PINEHURST, N. C. -- Despite the ongoing presence of an NCAA mushroom cloud over the North Carolina program, coach Butch Davis was still able to sign another quality recruiting class last winter.
The star of that class looks like junior-college defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, according to a couple of his teammates. The 6-foot-3, 320-pound Williams almost never made it this far, working a job making radiator parts for large trucks out of high school before giving football another try at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College.
After starring at Coffeyville, Williams enrolled at North Carolina in time for spring practice and made an immediate impression.
"I think he'll make a huge impact," said offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper. "He has moves after moves."
Fellow defensive lineman Tydreke Powell said Williams impressed him with more than just his on-field talent. He also likes his off-field dedication.
One February Saturday morning, Powell got a call from Williams at 8 a.m. Powell suspected trouble. Turns out, Williams wanted a workout partner.
"He said, 'Let's go work. We can't be the best D-tackles in the country if we're not working,' " Powell recalled.
The two are now roommates, and along with ends Quinton Coples (10 sacks last year) and Donte Paige-Moss (seven sacks) comprise one of the best defensive lines in the country. And unlike last year, when the Tar Heels played without a slew of suspended players who violated NCAA rules, they shouldn't be short-handed.