The Tar Heels have been active and proficient on the trail since coach Mack Brown’s return to Chapel Hill during November 2018, and this year’s class is no different.

Heading into Wednesday’s Early Signing Day, the North Carolina recruiting class ranks 25th nationally, and 4th in the ACC, according to 247Sports. With stellar quarterback Drake Maye with the program for at least another year, maximizing the current window is paramount for Brown and company, with a major part of that being the stockpiling of fresh talent.

Here are a few players and position groups to look out for in the 2023 class for the Tar Heels:

Highest-rated player: Wide receiver, Chris Culliver, 4-star

Chris Culliver, the 202nd-rated prospect nationally (and the 8th-best prospect in the state of North Carolina), figures to add to the recent tradition of stud Tar Heels wideouts. At 6-foot-3 and 174 pounds, he has the catch radius to reel in contested grabs and the strength and speed to shed tackles in the open field.

He might not be a gamebreaker from the opening kickoff of the 2023 season, but as current top receiver Josh Downs has displayed during his career, growth can come down the road (Downs caught only 7 passes as a freshman). Culliver projects as the primary outside threat for an offense that loves to push the ball down the field.

Did they bolster the quarterback room?: Yes

Tad Hudson, from Hough High just outside of Charlotte, enters the fold as part of the 2023 class, serving as the only signal-caller in the group. Hudson, the 24th-best quarterback prospect nationally, has exactly the sort of command and touch to succeed in new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey’s scheme.

Current backup Jacolby Criswell has 2 years of eligibility if he elects to stay with the program, and Maye is not going anywhere — at least for 2023. Time will tell whether Brown adds to the quarterback room via the transfer portal (consider it unlikely, though), but even without a transfer, the safest bet is Hudson will be the 3rd-stringer as a freshman. The 4-star commitment could be in the mix to redshirt.

Best position group: edge rushers

The Tar Heels tentatively will face South Carolina, Duke, Clemson, Miami and Pittsburgh next season, making it 5 potentially dangerous opposing quarterbacks on the docket (Spencer Rattler, Riley Leonard, Cade Klubnik, Tyler Van Dyke and Phil Jurkovec). That crop means the Tar Heels defense could have to get into the backfield at a high rate.

Well, a pair of edge rushers in the 2023 class should help, as 4-star prospects Jaybron Harvey and Tyler Thompson currently are committed to North Carolina. Both are backyard prospects, with Harvey hailing from Durham and Thompson hailing from Cary, and are top-30 edge rushers nationally.

The Tar Heels rank 128th nationally (out of 131 teams, mind you) in sacks per game at a paltry 1.23. Harvey and Thompson could help switch the narrative there.

Biggest need filled: offensive line

Maye, Downs and the rest of the offense were dominant for 3 quarters of the season, as North Carolina racked up a 9-1 mark and sat on the fringes of College Football Playoff contention.

But the offense sputtered in consecutive losses to Georgia Tech, NC State and Clemson in the ACC title game, averaging just 18 points per contest. A major reason for that was pressure on Maye, as the redshirt freshman was sacked 12 times (more than 30% of his season total of 38).

Now, Robert Grigsby, DJ Geth and Nolan McConell might all be 3-star offensive linemen, but depth is a requirement up front. Currently, the starting Tar Heels offensive line consists of 2 seniors (left tackle Asim Richards and right guard William Barnes) and 3 graduate students (left guard Ed Montilus, center Corey Gaynor and right tackle Spencer Rolland).

That creates holes on the line for 2023, and with Grigsby and Geth entering as interior linemen and McConell listed as a tackle, the 3 are sorely needed.

Biggest potential flip: Safety, Ayden Duncanson, 3-star

Ayden Duncanson committed to North Carolina back on Oct. 16, flipping from East Carolina. However, the Pirates still are very much on the safety’s radar, according to 247Sports’ Crystal Ball. The only 2 predictions, via Andrew Ivins and Stephen Igoe, both have Duncanson heading to East Carolina, a move that would hurt the Tar Heels heavily — considering the 3-star player is the only member of his position group in the current North Carolina freshman class (transfer Derrik Allen, via Georgia Tech, also is a safety).

It remains to be seen whether Duncanson will flip back to the Pirates, but this certainly is a commitment to watch.

Final takeaways

This is not quite at the level of previous classes under Brown (3 of which were ranked among the top 15 nationally, according to 247Sports), but this is an inexact science and evaluations often differ between coaching staffs and talent scouts. One thing is certain — the Tar Heels again are making noise in North Carolina and surrounding states, with 18 of their 19 commits hailing from North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina or Virginia.

Of the 19 commitments, 11 are on the defensive side of the ball, a telling sign that Brown and defensive coordinator Gene Chizik are focused on fixing that unit. Plus, 4 transfers enter the fold (Allen, kicker Ryan Coe via Cincinnati, cornerback Alijah Huzzie via East Tennessee State and interior offensive lineman Willie Lampkin via Coastal Carolina), a key development considering the evolving nature of the transfer portal.

Ultimately, 2023 might not be the year for this class to shine. But with Maye, any initial contributions would be much appreciated in Chapel Hill.