Experience is one significant characteristic among the defensive signees in East Carolina’s recruiting Class of 2021.
Five of the seven players who signed a national letter of intent with the Pirates by February 3rd had a season or more of post-high school experience at either the prep school level, junior college ranks or are graduate transfers from other Football Bowl Subdvision programs.
Four of those are expected to make an immediate impact in the secondary, where the Pirates had to throw many young, inexperienced players into the fire in 2020.
Here’s our annual look at how each of the defensive signees may impact the ECU program in our position-by-position report card. We’ll speculate on the organizational depth chart, and look ahead to the Pirates’ needs as they begin pursuing the recruiting Class of 2022.
We’ll kick the analysis off with the defensive ends.
DEFENSIVE END/OUTSIDE LINEBACKER F
WHAT THEY NEEDED: This loomed as a top priority on defense last summer after injury-plagued Dorian Hardy was removed from the roster and senior Chance Purvis was released in the wake of a felony arrest. The Pirates also knew they’d have Appalachian State graduate transfer Chris Willis for only one season. Netting two or three signees seemed to be a reasonable response to those losses.
WHO SIGNED: Despite the apparent need, the Pirates failed to sign any scholarship prospects at defensive end.
HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: The failure to land any defensive end/outside linebackers is the biggest omission in this class.
BIG ONE THAT GOT AWAY: One of the nation’s top defensive end prospects in the 2021 class developed only 30 minutes from ECU’s campus in Rocky Mount. And the Pirates made an early play for 6-6, 275-pound Keeshawn Silver by extending the second scholarship offer to him in April 2019. Silver’s interest, however, ultimately was more to the West. He committed to North Carolina in March 2020 and signed with the Tar Heels in December.
WHO’S BACK: Other than Willis, who started seven games in 2020, every defensive end who saw action for ECU is expected to return for the ’21 season. Six players who finished the year on the top three of the depth chart are among that group.
Converted tight end Damir Faison (6-2, 255), a sophomore, had the starting assignment at rush end/outside linebacker for eight games. Faison made 19 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss, while splitting time with redshirt freshman Chad Stephens (6-0, 245). Stephens had 13 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack until an injury knocked him out for the final two games.
Fomer walk-on transfer Dre Terry (6-1, 248) moved in as Faison’s backup at that point and sophomore Elijah Robinson (6-4, 240) became ECU’s third option.
Starting the first two games at the opposite end and backing up Willis the rest of the way was redshirt freshman Immanuel Hickman (6-3, 263), who contributed 14 tackles. Freshmen Kareem Stinson (6-3, 259) and Jason Romero (6-4, 222) finished the season in the spots behind Willis and Hickman.
Junior college transfer Henry Garrison (6-6, 273) experienced his first action, appearing in five games.
Redshirt freshman Zakkai Wilson (6-4, 236) is another returning member of the defensive end corps.
WHO’S GONE: Chris Willis enjoyed a solid 2019 season at Appalachian State, but had his senior year wiped out due to injury. Having earned his undergraduate degree and granted an extra year of eligibility, Willis opted to join former prep teammate Aaron Ramseur at ECU for his final season. He became the Pirates’ most productive defensive end, racking up 28 tackles, five tackles for loss and two sacks in eight games.
NEEDS FOR 2022: There are no seniors on the depth chart at defensive end/outside linebacker, but Terry and Garrison could be exiting after the 2022 season. The Pirates could use some more depth as well, so taking two or three at these spots is a reasonable goal.
Three in-state prospects are already on ECU’s hit list at defensive end. Beau Atkinson (6-6, 225) from Raleigh’s Leesville Road, Eli Hall (6-4, 250) of Shelby Crest and Northeastern’s Kaevon Freshwater (6-3, 225) all received early offers from the Pirates.
Freshwater is the younger brother of ECU’s freshman tight end Traveon Freshwater and already has offers on the table from Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, Liberty, Old Dominion and Virginia Tech along with the Pirates. He enjoyed a big-time sophomore season in which he made 110 tackles, 23 tackles for loss and 24 sacks.
PROJECTED PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
DEFENSIVE END/OUTSIDE LINEBACKER
Damir Faison, Sophomore
Chad Stephens, Redshirt freshmen
Dre Terry, Junior
Elijah Robinson, Sophomore
Immanuel Hickman, Redshirt freshman
Kareem Stinson, Freshman
Jason Romero, Freshman
Henry Garrison, Junior
Zakkai Wilson, Redshirt freshman
DEFENSIVE TACKLE C+
WHAT THEY NEEDED: Signing four tackles in the 2020 class appeared to give the Pirates plenty of depth and talent at the tackle positions where the majority of the roster consisted of sophomore, redshirt freshmen or true freshmen. But a move by Chandler Medeiros to the offensive line and decision by Hozey Haji-Badri to enter the transfer portal after last season did cut down the numbers at tackle. So signing at least one at this critical position would have been the proper response to those departures. Medeiros has since left the program.
WHO SIGNED: They didn’t sign a scholarship tackle, but the Pirates did add 6-foot-7, 305-pound Avery Durham from Yadkinville, NC, as a preferred walk-on. Durham was a two-way starter at Forbush High, but it’s on defense that he’ll start his ECU career. On that side of the ball, he made 42 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and for sacks over his last two prep seasons.
HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Durham could be real steal for the Pirates. In addition to his obvious size, he has quick feet and runs extremely well for a big guy. Hopefully, his services won’t be needed immediately and he’ll have time to develop as a pass rusher. But the potential is there for Durham to become yet another walk-on success story at East Carolina.
BIG ONE THAT GOT AWAY: The Pirates swung and missed at a number of high-profile defensive tackle prospects in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia region, including 6-4, 270-pound Tommy Akingbesote from Upper Marlboro, MD. Akingbesote was a four-star prospect who ultimately decided to remain close to home and play for the Big Ten Conference Maryland Terrapins.
WHO’S BACK: Every player who ended the 2020 season on the three-deep depth chart for East Carolina is scheduled to return.
Sophomore Rick D’Abreu (6-2, 253) has been a regular on the defensive front since arriving at ECU and now has played in 20 career games. D’Abreu made all nine starts at tackle a year ago, recording 24 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack.
One of the great success stories of 2020 for ECU was the emergence of freshman walk-on Elijah Morris (6-1, 283). Morris came out of nowhere to win a starting job at tackle and ended the season with seven straight starts. He made 16 tackles on the year and has been placed on scholarship for the 2021 season.
Working behind D’Breu when the season ended were sophomore D’Angelo McKinnie (6-4, 288) and redshirt freshman D’Anta Johnson (6-2, 295). McKinnie appeared in nine games, making eight tackles, while Johnson got his feet wet in two outings.
Freshman Xavier McIver (6-1, 310) and freshman Jason Shuford (6-4, 324) spelled Morris as his backups. McIver got work in nine games and made four tackles, while Shuford appeared in four outings.
The defensive tackle depth doesn’t end there, however. Highly regarded recruits J’Vian McCray (6-1, 329/redshirt freshman), Suirad Ware (6-0, 276/redshirt freshman) and Keziah Everett (6-1, 359/redshirt freshman) should be ready to make their mark on the depth chart in 2021.
Walk-ons Joseph Sampson (6-2, 268/redshirt freshman), Justyn Haynesworth (6-1, 286/redshirt freshman) and Collin Jennings (6-3, 270/redshirt freshman) are other roster members at tackle.
WHO’S GONE: Hozey Haji-Badri came to ECU from the junior college ranks and saw action in 14 games with the Pirates over the last two seasons. He made 14 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss, but failed to play in the final five games of 2020. In November, Haji-Badri entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal and in February committed to Western Michigan.
NEEDS FOR 2021: East Carolina is still really young at the defensive tackle positions with all nine scholarship players heading into 2020 as sophomores, redshirt freshmen or true freshmen thanks to the NCAA ruling granting fall athletes an extra year of eligibility.
Two highly rated in-state tackles are already in the Pirates’ cross hairs. Santana Hopper from Shelby High and J.D. Lampley from Richmond High in Rockingham both received offers from ECU in May. Hopper (6-1, 280) is latest in a line of a football-rich family from Shelby that also includes cousins in UNC linebacker Tyrone Hopper, Florida linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper and Boise State tight end Tyneil Hopper. Lampley was a mainstay on the defensive front for a Richmond squad that went 12-1 during his sophomore season.
PROJECTED PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Rick D’Abreu, Sophomore
D’Angelo McKinnie, Sophomore
D’Ante Johnson, Freshman
Suirad Ware, Redshirt freshman
Joseph Sampson, Redshirt freshman
Collin Jennings, Redshirt freshman
*Avery Durham, Freshman
*Denotes signed, but not yet enrolled
Elijah Morris, Freshman
Xavier McIver, Freshman
Jason Shuford, Freshman
J’Vian McCray, Redshirt freshman
Keziah Everett, Redshirt freshman
Justyn Haynesworth, Redshirt freshman
WHAT THEY NEEDED: Some significant graduation losses were anticipated at linebacker following the 2020 season, but the NCAA’s extra eligibility year for fall athletes gave the Pirates a brief reprieve. When all was said and done, ECU lost only a walk-on player from its linebacker corps. That lessoned the need in the ’21 recruiting class, but the need was still there to get at least two signed up for ’22.
WHO SIGNED: Jacoby Simpson (6-0, 225) was a Class 6A all-state performer in Texas as a senior at Aldine-McArthur High School and was heavily recruited on a national scale before deciding on TCU. He played two seasons for the Horned Frogs, appearing in 11 games before opting for a change of scenery. Simpson wound up at Cisco Community College where his sophomore campaign was wiped out by COVID-19. The Pirates knew enough about Simpson’s background to offer a scholarship and he accepted on September 4, 2020. He’s enrolled at ECU for the spring semester and will have three years of eligibility remaining.
Via the transfer portal, ECU also added inside linebacker Wistar Allen (6-2, 225) to the 2021 roster. Allen, from High Point, NC, originally signed with Football Championship Subdivision power Richmond. But after joining the Spiders in 2020, and seeing the season postponed until the spring due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Allen decided to seek a new school. The Pirates happily took Allen as a preferred walk-on and he’ll have four years of eligibility in Greenville.
HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Simpson is a highly motivated player who sees ECU as a second chance to live up to the high expectations he had coming out of high school. He’ll bring the experience and lessons learned at TCU with him to ECU, along with a strong football IQ. There’s a logjam of experienced players at the linebacker spots, but Simpson is versatile enough to play inside or out. At the very least, expect him to make an impact on special teams in 2021.
Allen’s initial recruitment was probably hindered by the fact he played at a small private high school. But he is a smart, extremely athletic player who has been timed at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Like Simpson, he faces an uphill battle for early playing time due to the experience on ECU’s roster. But this is another example of the Pirates scooping up an overlooked prospect who could develop into something special.
BIG ONE THAT GOT AWAY: ECU was involved early in the process with in-state linebacker Anthony Freeman from Northern Durham and Zemarion Harrell from Salem, VA. Both received offers in late 2019 or early 2020 from the Pirates. But Freeman quickly made a pledge to Duke in January 2020, while Harrell remained available right up to the early signing period in December before committing to Coastal Carolina.
WHO’S BACK: Linebacker may well be the most experienced position on ECU’s roster in 2021. Nine players with at least eight games of career experience are back, including five who have made at least one start. All four players who were listed as starters or co-starters when the 2020 season ended are among the returnees.
Juniors Xavier Smith (6-0, 246) and Myles Berry (6-1, 221) were the starter and backup at the middle spot. Smith, who has played in 32 career games and made nine starts, led the Pirates with 72 tackles, eight tackles for loss and was tied for second with 2.5 sacks. Berry, a former safety, also has an extensive 33-game resume that includes a start in last year’s opener at the weakside backer spot. He racked up 12 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack in 2020.
Seniors Bruce Bivens (6-0, 229) and Aaron Ramseur (6-1, 223) were co-starters at weakside linebacker at the end of 2020. They are two of ECU’s most experience players with Bivens having played in 43 career games and Ramseur 39. Bivens had six starts a year ago in which he made 47 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and an interception. Ramseur’s career has been hindered at times because of injuries, but he stayed healthy long enough last season to make 27 tackle, three tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
Sophomore Jireh Wilson (6-3, 201) started every game at outside linebacker and ranked second in tackles behind Smith with 70. He also had 6.5 tackles for loss and a team-best 3.5 sacks. Finishing the year as Wilson’s backup was freshman Teyler Jackson, who managed eight tackles while playing in nine games.
Also seeing playing time in 2020 at linebacker were redshirt freshman Alex Angus (6-2, 210), junior Gerard Stringer (6-2, 197) and junior Delvonte Harris (6-0, 232). Stringer is another veteran with 20 career games under his belt, but missed the entire 2020 season after suffering an offseason injury. Angus made two tackles in four outings last season, and Harris made a tackle in his only appearance.
Rounding out the ECU linebacker corps are redshirt freshman Eric Doctor (6-0, 247), redshirt freshman Trevon Haynes (6-0, 238), redshirt freshman Nick Stites (6-1, 198), freshman Zion Evans (6-0, 210) and freshman Jack Laslo (6-2, 215).
WHO’S GONE: There were no significant departures from the linebacking corps after the 2020 season.
NEEDS FOR 2022: Bivens and Ramseur are done after the 2020 season, and Smith, Berry, Stringer and Harris are on track to depart following the ’21 campaign. Those are major losses, for which the Pirates will need to immediately start trying to find suitable replacements. Three is the minimum number ECU should be looking to sign in the Class of 2022.
Expected to be high on ECU’s recruiting board at linebacker are Xavier Simmons (6-3, 210), an inside linebacker from Northwest Guilford High in Greensboro, NC, and Albert Redd (6-2, 210), an outside linebacker from Glenn High in Kernersville, NC.
Simmons had 90 tackles and two tackles for loss as a sophomore at Northwest and is entertaining early offers from Coastal Carolina, Duke, Maryland, Missouri, N.C. State, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest along with the Pirates.
Redd had 112 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and two sacks as a sophomore on a defense that featured UNC signee and four-star prospect Raneiria Dillworth. He’s also being courted by Akron, Coastal Carolina, Liberty, Louisville, North Carolina, Old Dominion and West Virginia.
PROJECTED PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Jireh Wilson, Sophomore
Teyler Jackson, Freshman
Gerard Stringer, Junior
Alex Angus, Redshirt freshman
Nick Stites, Redshirt freshman
Zion Evans, Freshman
Xavier Smith, Junior
Myles Berry, Junior
Eric Doctor, Freshman
Wistar Allen, Freshman
Trevon Hayes, Redshirt freshman
Bruce Bivens, Sr.
Aarron Rameur, Senior
Delvontae Harris, Junior
Jacoby Simpson, Sophomore
Jack Laslo, Freshman
WHAT THEY NEEDED: The Pirates were scheduled to lose free safety Davondre “Tank” Robinson to graduation after the 2020 season, so signing at least one prospect to replace him was obvious. But getting two for depth purposes was the ultimate goal.
WHO SIGNED: Perhaps one of the most significant additions to ECU’s roster for 2021 occurred in December when former North Carolina safety D.J. Ford announced he was joining the Pirates as a graduate transfer. Ford (6-3, 210) was a constant figure in UNC’s secondary for three years before opting out of 2020 over concerns about COVID-19. He appeared in 33 games during his career with the Tar Heels, making 72 tackles and an interception.
Right before the early signing period in December the Pirates earned verbal commitments from junior college safeties Kingston McKinstry (6-1, 190) and Julius Wood (6-2, 196). Both will have three years of eligibility left at ECU.
McKinstry, from Grove City, OH, spent the 2019 season at Iowa Central Community College where he logged 21 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and four breakups in nine games. He’ll remain at Iowa Central through the spring when he’s scheduled to participate in an eight-game season.
The Pirates also dipped into the Ohio talent pool, Columbus to be exact, for Wood, who played the 2019 season at Blinn Community College. Originally an FBS signee at Miami of Ohio, Wood never played a down there before shifting to Blinn. As a true freshman at Blinn, he had 36 tackles in nine games.
Cruz Temple (5-11, 205), from Abbeville, SC, hails from a prominent football family. His father, Tony, is a former walk-on player at the University of South Carolina and is now an assistant coach at Abbeville High. Cruz’s brother, Nate, is now a redshirt freshman defensive end at Pittsburgh. Cruz made 35 tackles and two tackles for loss as a senior despite missing three games with an injury. Air Force, Army, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State and Navy also offered scholarships to Cruz.
HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Depth, depth, depth. ECU will now have plenty of bodies to work at the two safety spots for the immediate future.
In Ford, the Pirates have gained a veteran major college performer who can step in and play right away. He’s an aggressive, physical defender against the run, but has the speed to play in pass coverage. Ford is also versatile enough to help at cornerback should the need arise.
McKinstry and Wood are both big, physical safeties who are capable of playing immediately upon their arrival in Greenville next fall.
Temple is an explosive athlete. His high school coach says Temple “plays at a different speed than anyone else on the field.” As a coach’s son, he’s spent his entire life around the game and plays with great instincts and a high football IQ. The combination makes him a strong contender for special teams action as a true freshman, and maybe even more since he’s already enrolled and will have the benefit of participating in spring practice.
BIG ONE THAT GOT AWAY: James Wright, from Sumter, SC, received his first scholarship offer from ECU in March 2019. Two months later Wright became one of the first members of the recruiting Class of 2021 by making a verbal commitment to the Pirates. Wright seemed like a solid pledge, but when Kansas came through with his first “Power Five” offer in August his feelings begin to shift. He eventually committed to Kansas in August 2020 and signed in December.
WHO’S BACK: Three players who covered all the starting assignments in 2020 are expected to be back at the safety spots along with four others who saw action.
Sophomore Shawn Dourseau (5-11, 191), a junior college transfer, turned out to be ECU’s most consistent secondary performer. He started all nine outings at free safety and led the secondary with 58 tackles and three tackles for loss. Dourseau also contributed two interceptions.
Senior Warren Saba (5-10, 188), who has doubled as a cornerback and bandit linebacker during his ECU career, started the first seven games last year at field safety before suffering a season-ending injury against Cincinnati. Saba is the most experienced returnee in the secondary, having played in 30 career games. When Saba went down with the injury, redshirt freshman Juan Powell (5-11, 176) took over for the final two games.
Freshman Teagan Wilk (5-11, 177) worked in seven games and finished the year as Dourseau’s backup at free safety. Freshman David Laney (6-0, 165) and sophomore Damel Hickman (6-0, 177) both played extensive snaps at the field safety.
Redshirt freshman Jonathan Coleman II (6-1, 196) also got into six games on special teams.
WHO’S GONE: Davondre “Tank” Robinson was projected as the starting free safety in 2020 after handling the position for two straight seasons. But his playing declined sharply as the ’20 campaign began and ultimately led him to enter the NCAA transfer portal in early November. Robinson wound up transferring to Charlotte where he’ll play his final year of college eligibility.
Junior college transfer Robert Kennedy made 13 tackles coming off the bench to spell Saba in the first five games at field safety. But Kennedy opted out after game five and entered the transfer portal in early December. No word on where Kennedy has landed.
NEEDS FOR 2022: Ford and Saba are scheduled to complete their eligibility after 2021, leaving nine scholarship safeties remaining on the roster. This won’t be a high priority, but the Pirates probably should take one to replace Ford and Saba.
The Pirates are aiming high in the few safety offers they’d extended so far in the Class of 2022. Four-star Keon Sabb (6-3, 195) from IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL, and three-star Sherrod Covil (6-0, 185) from Oscar Smith High in Chesapeake, VA, are being heavily recruited on a national basis in addition to ECU.
PROJECTED PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Shawn Dourseau, Sophomore
Teagan Wilk, Freshman
Cruz Temple, Freshman
*Kingston McKinstry, Sophomore
Warren Saba, Senior
D.J. Ford, Senior
Juan Powell, Redshirt freshman
David Laney, Freshman
Damel Hickman, Sophomore
Jonathan Coleman II, Redshirt freshman
*Julius Wod, Sophomore
*Denotes signed, but not yet enrolled
WHAT THEY NEEDED: With a very young cornerback room, ECU’s need in this area was limited. But it’s always a good idea to grab one or two corner prospects each cycle.
WHO SIGNED: Jayden Chalmers (6-0, 170) initially signed with North Carolina out of Lee Senior High School in Sanford, NC. But Chalmers instead prepped a semester at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, where ECU continued to recruit him. Chalmers eventually decided to become a Pirate in December 2020. Chalmers was a second-team all-state pick as a senior at Lee Senior when he made 41 tackles, four interceptions and 20 pass breakups.
HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Chalmers is a stellar athlete who was a two-way star in high school at Lee Senior. He has excellent speed and cover skills. Chalmers’ early enrollment at ECU could help him become a factor on special teams and in the secondary next fall.
BIG ONE THAT GOT AWAY: William Simpkins III pulled in an offer from ECU way back in December 2019. The 6-2, 175-pounder from Quince Orchard High in Gaithersburg, MD, ultimately decided to remain closer to home and committed to Virginia in April 2020.
WHO’S BACK: The entire two-deep at the cornerback positions is returning, including All-AAC second-team selection Ja’Quan McMillan. McMillan is only two years into his college career, yet he’s already played in 21 games and made 17 starts. The 5-foot-10, 161-pounder was limited to five starts in 2020 because of an injury, but still managed 33 tackles and four interceptions. The latter gives him seven picks for his career.
While McMillan was out, sophomore Nolan Johnson (6-2, 192) did an admirable job as his replacement. Johnson, who made starts at both corners during the season, has 24 career games under his belt and 62 tackles.
Sophomore Malik Fleming (5-10, 178) held down the other corner spots in seven of nine games, collecting 25 tackles and one interception along the way. Freshman Sean Tucker (6-0, 158) worked eight games as Fleming’s top backup.
Redshirt freshman Nasir Clark (6-2, 153) and redshirt freshman C.J. Crump (6-0, 162) are both highly regarded athletes who’ll be trying to crack the depth chart this spring.
Sophomore Seth Giles (6-1, 176), a transfer from NCAA Division III Methodist University, freshman Amir Webster (6-0, 170) and freshman John Wright (5-11, 185) are walk-on members of the cornerback corps.
WHO’S GONE: The Pirates didn’t lose any prominent members of their cornerback group.
NEEDS FOR 2022: Cornerback doesn’t appear to be a major need for ECU in this recruiting cycle since none of the primary players at the positions are above the sophomore class. But cornerback is one of those positions that requires you to pursue at least one in every class.
Columbus, GA, product, J.Q. Hardaway (6-2, 170) has an offer from the Pirates among his 13. Hardaway had 41 tackles, four tackles for loss and an interception as a junior at Hardaway High School.
PROJECTED PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Ja’Quan McMillan, Sophomore
Nolan Johnson, Sophomore
Nasir Clerk, Redshirt Freshman
Jayden Chalmers, Freshman
Amir Webster, Freshman
Malik Fleming, Sophomore
Sean Tucker, Freshman
C.J. Crump, Redshirt freshman
Seth Giles, Sophomore
John Wright, Freshman
PUNTER – no grade –
WHAT THEY NEEDED: The Pirates had two quality punters on their roster in 2020, so signing another wasn’t in the cards for the Class of 2021.
WHO SIGNED: ECU didn’t sign a punter prospect.
HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Not applicable.
BIG ONE THAT GOT AWAY: None, since ECU wasn’t in the market.
WHO’S BACK: Senior John Young (6-0, 201) is a vet who has seen action in 33 games for ECU. Young averaged 41.8 yards per boot in 2020 and dropped 10 of those inside the 20-yard line. He’ll be an All-AAC candidate in his final year of eligibility.
Freshman Luke Larsen (6-3, 239) is an Australian product, who got his feet wet in 2020 in five games. Larsen launched 13 punts and averaged 41.2 per kick.
WHO’S GONE: ECU didn’t lose anyone at the punter position.
NEEDS FOR 2022: With Larsen still qualifying as a freshman, ECU won’t need to recruit a punter for at least another season.
PROJECTED PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
John Young, Senior
Luke Larsen, Freshman
OVERALL DEFENSIVE RECRUITING GRADE B
The number of immediate impact players in the defensive class, especially in the secondary, drove the grade higher. The Pirates did an excellent job adding experience with grad transfers and junior college players that upgrade the depth and talent at safety and cornerback. Those additions more than made up for missing on adding a prospect or two at defensive end.
OVERALL OFFENSIVE RECRUITING GRADE B
A small class featuring some strong additions at the skill positions earned the Pirates a better-than-average grade for their offensive recruiting class. They could have used some more help at the offensive line spots, but even added athleticism at those positions.
OVERALL RECRUITING CLASS GRADE B
East Carolina’s 2021 class was rated eighth among American Athletic Conference schools by 247Sports.com, but we think it’s a cut above that. The Pirates upgraded the athleticism on offense at the skill spots and brought in some impact players on defense in major areas of need. They all should help the Pirates continue their rise in the Mike Houston era.