Cornerback Tony Grimes, ESPN’s No. 6 prospect, commits to North Carolina


North Carolina added its second five-star commitment to the 2021 recruiting class Tuesday when cornerback Tony Grimes announced his commitment to the Tar Heels.

Grimes is the No. 6 ranked prospect overall and chose North Carolina over Georgia, Ohio State and Texas A&M. He now joins five-star defensive end Keeshawn Silver as the top two commitments in the class for the Tar Heels.

“North Carolina came up big time,” Grimes said. “When I say big time, they came up big time. I love the whole coaching staff, but I most definitely love Coach [Mack] Brown, Coach [Jay] Bateman and Coach Dre [Bly]. I feel like Coach Bateman is going to put me in the scheme, to put me in the right position to be great.”

The 6-foot, 180-pound corner out of Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is the top-ranked corner in the class. He ended his recruitment, landing with North Carolina, but his recruitment went back-and-forth throughout the entire process.

Grimes said Texas A&M was initially his leader, but a change in the defensive coaching staff set the Aggies back until T.J. Rushing was hired as the defensive backs coach. Ohio State then jumped up to the front, but Grimes said he was only hearing from defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs, instead of the entire defensive staff.

He preferred to build a relationship with all the coaches at each school, rather than just one, so the Buckeyes fell behind after he didn’t get that experience.

“Then UNC snuck up and they held the lead,” Grimes said. “But then I went and visited Georgia and it was amazing, so Georgia jumped in. It was shifting around, but then I started thinking more about it that I thought I could be great at UNC, and it was only three hours away so I could get back to my family.”

The Tar Heels had a lot of what Grimes was looking for, but the coaches also spent a lot of time building a relationship with the five-star recruit. He got the chance to talk to most of the defensive coaches and felt a special connection to Brown, Bateman and Bly.

“Coach Mack Brown, he’s going to love me; he’s going to coach me hard, but he’s going to love me harder,” Grimes said. “Coach Dre, that’s my dude and I know me and my family can trust those three like any other coaching staff. Not throwing any salt on any other coaching staff, but we have more trust and loyalty in them than we saw in any other program.”

Outside of the relationship he had with the coaches, Grimes said this past season the Tar Heels put together was a big factor in his decision as well. That the staff was able to take mostly the same roster, add in some of their own recruiting pieces, and turn it into a winning program was impressive to Grimes and his family.

It gave him the confidence he needed to choose North Carolina and is now the third five-star commitment for Brown and his staff over the past two recruiting classes, joining Silver and defensive end Desmond Evans from the 2020 class.

Prior to the commitment, North Carolina held the No. 4 ranked recruiting class overall only behind Ohio State, Tennessee and Clemson. With Grimes on board, the Tar Heels now have 12 ESPN 300 commitments, which is the most North Carolina has had in one class since ESPN started its rankings in 2009.

The staff added a big piece to its 2021 recruiting cycle, but there is still a chance they could add Grimes to the roster sooner rather than later. He is planning on enrolling early in January, but is still monitoring whether or not his high school team will have its season cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If the season is cancelled, there is a chance Grimes will reclassify to the 2020 class and join North Carolina early.

“If we don’t have a high school football season, as of right now, I will be enrolling at North Carolina in August,” Grimes said. “They’re talking about pushing our season back to the spring and I’ll be going early anyway, so me and my dad decided I would go in August if that happens. I only need to take one class and I’ll be able to do it.”

If Grimes enrolls in August or January, North Carolina is adding a big piece to its future defense and another star player to its recruiting class.



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