DE Desmond Evans, No. 2 in ESPN 300, picks Tar Heels

Clemson survives big scare from North Carolina (2:23)

The Clemson Tigers go into Chapel Hill and barely escape with a win, taking down the Tar Heels 21-20. (2:23)

Keeping the best prospects home is always paramount for college programs.

On Friday, the No. 2-ranked prospect in the ESPN 300 announced he will be staying in his home state of North Carolina.

Five-star defensive end Desmond Evans committed to North Carolina over Florida, South Carolina and Virginia Tech in front of his classmates at the Lee County High (N.C.) homecoming prep rally.

The 6-foot-6, 235-pound elite edge pass-rushing prospect had been the Tar Heels' top target since the hire of Mack Brown last November. Brown, along with assistant head coach Tim Brewster and defensive line coach Tim Cross, built a great relationship with Evans, his family and the Lee County High staff.

Lee County coach Steve Burdeau said the Tar Heels are getting a special prospect.

"The intangibles are what is special aside from the height, weight and athletic ability," Burdeau said Friday. "How hard he plays from the snap to the whistle is what really sets him apart from some others." Those intangibles were on full display in the locker room as Evans navigated a difficult process.

"He did a great job weighing his options," Burdeau said. "He had a bunch of offers and remained humble throughout this thing. He never became a distraction with the team or in the locker room." Evans becomes the highest-ranked prospect to pick North Carolina in the 15 years ESPN has ranked prospects. Marvin Austin, No. 10 in the 2007 class, is the only other top-10 prospect to pick the Tar Heels. Evans is also just the third prospect ranked in the top 25 to select North Carolina, joining Austin and Greg Little, No. 22 in the 2007 class.

The Tar Heels had the No. 19-ranked class prior to Evans' verbal and now have 23 commitments, including ESPN 300 prospects Evans, defensive end Myles Murphy (No. 69), quarterback Jacolby Criswell (No. 243), defensive end Kedrick Bingley-Jones (No. 245), safety Ja'Qurious Conley (No. 250) and athlete Josh Downs (No. 278). The Tar Heels' class has seven ESPN four-star prospects and one five-star.

Brown and his staff have built an elite defensive line class in the 2020 cycle with Evans, Murphy, Bingley-Jones, defensive tackle Clyde Pinder and ends AJ Beatty and Kaimon Rucker behind the work of Cross.

North Carolina is also winning key battles inside the state lines. With the state's top-ranked prospect now on board, the Tar Heels have two of the top three, and seven of the top 16, committed from the state and might not be finished. North Carolina continues to pursue ESPN 300 linebacker and Auburn verbal Trenton Simpson, four-star safety Malcolm Greene and three-star offensive tackle Cayden Baker, among others.

The highest-ranked class the Tar Heels have signed in the ESPN Recruiting era is No. 11 in 2007.