When it comes to developing Football Bowl Subdivision defensive backs, few in the entire nation have produced more than William Amos Hough High School just North of Charlotte in Cornelius, NC.
Since 2018, 12 Hough defensive backs have earned scholarships to FBS programs, including Tyus Fields (Tennessee), Jalen Frazier and Mario Love (N.C. State), Braylyn Oliver (Louisville) and Tyrin Taylor (Colorado) among others.
The latest, and among the best of the bunch according to Hough coach Matthew Jenkins, is current senior Isaiah Brown-Murray.
A three-year starter for the Huskies, Brown-Murray was courted by FBS programs such as Akron, Appalachian State, Arkansas, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, Kansas, Kent State, Liberty, Louisville, Marshall and Old Dominion. But after an unofficial visit to Greenville on June 9 during which he received a scholarship offer, Brown-Murray made a verbal commitment to East Carolina on July 17.
Brown-Murray joined an ECU recruiting class that is already 14 prospects strong and features two other defensive backs in junior college cornerback Shavon Revel and Georgia safety P.J. Simmons.
“I think Isaiah has always kind of liked ECU,” Jenkins said this week while enduring the final days of COVID-19 symptoms. “(ECU assistant safeties coach) Tripp Weaver is a good friend to our program. We’ve known him for a lot of years and he’s an outstanding recruiter. I think he really had a big role in this.
“But I think Isaiah looked at all his offers. He more than likely could have gotten some more Power Five offers. But he looked around and said, ‘Hey, where can I go play?’ I think that was the biggest thing for Isaiah. He wants to play. And he understands if the NFL is ever an option for him, he can get there as easily from ECU as he can from Louisville or Wake Forest or Duke or UNC.
“I think he looked at ECU and saw where they were. I’m sure he looked at depth charts and who they recruited and brought in. He saw an opportunity for him to go in and potentially play early. I think that appealed to him.”
Brown-Murray spent some time as a freshman on the Hough varsity, but came into his own as a sophomore when he joined a star-studded secondary that already included Brown, Love and Taylor. He made a significant impact by collecting 35 tackles and an interception, which he returned for a touchdown against Hopewell.
First-team All-Area honors from the Charlotte Observer would came Brown-Murray’s way last spring when he produced 32 tackles, four tackles for loss, a sack and an interception for the 8-1 Huskies. One of the season highlights for Brown-Murray occurred against Lake Norman, when he recorded his second-highest tackle total of the year with seven.
“Lake Norman is a flexbone team,” Jenkins said. “Now we did have Curtis Neal, who is going to Wisconsin, and Isaac Walker, who is going to Georgia Southern, on the front line. Those guys did their job up front. But pretty much anything that got the perimeter was Isaiah’s play to make. He played in the middle of the field and all he did was track the line of the quarterback to the back.
“There was a play early on in that game where they tried to crack (block) him, and he sees the crack late because of where his eye placement was. But he was able to get an arm over the crack and get back into the alley. He absolutely takes the legs out from under the back, sending him flipping and almost landing on his head. I think that play itself told Lake Norman there wasn’t going to be a lot of room to run the football on us.”
The Huskies again will have a loaded secondary for the 2021 season. Along with Brown-Murray, Hough’s lineup will also feature Appalachian State commit Ethan Johnson at cornerback, Old Dominion commit Brodrick Gooch at safety, and Navy pledge Gavin Gooch at cornerback.
That quartet is just part of a 26-player group of Hough players who have earned FBS scholarships since 2016. Jenkins rates Brown-Murray among the best in that contingent.
“I think he’s top five in the 26 kids we’ve produced since 2016 in terms of skills,” Jenkins said. “The truth is ECU is getting a Power Five football player who at the end of the day probably just lacked a couple of things that Power Five schools nowadays seem to think they have to have. He’s only going to be 5-foot-91/2. He’s not going to be 5-11 or 6 foot. But he’s a Power Five-skill kid.”
Jenkins believes Brown-Murray is good enough to make an immediate impact at East Carolina.
“I truly anticipate he’s going to go in and play early,” Jenkins said. “Does he start as a freshman? I think that depends on what they have coming back. But I don’t see him redshirting. I think he’s in the two deep. He’s on every special team they have. He’ll bring a great skill set and really high football IQ. In my personal opinion, they are getting a steal.”