Building depth along the
offensive front and finding some immediate help at center were two
objectives Coach Skip Holtz established for East Carolina’s recruiting
Class of 2007 prior to the start of spring practice in April.
Based on some of the early
scholarship offers extended by the Pirates, Holtz and his staff seem to
be following through on that quest.
Four offensive line
targets, including three in-state blockers, have been confirmed. The
most intriguing of those, and perhaps the one ECU needs the most, is
6-foot-5, 265-pound center Desmond Roberts from Northampton-West High
School in Gaston.
Roberts has been a
two-year varsity starter and was an All-Tar Roanoke Conference pick as a
junior as Northampton-West reached the state 1-A championship game. The
Hurricanes, who run a wishbone offense, fell to Elkin 42-12 to complete
a 14-2 season.
The younger brother of
former Duke defensive back Anthony Roberts, who is now the defensive
backs coach at Northampton-West, Desmond Roberts has the long arms and
frame that recruiters covet in a center. He’s also an outstanding long
snapper, which has increased his status as a prospect.
Roberts does, however,
have a lot more growing to do and needs to greatly improve his strength
levels before he’s ready to join the NCAA Division I-A wars.
Still, the honor student
has already picked up scholarship offers from the Pirates, N.C. State,
North Carolina, Louisville and Virginia Tech. Although Roberts is
calling the Wolfpack his favorite, he isn’t ruling out any program at
this early stage in recruiting.
That’s good news for the
Pirates, who may offer the best opportunity for quick playing time for
Roberts. Two of the three centers on ECU’s post-spring depth chart, Tom
Wingenbach and Drew Sutton, will both be seniors next fall. The third
center is junior Fred Hicks, who just moved to center this spring after
two years as a defensive lineman.
East Carolina is also
going head-to-head with N.C. State in the battle for 6-6, 285-pound
tackle prospect Kyle Fischer from Spring Valley High in Columbia, SC.
The Wolfpack, Vanderbilt and the Pirates have all offered Fischer, a
second-team all-state pick as a junior.
An intelligent (3.9
grade-point average) and physical blocker (74 knockdown blocks as a
junior), Fischer graded out at 90 percent on his assignments and was
twice selected Spring Valley’s offensive player of the week.
Another player in
Fischer’s size range who is considering ECU is 6-6, 285-pound Doug
Weaver from Person High in Roxboro.
Weaver initially committed
to Duke last October, but has since re-opened his recruitment. He’s now
looking at the Blue Devils, East Carolina, Maryland, N.C. State,
Virginia and Wake Forest, all of whom have offered scholarships.
Although Weaver still has
strong feelings toward the Blue Devils, he claims to be wide open with
his recruitment entering the summer camp period.
Just down the road from
Weaver is another ECU blocking prospect in 6-4, 260-pound guard Quinn
Barham from Durham’s Hillside High. The Pirates, along with Duke, have
been the first schools to offer Barham, who is a tremendous drive
blocker with the quickness to pull or trap effectively.
The Pirates would like to
land a top-flight running back this year to run behind those big
linemen. They have their sights set on one of the state’s best in
Daronte McNeil from Elizabeth City’s Northeastern High.
McNeil, a 6-1, 220-pounder
with 4.6 speed, chewed up 1,500 yards rushing as a sophomore and added
2,521 more yards and 31 touchdowns as a senior running behind Virginia
Tech signee Devven Sutton at fullback. Some have compared McNeil’s
running style to a freight train because of the way he runs through
East Carolina has a long
history of recruiting Northeastern athletes, which is one reason McNeil
is taking a serious look at the Pirates. Louisville, Nebraska, Penn
State, Virginia and Virginia Tech have also offered him.
Chris Douglas, a 5-9,
183-pounder from Peachtree Ridge High in Suwannee, GA, has also been
extended an offer by ECU. The versatile Douglas ran for 622 yards on 89
carries as a junior. He’s also been offered by Central Michigan, and is
being courted by Memphis, Central Florida and Ohio.
Another tight end to add
to ECU’s hit list is 6-7, 255-pound Greg Nosal from Kellam High in
Virginia Beach, VA. In addition to the Pirates, Nosal also has offers
from Akron, Connecticut, Kent, Marshall, Virginia and Virginia Tech.
In our next column, we’ll
take at look at the defenders who are being pursued by East Carolina.