar Heels take on Miami they'll not only be competing against an Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division rival, but for important recruiting exposure in South Florida as well.
The ACC Network's television broadcast of the game will be carried in nine major markets in the Sunshine State, including the talent-rich areas of Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Naples-Fort Myers and West Palm Beach-Fort Pierce.
These areas, and others in Florida, have been major recruiting grounds for UNC in recent years. The Tar Heels currently have 11 Floridians on their roster, which is the second-most from any state other than North Carolina.
Among those are at least two players who will start against the Hurricanes - tailback Giovani Bernard and cornerback Jabari Price - as well as top reserves Tre Boston at free safety, Carl Gaskins at right offensive tackle, Tim Jackson at defensive end and Sean Tapley at wide receiver.
Three other Florida prospects are already reported to be part of UNC's recruiting Class of 2012.
How has North Carolina manage to tap into talent in a state where top teams like Florida, Florida State and Miami exist alongside major programs like Florida International, Central Florida and South Florida?
Connections, according UNC head coach Everett Withers.
"As everybody knows, Florida has a lot of talent,'' Withers said earlier this week. "You can ask (Wake Forest) Coach (Jim) Grobe. He's spent a lot of time down there in the past. Just about every team in the ACC has two or three coaches down there recruiting because there is so much talent down there. Miami, Florida State and Florida can't get them all.
"The key is you have to build relationships with those (high) schools down there to be able to get some of those kids. Plus, Chapel Hill is an East Coast trip. We're not that far from Fort Myers or Tampa or the Jacksonville area. Once those kids see what type of school we have here, they see the academic success and reputation, the football and the social environment, it's attractive to a lot of those kids.''
According to the Rivals.com database, UNC has offered scholarships to 42 Florida players from the Class of 2012.
Of course, 24 of those have already made verbal commitments to other schools, but several are still giving the Tar Heels serious consideration.
One of those prospects is scheduled to make official visits to UNC this weekend.
Malik Simmons, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound cornerback from Lehigh High in Lehigh Acres, Fla., has narrowed his choices down to the Tar Heels and Wake Forest.