East Carolina secured the bulk of its 2018 recruiting class in December during college football’s first early signing period. But that doesn’t mean the Pirates won’t be active when the traditional signing day rolls around Wednesday.
Coach Scottie Montgomery and his staff have been working vigorously the past month-and-a-half to make a few final additions to the 19 players who have already become part of the ECU program. The Pirates entertained two primary targets – defensive end Dorian Hardy and offensive lineman Reuben Lewis – over the weekend during official visits to Greenville.
Graduation losses and transfers have left the door open for ECU to sign the full compliment of 25 players, which means at least six scholarships are still up for grabs. But those aren’t likely to be used by Wednesday, and that’s a good thing for the Pirates, who may now be in the market for a junior college or graduate transfer quarterback with the unexpected departure of returning starter Gardner Minshew.
Minshew was ECU’s returning starter and one of only two quarterbacks on the roster who has taken a snap in a college game. He withdrew from school last week to return home in Mississippi to deal with family issues. Minshew could return before the start of the 2018 season, but if he doesn’t the Pirates are likely to conduct a late search for another quarterback as insurance.
East Carolina has had success in recent years making quarterbacks a late addition to its recruiting classes. Minshew, Blake Kemp and even the great Shane Carden were all convinced to join the Pirates just before or after national signing day. So far, the only name that has surfaced as a potential quarterback for ECU to pursue is N.C. State graduate transfer Jalan McClendon.
McClendon, who was recruited by the Pirates out of Charlotte’s West Mecklenburg High School, has been stuck behind first Jacoby Brissett and now Ryan Finley on the depth chart at N.C. State. So the 6-foot-5, 221-pounder announced last month his intentions to play for another school in 2018 as a graduate transfer. McClendon is scheduled to earn his undergraduate degree from N.C. State in May at which time he could come into play with the Pirates.
So, with that situation still unfolding, Montgomery and staff are focusing their efforts on three to four players they hope to sign Wednesday. Here are players ECU has focused on down the stretch, at least one of whom has apparently committed elsewhere.
◼ MALCOLM DAVIDSON, RB (5-10, 180) Osceola HS, Kissimmee, FL — The Pirates have put on the fullcourt press the last two weeks trying to flip Davidson from Florida Atlantic. Members of the coaching staff, including Montgomery, had an in-home visit last Thursday to make a final pitch. Davidson gave his pledge to the Owls on Jan. 23, about a week after making an official visit to ECU. He was heavily pursued by FBS programs, drawing offers from ACC and SEC schools.
Davidson, who has been timed at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash, had an auspicious varsity debut at Osceola as a freshman. He averaged 17.8 yards on 14 carries (249 yards) and scored three times while playing in seven games. Davidson enjoyed his most productive season as a junior when he rushed 97 times for 1,065 yards and 10 touchdowns. An ankle injury limited Davidson to nine games as a senior (64 carries, 558 yards, 11 touchdowns).
Luring Davidson away from Florida Atlantic would fill a major need in the Class of 2018 for ECU. Even though it appears senior Anthony Scott has earned his way back on the Pirates’ roster for the 2018 season, the program is losing Devin Anderson and Derrell Scott off the depth chart due to transfer. And Davidson has the kind of breakaway speed that would complement ECU’s other backs.
◼ DORIAN HARDY, DE (6-5, 220) North Brunswick Township HS, Elizabeth, N.J. — This is one of those second-chance situations that could wind up being a tremendous benefit for the Pirates. Hardy is a legit major-college talent, who is rated the state’s No. 3 prospect by NJ.com and once held four-star status among the recruiting services. He held scholarship offers from heavy hitters such as Clemson, LSU, Miami, Michigan and Ohio State before making a verbal commitment to Penn State last June 11th.
But five games into his senior season at Paramus Catholic High School, Hardy was involved in an off-the-field altercation with two freshmen players that sent one of them to the hospital. The situation led Hardy to transfer to North Brunswick Township to complete his senior year and caused Penn State to rescind his scholarship offer, according to published reports.
ECU came to the picture as Hardy began to re-open his recruitment and brought him to campus last weekend for an official visit. Hardy previously took an official visit to Baylor in December.
Just a little more background on Hardy. He began his prep career at St. Joseph Regional where he spent most of his first season on the freshman squad before dressing for a few varsity games late. Hardy started eight varsity games as a sophomore, making 20 tackles and 4.5 sacks while battling through injuries. He added 37 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks as a junior before transferring to Paramus. In five games at Paramus as a senior, Hardy had 34 tackles, two tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.
The Pirates have decided to roll the dice and give Hardy a second chance. The decision could pay big dividends if they can land Hardy on signing day.
◼ TYNEIL HOPPER, TE (6-3, 225) Roswell HS, Roswell, GA — Hopper is another late target that ECU started making overtures to last month, and he was receptive. He reported offers from some big-time programs such as Alabama and Auburn early in the recruiting cycle, but some of those spots have now been filled by other players, which has made him available to the Pirates. He’s a legit tight end with good hands, but he also has the ability to play linebacker.
Over his final two prep seasons, Hopper made 40 catches for 564 yards and four touchdowns.
◼ REUBEN LEWIS, OG (6-4, 319) Apopka HS/Coffeyville CC, Apopka, FL — One of the top-rated offensive guards in the junior college ranks, Lewis was in Greenville at the same time as Hardy last weekend for an official visit. It appeared that his final decision would come down to ECU, Kansas or West Virginia, but 247sports.com reported that Lewis made a pledge to the Jayhawks on Monday afternoon.
Lewis first developed in one of Florida’s premier prep programs at Apopka High School. He played on the varsity four seasons, helping the Blue Darters earn state 8-A championships as a freshman and as junior. Apopka posted an overall record of 50-10 during Lewis’ career.
Although he was chosen to appear in the Central Florida All-Star game as a senior, academics prevented Lewis from garnering any major college scholarship offers. So he headed off to Coffeyville Community College, where he’s played in 20 games the last two seasons.
The Pirates have had two offensive guard prospects decommit from the Class of 2018 – Stevon Brown from Baltimore, MD, committed in June and backed off in November, while Navarro Community College’s Nick Dennis chose the Pirates on Dec. 11 before taking it back Dec. 18 so he could sign with Southern Methodist. A last minute change of heart by Lewis could make him an important piece in ECU’s recruiting puzzle.