2023 “All-North Carolina” College Football Team

By David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network

Throughout the 2023 football season, the North Carolina Sports Network tracked the careers of more than 1,000 college players who were products of the North Carolina high school ranks.

Below are NCSN’s 2023 “All-North Carolina” college football team honorees on defense, divided among our first-, second- and third-team selections, plus honorable mentions.

(For NCSN’s 2023 honorees on offense, please click HERE.)

Players from all NCAA conferences and divisions were eligible for this team, although there was a heavy focus on those competing in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) or the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), where programs offer more scholarships and, generally speaking, play against much higher-caliber competition than those in Division Two and especially Division Three (where athletic scholarships aren’t offered).

Each player is listed with his position, 2023 eligibility status (mostly seniors and juniors, with those who took a redshirt year also indicated as such), college team(s), athletic-based honors and North Carolina high school affiliation.

Reminder: Many in-state college stars attended out-of-state high schools. They are not eligible for this team, which is designed to both celebrate North Carolina’s high school football products and explore which college programs are doing the best jobs of signing and developing those in-state stars.

This 2023 “All-North Carolina” college football team was selected after consultation with college coaches, NFL scouts, media members and university media relations representatives.

2023 “All-North Carolina” College Football Team*

First-Team Defense

DE: James Pearce Jr., So., Tennessee
2023 1st-team All-SEC, Charlotte Chambers
DT: Aeneas Peebles, Sr., Duke (Virginia Tech in 2024)
2023 3rd-team All-ACC, Knightdale High
DT: Myles Murphy, Sr., North Carolina (2024 NFL draft)
2023 HM All-ACC, 3-year starter, Greensboro Dudley
DE: Nate Lynn, r-Sr., William & Mary
3x FCS All-American, 3x 1st-team All-CAA, 3-year starter, Charlotte Vance
LB: Payton Wilson, r-Sr., NC State (2024 NFL draft)
2023 All-American, ACC DPOY, 3-year starter, Hillsborough Orange
LB: Cedric Gray, Sr., North Carolina (2024 NFL draft)
2022 All-American, 2x 1st-team All-ACC, 3-year starter, Charlotte Audrey Kell
LB: Tre Freeman, r-So., Duke
2023 2nd-team All-ACC, Northern Durham
S: Malik Mustapha, r-Jr., Wake Forest (Richmond 2020; 2024 NFL draft)
2023 2nd-team All-ACC, 2-year starter, Matthews Weddington
S: Brandon Johnson, Jr., Duke (in transfer portal)
2x HM All-ACC, 2-year starter, Newton-Conover High
CB: Aydan White, Sr., NC State (in transfer portal)
2x All-ACC, 2022 1st-team All-ACC, 2-year starter, Asheville Christ School
CB: Malik Dunlap, r-Sr., Texas Tech (NC State 2018-20)
2x All-Big 12, 2-year starter, Charlotte Harding

P: Ben Kiernan, r-Sr., North Carolina
2022 3rd-team All-ACC, 5-year starter, injured 2023, Raleigh Wakefield

Second-Team Defense

DE: Davin Vann, r-Jr., NC State
2023 HM All-ACC, 2-year starter, Cary High
DT: Zeek Biggers, Jr., Georgia Tech
2023 HM All-ACC, Mt Ulla West Rowan
DT: CJ Clark, r-Sr., NC State (Miami in 2024)
2-year starter, New London North Stanly
DE: Savion Jackson, r-Sr., NC State (2024 NFL draft)
2-year starter, Clayton High
LB: Power Echols, Jr., North Carolina
2023 3rd-team All-ACC, 2022 HM All-ACC; 2-year starter, Charlotte Chambers
LB: Jamoi Hodge, r-Sr., Texas Christian (Independence CC 2019)
2x HM All-Big 12, 3-year starter, Winston-Salem Reynolds
LB: Lee Kpogba, r-Sr., West Virginia (Syracuse/East Mississippi CC 2019-2021)
2x HM All-Big 12, 3-year starter, Winston-Salem Parkland
S: Jireh Wilson, r-Sr., UCF (ECU 2018-22)
2022 PFF All-AAC, 4-year starter, Jacksonville Northside
S: Alfahiym Walcott, r-Sr., Arkansas (Baylor/Butler CC 2018-19)
2022 2nd-team All-Big 12, 4-year starter, Wilmington Laney
CB: Shyheim Battle, r-Sr., NC State (2024 NFL draft)
2023 HM All-ACC, 4-year starter, Rocky Mount High
CB: Tyrek Funderburk, r-Sr., Appalachian State (Richmond 2018-22)
2023 1st-team All-Sun Belt, 3-year starter, Indian Trail Metrolina Christian

P: Eddie Czaplicki, Jr., Southern Cal (Arizona State 2021-22)
3-year starter, Charlotte Providence

Third-Team Defense

DE: Chad Stephens, r-Sr., East Carolina
2023 HM All-AAC, 2-year starter, Greensboro Southeast Guilford
DT: Matt Sochovka, r-Sr., Furman
2023 2nd-team All-SoCon, 4-year starter, Fayetteville Pine Forest
DT: Jaden Taylor, r-Jr., NC Central (Mercer 2020-21)
2023 1st-team All-MEAC, 3x All-MEAC, 4-year starter, Northern Durham
DE: Marvin Pearson, r-Sr., Elon (2024 NFL draft)
2023 1st-team All-CAA, 4-year starter, Asheville High
LB: Jeremy Lewis, r-Sr., East Carolina
2023 3rd-team All-AAC, 3-year starter, Winterville South Central
LB: Jacob Roberts, r-Sr., Wake Forest (North Carolina A&T 2019-22)
2x All-Big South, 3-year starter, Charlotte Mallard Creek
LB: Alec Mock, r-Jr., Air Force
2023 2nd-team All-MWC, 3-year starter, Matthews Weddington
S: Devan Boykin, r-Jr., NC State
2023 HM All-ACC, Jamestown Ragsdale
S: Caleb Curtain, r-So., Elon
2023 FCS All-American, 1st-team All-CAA, Greensboro Grimsley
CB: Jaidyn Denis, r-Jr., Elon (Memphis in 2024)
2023 FCS All-American, 2-year starter, Charlotte Mallard Creek
CB: Shavon Revel, r-Jr., East Carolina (Louisburg 2020-21)
2023 2nd-team All-AAC, Pfafftown Reagan

P: Bryce McFerson, r-Fr., Notre Dame
2023 starter, Indian Trail Metrolina Christian

*—must have played majority of prep career for North Carolina-based high school(s) to be eligible
NOTE: Some “seniors” have another year of eligibility remaining because of COVID-related rules.

Honorable Mention

Defensive Linemen: Isaac Walker, Georgia Southern (3rd-team All-Sun Belt); Cornelius Hough; Santana Hopper, Appalachian State (HM All-Sun Belt), Shelby High; Desmond Evans, North Carolina (2-year starter), Sanford Lee County; DeAndre Dingle-Prince, Appalachian State (2-year starter), Sanford Lee County; Marquise Fleming, Wingate (D2 All-American), Charlotte Olympic; Jamae Blank, UNC Pembroke/Chowan (D2 All-American, 2-year starter), Southern Durham.

Linebackers: Jaylon Scott, NC State (HM All-ACC), Shelby High; Ben Cutter, West Virginia (2023 Big 12 Defensive FOY), Denver East Lincoln; Alan Tisdale, Virginia Tech (2-year starter), Greensboro Page; Stefon Thompson, Syracuse (3-year starter), Charlotte Vance; Brendan Harrington, Appalachian State (3-year starter), Pittsboro Northwood; William McRainey, Gardner-Webb (1st-team All-Big South, 4-year starter), Shallotte West Brunswick; Stephen Scott, East Tennessee State (1st-team All-SoCon, 2-year starter), Greensboro Page; Hamilton Moore, Yale (2x All-Ivy, 2-year starter), Raleigh Enloe; Landon Honeycutt, Mars Hill (D2 All-American), Mount Pleasant High.

Safeties: Sean Brown, NC State (starter), Cornelius Hough; DeAndre Boykins, North Carolina (starter, injured 2023), Concord Central Cabarrus; John Saunders Jr., Mississippi/Miami-Ohio (2-year starter), High Point Christian; Jacquez Warren, Miami-Ohio (3-year starter), Southern Durham; Francis Meehan, James Madison (HM All-Sun Belt), Wilmington New Hanover.

Cornerbacks: Storm Duck, Louisville/UNC (2022 All-ACC, 2-year starter), Boiling Springs High; Ethan Johnson, Appalachian State (2nd-team All-Sun Belt), Cornelius Hough; Gabe Jeudy-Lally, Tennessee/BYU/Vandy (3-year starter), Charlotte Audrey Kell; Jason Chambers, NC Central (1st-team All-MEAC, 2-year starter), Matthews Butler; Kendren Smith, Penn (2x All-Ivy, 2-year starter), Charlotte Mallard Creek.

Punters: Caden Noonkester, NC State (starter), Waxhaw Marvin Ridge.