“I hopped on the rollercoaster,” said Drake Maye, reflecting on his commitment to the Tar Heels.
A four-star quarterback from Charlotte, Maye was originally committed to Alabama before flipping. This decision came at a crucial time for UNC. The Tar Heels were planning to build a class to contend with in 2021, but by March they hadn’t gotten ‘that guy’.
Well, in just a week’s time everything had changed. First to announce was Keeshawn Silver on March 3, a player whom many consider the best defender in the Tar Heel state. Just a few days later, Maye added his name to the list.
“I think me and Keeshawn Silver kinda of started that thing. We committed the same week. We got Eli [Sutton] out here, who’s out here now, who committed that weekend with Kobe [Paysour]. So, I think we kind of made a snowball effect. We got something going and I think we can do something special at Carolina. Keep the guys in-state, in-state,” said Maye.
He is one of the 2021 commits who is very active in recruiting. He has a strong relationship with a lot of the 2021 class and has been talking to prospects as well. He has mentioned that he has been working on four-star TE Bryson Nesbit and four-star offensive tackle Logan Taylor. It would make sense that Maye would want two big-time guys at those positions.
Maye is a centerpiece in the current rejuvenation project of UNC football. As a prospect, he is right there with the best talents in the class. Obviously, Tony Grimes has been grabbing recent headlines. As a five-star prospect with near limitless potential, it’s fully justified. However, what Maye brings is a rock-solid vision of the future. It’s easy to get ahead of yourself and consider a player an All-American before they even arrive on campus, but Maye has it all lined up right now.
By the time Maye will arrive in Chapel Hill, Sam Howell will be in his junior season. There is a chance Howell does not live up to expectations, but that doesn’t seem likely at the moment. He is being touted with the best quarterbacks in the nation, and many think he could have a shot at Heisman consideration by the time he’s done. This timing is almost perfect for Carolina. Maye will have a chance to either redshirt or learn for a year behind a stellar QB. If Howell continues to approve at the rate that he is, there might be a huge opportunity for him to make the NFL leap in 2022. If that is the case, UNC will be just fine. They will have a young and motivated player with potential just as high.
The model that North Carolina is following is not unlike that of ACC giant Clemson. They have focused on in-state recruiting in order to build a base, and then plan on landing some of those top-caliber players from neighboring states and beyond. They have focused much of their effort on building a strong and dynamic defense and have hired established coordinators to implement their top talent.
One of the players that sparked Clemson at the beginning of the last decade was Tajh Boyd. He started for Clemson from 2011-2014 and boosted the Tigers into national spotlight. They finished with a top-25 ranking in each of those three seasons. During Boyd’s senior year they finished 8 in the AP poll and defeated Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. That same month (January 2014), Deshaun Watson enrolled at Clemson.
Watson needs little introduction. He quickly earned the starting role at Clemson as a true freshman, with his first start coming in a 50-35 victory over the Tar Heels. Watson spent three seasons with the Tigers, each year lifting them a little closer to the ultimate goal. In his final game in orange he did just that, beating Alabama in the College Football Playoff Final to secure Clemson’s first championship since 1981.
Why go into all of this?
Because right now, Clemson seems unbeatable. They have been to four of the last five national championships and have managed to replace some of their best players with upgrades. But this dominance is relatively new. Before 2011, the Tigers hadn’t had a 10-win season in 20 years. This isn’t to take away from the success of Dabo Swinney, and it’s not to say that Drake Maye is going to be Deshaun Watson. However, North Carolina could be doing something very special.
Maye has a serious drive. He wants to be the best, and he focuses on the top players in the game to make that happen.
“I look up to Joe Burrow. We got the same frame; I think we do a lot of the same things well. He’s the best player in college football and that’s what I strive to be,” said Maye.
He says that he is excited to see what the Tar Heels can do next year and what his class can bring to the table. He also credits one man when talking about the current direction for UNC.
“Coach Brown. Coach Brown’s the man. He’s an awesome coach. Everyone wants to play for him. He’s just the most player’s coach as there is.”
Maye says that he loves where Carolina is heading right now, and that they are cultivating a really good feel about the program.
“At the end of day, it’s a 40-year decision like they say. Carolina’s a great school. Both my parents went there … I had a brother and another brother going there next year. It’s just part of the family tradition, I guess.”
The tradition is very strong. Drake’s father, Mark, was a starting quarterback in 1980s. His brother, Luke, was instrumental to Carolina basketball winning a national championship in 2017.
For now, Maye says that he is focused on getting better every day and doing everything he can to bring a state championship to Myers Park. Last season, they fell in the quarterfinals of the 4AA bracket by just three points. With one year left, Maye thinks they have the tools to bring it home. He’s putting a lot of the responsibility on himself, as well.
“There’s always something to work on. You can never be too accurate. Just working on all types of routes, all types of drops, on the move working. But you know, I thought I threw well this week. I still have stuff to work on, we all do.”
Potential and momentum can often be deceiving. There are no guarantees that Mack Brown and the Tar Heels will explode onto the scene this year. The pieces are there, though. The Tar Heels are hoping that Drake Maye is the next piece to the puzzle.