East Carolina’s passing game has most often featured a receiver from the area of the state affectionately referred to as “Down East.”
The exact boundaries of “Down East” are often varied. Some consider it anything east of the state capital of Raleigh, while others include all parts east of the Neuse River in the reference. The actual location, historically speaking, is probably the group of communities east of Beaufort in Carteret County.
But we digress.
From in and around the “Down East” area, the Pirates have discovered major receiver contributors such as Terrance Copper (Washington), Danny Webster (Havelock), Jimmy Williams (Washington) and the great Justin Hardy (Vanceboro).
Asim McGill, a “Down East” head coach at Williamston’s Riverside High School, believes he may be sending the Pirates the next great regional receiver in Jadakis Bonds.
“When you get a kid who is 6-foot-4 and can run like he can run, he can do special things on the football field,” McNeill said.
The 6-foot-4, 170-pound Bonds did just that as a junior in 2016, making 51 catches for 963 yards and 16 touchdowns. But in addition to catching passes, the versatile Bonds rushed for 200 yards, had 217 more on kick returns, and had five interceptions and 152 more return yards.
Those were enough reasons for the East Carolina coaching staff to extend a scholarship offer to Bonds right before the 2017 national signing day in February. After several visits to campus, and considering other offers from Wake Forest and West Virginia, Bonds decided to give his verbal commitment to the Pirates on June 15.
McGill, who also coached current ECU defensive tackle Jalen Price, has watched Bonds develop into a stellar two-sport athlete at Riverside. In addition to his football production, Bonds was the second-leading scorer (12.9 points) and rebounder (5.7) on the school’s basketball team that went 24-4 and reached the state 1-A semifinals last season.
“He’s a versatile athlete,” McGill said. “To be honest, he’s probably our best basketball player in the school as well.”
Bonds has been a prominent contributor to the Riverside basketball team since he was a freshman. But it took a year of seasoning with the junior varsity before he was ready to make his mark on the football field as a sophomore.
The Knights produced a 9-4 record and advanced to the second round of the state 1-AA playoffs with Bonds serving as one of their main offensive catalysts in 2015. He led the team with 31 catches for 513 yards and seven touchdowns, and added 104 more yards and two scores rushing.
Riverside finished 8-4 during a junior season in which Bonds led the Two Rivers 1-A Conference in receiving yards, total points, total touchdowns and interceptions.
Among the many highlights of the 2016 season for Bonds were a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown against South Creek, five 100-yard receiving games, a five-touchdown effort in the state playoffs against Princeton, and an eight-catch, 171-yard receiving outing against North Edgecombe.
But it was in a 26-20 overtime victory against Southside that McGill believes Bonds made his best single play of the year.
“It was a great football game,” McGill said. “In high school overtime games both teams get a chance to score. They had the ball first and we stopped them. The first play we ran when we got on offense was a jet sweep with him from the slot.
“Well, he’s in the left slot and we run the jet sweep to the right. But it looks like they have it bottled up and he’s going to be stopped for a loss. Instead, he cuts back, avoids the tackle and winds up scoring. It was an amazing play.”
The short distance from Williamston to Greenville – about 38 miles – made it easy for Bonds to visit the ECU campus on several occasions during the spring. On one visit during spring practice, McGill said Bonds was approached by ECU quarterback commit Holton Ahlers.
Ahlers, who plays at nearby D.H. Conley, has turned out to be a key recruiter for the Class of 2018.
“I think Holton is kind of the guy up front leading the charge,” McGill said. “He’s the person on board that’s persuading all the guys to come join him. I know Jadakis was watching spring practice and Holton came up to him and said, ‘Get on the ship with me.’
“I’m sure that influenced Jadakis, but I also think ECU being close to home and the style of offense they run were factors, too.”
The Pirates are getting an athlete who McGill believes is a taller version of N.C. State’s all-purpose player, Jaylen Samuels.
“He reminds me of Jaylen Samuels in that he’s a big enough target to line up on the outside,” McGill said. “But he can also line up in the slot where he’s guarded by a linebacker or safety. He runs well enough to run away from people in the slot. He just has a unique skill set. He’s a long, rangy athlete who can run. He’s 6-4, but he does things that 5-10 guys do.”
McGill expects the recruitment of Bonds to continue to pick up, even though he’s committed to the Pirates. But he doesn’t expect that to make a difference.
“I think he’s locked in with East Carolina and is happy with that decision,” he said.
Bonds is the third receiver to join ECU’s recruiting class of 2018 along with Juwon Moody from Conway, SC, and Andre Pegues from Raeford.