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Top 10 North Carolina HS football players in Class of 2023

Top 10 North Carolina HS football players in Class of 2023
Four-star defensive tackle Jamaal Jarrett from Grimsley High School in Greensboro, North Carolina committed to Georgia over Auburn and UNC. (Credit: McClain Baxley/USA TODAY NETWORK)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (BVM) – The high school football season has arrived and the state of North Carolina is home to some of the country’s elite seniors. From high-end prospects committed to play football in the SEC, Big 10 and even in-state North Carolina, the Tar Heel State will offer fans plenty of Friday night fun this fall.

While many more deserve recognition, here are the NCHSAA’s top 10 senior football players.

  1. Tad Hudson – QB, William Amos Hough

Hudson is the first of three Tar Heel commits to appear on this list and the four-star quarterback is fresh off of an undefeated regular season and a trip to the NCHSAA 4A state semifinals. He threw for 2,601 yards and 30 touchdowns last season as a junior with just seven interceptions (two fewer than the previous season despite 113 more attempts). The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Hudson has a strong build and winning pedigree with a 21-2 record as a starter for Hough. He chose in-state North Carolina over Arkansas, Auburn, Michigan State, Tennessee and more.

  1. Daylan Smothers – RB, West Charlotte

Smothers is ranked as a top-10 running back in the country by both 247Sports and On3 and look no further than his junior season for evidence. He helped lead Chambers High School back to the state title game after rushing for 1,581 yards and 28 touchdowns and was once again a top-three finalist for North Carolina’s Mr. Football after earning the honor as a sophomore. Smothers committed to Oklahoma in July over Alabama, Ohio State and others due to his relationship with former Sooners running back and NFL star DeMarco Murray. The four-star prospect announced in April that he’d play his senior season at West Charlotte but Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools suspended him in June for 365 days due to an eligibility issue. The suspension would cause Smothers to miss his entire senior season, but he and his family are appealing the decision.

  1. Keith Sampson Jr. – DL, New Bern

Sampson Jr. is another four-star prospect and first on the defensive side of the ball to appear on this list. A three-sport athlete (basketball, track and field), the 6-foot-3, 285-pound interior defensive lineman racked up more than 60 tackles and seven sacks as a junior. A disruptive force with quick hands and feet, Sampson Jr. has the size and tools to shine at Florida State where he committed in March. The senior chose the Seminoles over Alabama, Auburn, in-state North Carolina and North Carolina State.

  1. Rico Walker – EDGE, Hickory

Walker is truly one of the most versatile athletes on this list and in the state after making an impact on both sides of the ball for Hickory. He’s racked up 505 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on 25 receptions over the last two seasons, but Walker will make his money on defense. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound edge rusher tallied 56 total tackles, seven sacks, five quarterback hurries and a blocked field goal last season as a junior. The four-star prospect committed to North Carolina in July over Auburn, Florida, Maryland and Tennessee and will join Hudson in Chapel Hill.

  1. Chris Peal – CB, Providence Day School

Peal is another ultra-versatile athlete who made plays in all three phases of the game as a junior. He rushed for 682 yards and nine touchdowns while adding another 183 yards and two scores through the air, but Peal’s future is at the cornerback position. The four-star prospect tallied 56 tackles, two interceptions, 17 passes defended and a punt block last fall. The speedster even ran a handful of sub-11.00 100-meter dash times, including a 10.78 season-best in the spring. Peal is still uncommitted but Auburn, Georgia, Michigan and South Carolina all appear to be in the running for his services.

  1. Sullivan Absher – OT, South Point

A top-20 offensive tackle in the country, Absher has already shown to be a devastating run blocker for South Point. At 6-foot-7, 290 pounds, the four-star prospect still has plenty of room for physical development and his basketball background contributes to his athleticism, quick feet and balance. He will have the opportunity to continue to polish his pass-blocking skills at the next level since South Point attempted just 52 passes (16 completions) over 15 games last season. Absher committed to Notre Dame in May over Clemson, Michigan State, NC State, UNC and others.

  1. Jaybron Harvey – EDGE, Southern

Harvey was one of the nation’s most productive pass rushers last season as his eye-popping 28.5 sacks in 2021 were tied for the second-most in the country. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound edge used his excellent burst and motor to tally 129 tackles as a junior when he racked up at least two sacks in every game he played in, highlighted by a four-sack, 15-tackle performance in October. Harvey will form a dangerous pass-rushing duo with Walker after committing to North Carolina in July over Louisville, Oklahoma, South Carolina and others.

  1. Daevin Hobbs – DL, Jay M. Robinson

Hobbs is yet another elite pass rusher from the Tar Heel state with immense talent and versatility. He averaged 14.7 points per game (including a single-game high of 29 points) on the hardwood for the Class 2A state champion Bulldogs and was even more impressive on the gridiron. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound defensive lineman racked up 20.5 tackles for loss to go along with eight sacks last season. His burst at the line of scrimmage and closing speed makes him a dominant pass rusher and run stopper. Hobbs is also uncommitted but both 247Sports and On3 predict that he’ll end up at in-state North Carolina despite offers from Alabama, Auburn, Michigan, Ole Miss and others.

  1. Jamaal Jarrett – DL, Grimsley

It’s not often that someone is compared to Philadelphia Eagles’ 2022 first-round draft pick Jordan Davis, but Jarrett is deserving of the high praise. Both Davis and Jarrett are 6-foot-6, 340 pounds but, amazingly, the Grimsley senior just turned 17 years old in July. Age doesn’t matter much when you’re as strong and physical as Jarrett, though. He had nine tackles for loss last season and constantly required double teams due to his ability to collapse the pocket with ease. The four-star prospect committed to Georgia, just like Davis, on his birthday and chose the Bulldogs over Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Michigan and others.

  1. Noah Rogers – WR, Rolesville

Ohio State has earned the nickname of “Wide Receiver University” over the past few years with Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave recently being selected with back-to-back picks in the 2022 NFL Draft, and it appears Rogers wants to be a part of that lineage. The No. 1 player in the state of North Carolina is a big play waiting to happen and converted 22 of his 70 catches into touchdowns last season for an average of 20.5 yards per reception. A smooth, natural route runner with sub-4.5 speed, he’ll fit right in with one of the best wide receiver rooms in the country at Ohio State after committing to the Buckeyes in June over Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Oregon and others.

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