North Carolina Head Coach Butch Davis announced this morning that freshman defensive tackle Brandon Willis would be transferring from school, just days before his first semester in Chapel Hill was scheduled to begin.
After participating in training camp and practice throughout the summer, usually on the third string of a very deep defensive line, Willis will depart the Tar Heels team as they head into their September 4th season opener against LSU.
Coach Davis said the main reason for the transfer was because Willis' father recently earned a job in Southern California (the area), and they would like to keep the family together. Brandon's mother passed away within the last year.
In the spring of 2010, Willis graduated from Byrnes High School, which—located in Duncan, South Carolina—was a mere 3.5-hour drive to Chapel Hill.
There's not a place in California that is within two days on the road to UNC.
Willis was ranked as a four-star defensive tackle by all major recruiting services and played in the Army All-American game. At the January 9th All-American game, Willis used the ol' three-hat trick to announce his college choice between his finalists of UNC, UCLA, and Tennessee.
He chose Tennessee.
Three days later, however, former Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin took his three-ring circus to Southern California (the school) to become head coach of the Trojans, where he began his coaching career in 2001.
In the aftermath of Kiffin's departure, numerous UT commitments un-volunteered their services to the Knoxville faithful, one of whom was Willis. He committed to UNC on January 13th, just four days after donning UT's orange and white on national television.
It will be very, very interesting to see where Willis ends up. If he becomes a USC Trojan, look for UNC fans (and college football purists) to be up in arms over his apparent following of Kiffin.
As for the Tar Heels, their defense has been talked about repeatedly by the mightiest of the mighty analysts (I'm talking about you, Mel Kiper) as having the most NFL talent of any squad in the country this season.
Depth at the defensive tackle position remains a bit in jeopardy, as future pro Marvin Austin awaits word from the NCAA regarding their investigation into his alleged receiving of improper benefits from an agent.
However, Willis was not expected to see the field too often this season.
In response, the Tar Heels will likely make the defensive tackle position one of their priorities in this recruiting season, as Austin will be gone next season. Willis would have likely been fighting an uphill battle for a starting job next season, as tackles Jared McAdoo and Jordan Nix will still be around, as well as recently converted end Quinton Coples.
Nevertheless, it never helps a program to lose a player of Willis's caliber.