Needing program depth rather than immediate impact, East Carolina coach Mike Houston achieved both as he brought in 18 newcomers to the Pirate program on Wednesday as college football’s early signing period began.
The group included some last-minute additions, including a major transfer surprise, and several players whom Houston felt could be contributors next fall. That probably wasn’t a priority when the ECU staff began recruiting the Class of 2022 since a large contingent of players that helped the Pirates secure a postseason berth for the first time since 2014 are expected to return next fall.
But Houston named freshmen offensive linemen Ethan Lang and Jacob Sacra, transfer offensive lineman Parker Moorer, transfer defensive tackle Shaundre Mims, and freshman running back Marlon Gunn Jr. as newcomers who could compete for playing time in 2022.
Sims, the older brother of incoming freshman defensive lineman C.J. Mims, provided the surprise of signing day. An All-American performer for Football Championship Subdivision Charleston Southern, he had several Football Bowl Subdivision suitors after entering the NCAA Transfer Portal in November. Although he has just one year of eligibility remaining, Houston welcomed Shaundre Mims with open arms.
“We had been recruiting C.J. all along and got to meet Shaundre throughout the process,” Houston said. “Of course, Shaundre played against us this year and had a very good game against us. He was their best defensive lineman. When he went into the transfer portal he reached out to us. We’ve been having ongoing conversations and it’s something I really wanted to do.
“But he has only one year, so you say ‘Why take a guy who has only one year?’ For me it goes back to a couple of things. It goes back to that family. Mom wanted Shaundre close to home. His other offers were distant where she wouldn’t be able to see him play. C.J. and Shaundre wanted to play one more year together. And then, as I got to know Shaundre, he has just a high character, work ethic, a great motor … he’s going to be a good player and will help us. He’ll be a good older guy in that room. But he’s also a guy who fits our culture.”
The Pirates did lose three players who had given them verbal commitments during the recruiting process. The biggest of those was Powder Springs, Ga., wide receiver Kaleb Webb, who committed back in June. But a late offer from Tennessee led to Webb backing off his pledge to the Pirates on Dec. 5 so he could sign with the Volunteers.
McDonough, GA, safety P.J. Simmons (Georgia State) and Chester, VA, offensive lineman Tyler Leinberger (Massachusetts) were others who defected from the ECU class.
Houston indicated Wednesday that the Pirates were not done adding players to their recruiting class.
“This is the beginning of this year’s class,” Houston said. “You’ll see us add, possibly, a couple of guys before January and the spring semester starts. I think you’ll probably see us add more in May. I think is something that will be an ongoing process.”
While we wait for those additions, here’s an in-depth look at the 17 players signed to a national letter of intent by East Carolina on Wednesday.
*OMARI ALLEN, Offensive line (6-4, 299) Vance County High School, Henderson, NC
In the ratings: (247Sports.com) 3 stars, No. 121 interior offensive line nationally, No. 50 in North Carolina.
(Rivals.com) 2 stars, unranked.
Other FBS offers: None.
Recruiting tale: Allen made a big impression on the ECU coaching staff while attending the school’s “Big Man” camp last June. He returned to campus later the same month for an official recruiting visit, which resulted in a scholarship offer from the Pirates. Allen accepted the offer one day after it was extended on June 25.
Career notes: Began his prep career on the junior varsity at Riverside High in Durham as a sophomore. … Moved to Henderson as a junior and reported to preseason camp at Vance County weighing 363 pounds. … Earned first-team All-Big 8 3-A Conference honors as a junior. … When COVID-19 delayed the 2020 season until spring 2021, Allen took advantage to shed almost 60 pounds of weight. … Was also a force on defense as a senior, making 50 tackles and 10 tackles for a loss. … Team captain as a senior. … Selected to participate in the inaugural Showcase Bowl on Dec. 18 in Greenville.
Fun fact: Allen played as an 8-year-old on the Durham Titans recreation football team that was coached by current Vance High assistant Greg Greene.
From the film room: It’s probably unfair to call Allen a “project,” but he is still relatively young when it comes to the nuances of offensive line play since he didn’t start his prep career until he was a sophomore. So don’t expect an immediate impact situation here. But his size – “He’s a people mover,” noted Vance assistant Greg Greg Greene – quick feet and strong leg drive are qualities that could eventually help him develop into a valuable contributor on the interior of ECU’s offensive front.
*ZAKYE BARKER, Linebacker (5-10, 228) Norcross HS, Norcross, GA
In the ratings: (247Sports.com) 2 stars, No. 257 linebacker nationally, No. 174 in Georgia.
(Rivals.com) 2 stars, unranked.
(ESPN.com) 3 stars, No. 54 inside linebacker nationally, No. 160 in Georgia.
Other FBS offers: Air Force, Army, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Charlotte, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Liberty, Navy, Tulane.
Recruiting tale: ECU was among the first schools to recognize Barker’s talents back in February when it offered a scholarship. But it was an official visit to Greenville by Barker in late June that really put the Pirates ahead of the other schools pursuing Barker. He made that official on July 1 with his verbal commitment. “I took into consideration with each school I spoke with how I was able to communicate to a coach or anybody on the staff,” Barker said. “That was really important to me. I found at East Carolina I just felt real good when I was up there twice how the coaching staff had a plan for me, and they laid it out for me.”
Career notes: A three-year varsity starter at Norcross High where he collected 456 career tackles in 38 games. … Also had 13.5 sacks and 107 tackles for loss. … Made 152 tackles as a first-year starter as a sophomore along with 30 tackles for loss. … Followed up with 155 tackles, eight sacks and 37 tackles for loss as a junior. … Led state of Georgia in tackles both seasons. … Finished career with 149 tackles, 40 tackles for loss and three sacks as a senior. … First-team All-Gwinnett County as a junior and senior. … Atlanta Journal Constitution Class 7A All-State pick as a junior. … Has been timed at 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Fun fact: When Barker would cry as an infant, his father, Zach, would flip on the TV to a football game. “I’d cry all day, but when he’d turn on the TV and put on football I’d stop crying,” Barker said. “It was like I knew what was going on. So once I turned four they were like, ‘Well, we have to put you in football.’ I was all for it even though I couldn’t start until I was six.”
From the film room: If Barker were two inches taller, he probably would have been even more heavily recruited. But he makes up for his lack of height by playing with a physical, aggressive, sideline-to-sideline style that makes him a tackle machine. “When people watch my tape I want them to say it looks like I have a magnet attached to my head that’s attracted to the football,” Barker said about his style of play. Keep an eye on Barker in spring practice to see if he can crack the depth chart at linebacker where ECU could use some immediate help.
*ISAIAH BROWN-MURRAY, Cornerback (5-9, 177) Hough HS, Huntersville, NC
In the ratings: (247Sports.com) 3 stars, No. 142 cornerback nationally, No. 39 in North Carolina.
(Rivals.com) 3 stars, unranked nationally, No. 32 in North Carolina.
(ESPN.com) 3 stars, No. 112 cornerback nationally, No. 40 in North Carolina.
Other FBS offers: Akron, Appalachian State, Arkansas, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, Kansas, Kent State, Liberty, Louisville, Marshall, Old Dominion.
Recruiting tale: ECU assistant Tripp Weaver played a big role in landing Brown-Murray, according to Hough coach Matthew Jenkins. Weaver’s long-standing relationship with the Hough program helped identify Brown-Murray as a prospect and led to an invitation to ECU’s summer camp last June. During his time in Greenville, Brown-Murray received a scholarship offer from the Pirates. After camping at Louisville and reeling in several other FBS offers, Brown-Murray decided ECU was the best place for his talents on July 17.
Career notes: A three-year starter in the secondary for one of the state’s top 4-A programs. … Played in 35 career games while helping the Huskies to 30 wins. … Appeared in 12 games as a sophomore, making 35 tackles and returning an interception for a touchdown. … Added 32 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and an interception as a junior in nine games. … Completed his Hough career with 32 tackles and three interceptions as as senior. … All-Area pick by the Charlotte Observer as a junior. … Also finished with 514 career all-purpose yards, including 385 yards on kickoff returns and 108 on interception returns.
Fun fact: Since 2018, Hough’s football program has produced 12 defensive backs who earned scholarships to FBS programs. That doesn’t include the 2021 squad which, along with Brown-Murray, featured Brown-Murray at corner, Appalachian State commit Ethan Johnson at corner, Old Dominion pledge Brodrick Gooch at safety and Navy commit Gavin Gooch at corner.
From the film room: Brown-Murray just seems to know where the football is going on every play. He’s always around the ball, whether it’s dropping into pass coverage or coming up to make a tackle against the run. Fast, physical and smart makes Brown-Murray a strong candidate to contribute on special teams or even in the secondary for ECU next fall. “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,” Hough coach Matthew Jenkins said. “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.”
DAVE CHAPEAU, Punter (6-1, 249) North Oconee HS/U.S. Air Force Academy, Athens, GA
In the ratings: (247Sports.com) Unranked.
Other FBS offers: None.
Recruiting tale: Chapeau was another last-minute addition to the ECU class. After standing on the sidelines at Air Force for two seasons, Chapeau entered himself into the NCAA Transfer Portal last August and received some early interest from the Pirates. He came to campus for a visit and was sold on ECU. Chapeau committed on Nov. 15.
Career notes: Enjoyed a stellar high school career at Lake Oconee, earning first-team All-8 AAAA Region and all-state honorable mention as a senior. … Averaged 43 yards per punt in nine games. … Sent 15 of his 28 attempts inside the 20-yard line and landed five others inside the 5. … Had a career-best punt of 57 yards. … Was second-team all region as a sophomore, but missed much of junior season with an injury. … Will have three years of eligibility left at ECU.
Fun fact: Chapeau’s mother was a track and field athlete at Georgia.
From the film room: A lefty punter who booms high, driving kicks that are often difficult to catch. But what really sticks out about Chapeau is his uncanny accuracy and ability to place the ball consistently inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
*SAMUEL DANKAH, Safety (6-4, 213) South County HS/Fork Union Military Academy, Lorton, VA
In the ratings: (247Sports.com) 3 stars, No. 1 prep school linebacker nationally, No. 1 prep school prospect in Virginia.
(Rivals.com) 3 stars, unranked.
(ESPN.com) 3 stars, unranked.
Other FBS offers: Buffalo, Massachusetts, Old Dominion.
Recruiting tale: One of the final pieces to the ECU recruiting class, Dankah was first noticed by the Pirates while they were recruiting his prep teammate at South County High, wide receiver Brock Spalding. Dankah opted to spend a season at Fork Union instead of signing out of high school, and the improvement he displayed there led to an ECU scholarship offer in early October. He took an official visit to Greenville on Oct. 27, then took some time to mull his offers. Dankah finally pulled the trigger on Nov. 20, announcing his decision to become a Pirate.
Career notes: Dankah spent three seasons as a starter at South County High. … Made 52 tackles, three tackles for loss and two interceptions in eight games as a senior. … Was a first-team All-Occoquan Region and Class 6 all-state choice during his junior season. … Played linebacker and defensive end for the post-graduate squad at Fork Union, helping the team to an 8-0 record.
Fun fact: Dankah was recruited as a preferred walk-on at Virginia Tech out of high school, but opted instead to spend a semester at Fork Union in hopes of earning a full scholarship to an FBS program.
From the film room: The physical length and smooth way he moves around the football field are just two of the impressive things about Dankah. He exhibits solid coverage skills when lined up in the secondary, then looks like he’s been shot out of a cannon when positioned on the edge to rush the quarterback. Because he’s always around the football, Dankah tends to make a lot of big plays, forcing fumbles, making interceptions and even blocking kicks on special teams. He’s the “sleeper” in this ECU class, in my opinion.
JA’MAURION FRANKLIN, Defensive End (6-5, 213) Lake City High School, Lake City, SC
In the ratings: (247Sports.com) 3 stars, No. 94 edge nationally, No. 39 in South Carolina.
(Rivals.com) 3 stars, unranked.
(ESPN.com) 3 stars, unranked.
Other FBS offers: Charlotte.
Recruiting tale: Franklin was a virtual unknown in recruiting circles until attending the Mike Norvell Showcase camp at Florida State last June. His performance was impressive enough to earn scholarship offers from Charlotte and Howard as well as an invite to visit East Carolina. Franklin took the Pirates up on their offer and came to campus for a private workout on June 14 after which he received an offer from ECU. Eleven days later Franklin announced via a Twitter post he had accepted the offer.
Career notes: Franklin began his varsity career at Lake City as a 6-foot-2, 190-pound starter at free safety as a sophomore. … Between sophomore and junior seasons he grew to 6-5, 230 pounds and was moved to the defensive line. … Earned All-Region AAA 6 honors as a junior. … Has been timed at 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash. … Carries a 3.6 grade point average. … Contributed 59 tackles, three sacks, five tackles for loss and an interception as a senior. … Was named to both the South Carolina North-South All-Star squad and the South Carolina team for the annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas game, which has been cancelled for 2021 due to COVID-19 concerns.
Fun fact: As a freshman on the Lake City junior varsity, Franklin played quarterback and defensive back.
From the film room: The thing that stands out as you watch Franklin on video is how well he runs for a player his size. Time after time you see him make tackles on plays that are run away from his side of the field. He also has the unique ability to play with his hand on the ground or standing up. When doing the latter, Franklin is an intimidating force rushing off the edge, where he’s a threat to make a sack or affect passing lanes because of his long reach. Because he’s only played defensive line for two seasons, Franklin may need some fine tuning before he’s ready to play a significant role for the Pirates. But he has the potential to become a disruptive force on the ECU defense before he’s done.
MARLON GUNN JR., Running back (5-10, 201) Scotlandville Magnet School, Baton Rouge, LA
In the ratings: (247Sports.com) 3 stars, No. 96 running back nationally, No. 48 in Louisiana.
(Rivals.com) 3 stars, No. 26 running back nationally, No. 18 in Louisiana.
(ESPN.com) 3 stars, No. 80 running back nationally, No. 40 in Louisiana.
Other FBS offers: California, Florida State, Louisiana, Louisiana Tech, Purdue, SMU, South Alabama, TCU, Toledo, Tulane, Virginia.
Recruiting tale: Gunn was being pursued heavily by a lengthy list of schools from major leagues such as the Atlantic Coast, Big Ten and Big 12 after impressive sophomore and junior campaigns at Scotlandville Magnet. But after venturing East to witness East Carolina take on South Carolina at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Sept. 11, Gunn returned to Louisiana ready to become a Pirate. He made that official with his verbal commitment on Sept. 23. “If you look at his options — Florida State, Virginia, Texas Christian — you think of these big schools,” Scotlandville Magnet coach Lester Ricard Jr. said. “But Marlon never looked at it that way. It was about where he was comfortable and where he was happy. Obviously, (ECU running back) coach (Chris) Foster and those guys just loved him to death. East Carolina out hustled everybody else and that’s the bottom line.”
Career notes: Gunn made his varsity debut at Scotlandville Magnet by rushing for 104 yards and a touchdown on just four carries in the season opener to start his sophomore year. … He finished the year with 1,084 yards and 13 touchdowns rushing on 88 attempts. … Had 867 yards and nine TDs rushing as a junior in just seven games during COVID-19 shortened campaign in 2020. … As a senior, had more than 800 yards rushing while splitting time with another recruited back, Chance Williams. … Also scored 10 times. … First-team All-Metro pick by The Advocate newspaper as a junior. … Competed in track and field at Scotlandville, producing a personal best of 11.2 seconds in the 100-meter dash. … Has been timed at 4.51 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Fun fact: Gunn’s head coach at Scotlandville Magnet is Lester Ricard Jr., a former quarterback at Tulane who faced off against ECU in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in 2004. ECU had to survive a Hail Mary pass by Ricard in the closing seconds to seal the win, which was the first at home for then-Pirate head coach John Thompson.
From the film room: Quick, explosive, powerful and agile are all terms that apply to Gunn’s abilities in the backfield. He’s the kind of runner who can bull his way up the middle for tough yards on short-yardage plays, or explode around the edge for a big gain. Gunn also has great hands, which make him an asset in the passing game, too. He simply does a little bit of everything, and does them all well.
*JORDAN HUFF, Safety (6-2, 185) Madison County HS/Hutchinson Community College, Madison, GA
In the ratings: (247Sports.com) 3 stars, No. 8 junior college safety nationally, No. 19 in Georgia.
(Rivals.com) 3 stars, No. 34 safety nationally in 2019, No. 59 in Georgia.
(ESPN.com) 3 stars, No. 110 safety nationally in 2019, No. 152 in Georgia.
Other FBS offers: Georgia Southern, South Alabama, Texas State.
Recruiting tale: ECU safeties coach Tripp Weaver played a major role in landing Huff. Weaver was the first recruiter to find his way out to Hutchinson Community College to check out Huff, and immediately liked what he saw. The result was a scholarship offer from ECU on Oct. 14. Although he favored the Pirates, Huff still wanted to visit the campus before announcing a decision, so he was among the final official visitors in Greenville before the start of the signing period. Three days after that visit on Dec. 10, Huff became a Pirate.
Career notes: Helped Hutchinson Community College win both the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference title and Salt Bowl en route to a 9-2 finish this season. … In 10 games for the Blue Dragons, Huff made 19 tackles, 3 pass breakups and two interceptions. … Transferred to Hutchinson after spending two years at Georgia Tech. … Appeared in eight games with the Yellow Jackets, logging one tackle. … An all-around star at Morgan County High School, Huff collected 2,299 career all-purpose yards on offense. … Had two interceptions as a junior and returned both for touchdowns. … Will have three years of eligibility remaining at ECU.
Fun fact: While at Georgia Tech, Huff was named to the Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Honor Roll.
From the film room: Huff is an aggressive, physical and versatile defensive back who has been recruited to play safety by the Pirates. He likes to get up close and personal with receivers in pass coverage, and has the speed to stay in their face on underneath routes or long pass plays. Huff’s experience at the FBS and JUCO level should make him a contender for immediate playing time at ECU, despite the fact the Pirates have a veteran secondary returning.
J.D. LAMPLEY, Defensive line (6-2, 293) Richmond Senior High School, Rockingham, N.C.
In the ratings: (247Sports.com) 3 stars, No. 218 defensive lineman nationally, No. 45 in North Carolina.
(Rivals.com) 3 stars, unranked.
(ESPN.com) 3 stars, No. 92 defensive tackle nationally, No. 35 in North Carolina.
Other FBS offers: Air Force, Army, Coastal Carolina, Duke, Georgia Southern, Liberty, Navy, South Carolina.
Recruiting tale: The Pirates were the first to offer Lampley a scholarship while he was still just a sophomore back in May 2020. The early commitment by ECU stuck with Lampley throughout the recruiting process and resulted in his pledge to the Pirates on June 27. “I’m not surprised he committed to East Carolina because he really liked them and it was clear from the get-go they weren’t offering him because somebody else did,” Richmond coach Bryan Till said. “They offered him because they believed in him, and that meant something to him.”
Stats/honors: A three-year regular on the Richmond varsity squad. … Mad 25 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack as a sophomore on a 13-1 squad that reached the state 4AA semifinals. … Made 15 tackles and six tackles for loss in COVID-19 shortened junior campaign to earn first-team All-Sandhills Athletic 4-A Conference honors. … Had 57 tackles, 22 tackles for loss and eight sacks to repeat all-league honors as a senior. … Had 7 tackles and 4 tackles for loss in an early-season win against South View. … Also a pitcher-first baseman as a sophomore on Richmond’s baseball team. … Named to the North Carolina squad for the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas and Carolina Bowl Senior Showcase all-star events as a senior.
Fast fact: Both Lampley’s father, Danny, and mother, Angela, are members of the Wingate University Athletic Hall of Fame. Danny posted a 25-18 career mark as a pitcher in baseball and set the NCAA Division II career record with 473 strikeouts, while Angela was 60-40 as a hurler for the softball squad.
From the film room: Here is one of the jewels of ECU’s early signing class. Lampley is an extremely physical and fast athlete who made a lot of tackles playing on the edge in high school. He’ll probably shift to an interior position with the Pirates where I project he’ll make an immediate impact because of his physical abilities and work ethic. Lampley has an extremely high motor and is the kind of athlete who not only loves competition, but embraces the preparation as well.
ETHAN LANG, Offensive line (6-2, 310) IMG Academy, Pine Brook, NJ
In the ratings: (247Sports.com) 3 stars, No. 89 interior offensive lineman nationally, No. 202 in Florida.
(Rivals.com) 2 stars, unranked.
(ESPN.com) 3 stars, No. 15 center nationally, No. 203 in Florida.
Other FBS offers: Arkansas State, Buffalo, Florida International, Georgia State, Liberty, Marshall, Massachusetts, Middle Tennessee State, UAB, Western Kentucky.
Recruiting tale: Having a well-respected offensive line coach like Steve Shankweiler can often pay dividends in recruiting. Shankweiler’s 40-plus years of college coaching experience made a strong impression on Lang during an unofficial visit to Greenville on June 16. Lang headed to Marshall two days later to take a look at the Thundering Herd, but the conversation with Shankweiler proved a major factor in Lang making his pledge to ECU on June 27.
Career notes: Began his prep career at Bergen Catholic High School in Oradell, NJ. … Played guard and tackle for two seasons at Bergen Catholic before transferring to IMG Academy for his junior year. … Played center and guard as a junior for an IMG squad that went 8-0 and was crowned national high school champion. … Didn’t allow a single sack during the season. … Returned to start at center as a senior for a 9-1 team that finished ranked No. 16 nationally.
Fun fact: Lang played on an offensive line at IMG that also featured Alabama commit Tyler Booker at one tackle and four-star Francis Mauigoa at the other tackle.
From the film room: Here’s the immovable object in the middle of the offensive line. Lang’s balance and center of gravity makes it difficult for defenders to move him in any direction. He comes up quick out of his stance, and when he locks onto a defender he doesn’t let go. Lang is also a player whose energy on the field seems to be infectious. The Pirates list him as a guard, but he has the versatility to play center as well.
C.J. MIMS, Defensive line (6-0, 302) West Craven High School, Vanceboro, NC
In the ratings: (247Sports.com) 3 stars, No. 220 defensive lineman nationally, No. 47 in North Carolina.
(Rivals.com) 3 stars, unranked nationally, No. 29 in North Carolina.
(ESPN.com) 3 stars, No. 93 defensive tackle nationally, No. 36 in North Carolina.
Other FBS offers: Army, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, Duke, Georgia State, Liberty, Navy.
Recruiting tale: Growing up just 26 miles from ECU’s campus in Vanceboro was certainly an advantage for the Pirates in their pursuit of Mims. “Everybody in this community and his family can come and watch him without a tremendous burden,” West Craven coach Michael Twichell said. “It’s only 25 minutes down the road and he gets to play at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, a place he watched games growing up as a kid. That’s a special opportunity.” Mims received a scholarship offer from the Pirates while attending camp in June following his junior campaign. He made an official visit to campus last June 25 and two days later announced his verbal commitment to ECU.
Career notes: A four-year varsity regular at West Craven. … Appeared in 13 games as a freshman in 2018, making 29 tackles and two tackles for loss. … Followed up with 83 tackles, 23 tackles for loss and five sacks in 13 games as a sophomore. … Delivered 37 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and two sacks in five games during COVID-19 shortened junior season. … Was named to the All-Eastern Plains 2-A Conference team as sophomore and junior. … First-team New Bern Sun Journal All-Area selection as a sophomore. … Selected to the North Carolina squad for the annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas all-star game as a senior.
Fun fact: Mims’ older brothers Claron and Shaundre were both all-county and all-league players as seniors at West Craven in 2016-17. Shaundre was a first-team All-Big South Conference pick at Charleston Southern this season, but has entered the NCAA transfer portal and will play for the Pirates next fall.
From the film room: The first thing that you notice about Mims is that he’s built like a tank. “He’s all shoulders and thighs,” is how his prep coach Michael Twichell described Mims. That’s the perfect build for a potential tackle to clog up the A or B gap. But it doesn’t take long to see Mims has a lot more to offer. He’s an explosive athlete who comes off the ball with a purpose. Twichell says he’s a student of the game who spends hours breaking down film, which explains why his technique is superior to the normal prep defender. But the most impressive thing about Mims is that he always seems to be around the football, whether it’s in the backfield, at the line or down field.
*SHAUNDRE MIMS, Defensive line (6-0, 276) West Craven HS/Charleston Southern, Vanceboro, NC
In the ratings: (247Sports.com) Unranked.
Other FBS offers: Bowling Green, Tulane, Western Kentucky, Western Michigan.
Recruiting tale: Mims opted to enter the NCAA Transfer Portal in November after a stellar career at Charleston Southern. He received overtures from several FBS programs, but the desire to return close to home – Vanceboro is only 26 miles from Greenville – and the opportunity to play with younger brother C.J. Mims at ECU led Shaundre to join the Pirates.
Career notes: One of the top defenders in the Football Championship Subdivision, Mims was a three-time All-Big South Conference first-team pick and is a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award given annually to the FCS’s top defender. … Appeared in 36 games for the Bucs, making 126 tackles. … Ranks second on the school’s career list in sacks (20.5) and is fourth in tackles for loss (36). … Had 58 tackles, 16. 5 tackles for loss and eight sacks as a senior in 2021. … Was a two-time all-area and all-league pick at West Craven High School.
Interesting fact: Mims survived a collision with an 18-wheeler truck while returning home from work prior to his junior year in high school. The accident totaled his own truck, but Mims escaped with just minor injuries.
From the film room: A physical powerhouse who is built low to the ground, Mims used that leverage and power to blow past blockers at Charleston Southern. His experience – this will be his sixth season at the college level – and desire to prove he belongs at the FBS level will likely serve ECU well, especially when paired with a large group of returning veterans.
*PARKER MOORER, Offensive line (6-4, 313) Mallard Creek HS/West Virginia, Charlotte, NC
In the ratings: (247Sports.com) 3 stars, No. 46 offensive tackle nationally in 2019, No. 31 in North Carolina.
(Rivals.com) 3 stars, No. 72 offensive tackle nationally in 2019, No. 24 in North Carolina.
(ESPN.com) 3 stars, No. 88 offensive tackle nationally in 2019, No. 41 in North Carolina.
Other FBS offers: None reported
Recruiting tale: Moorer entered the NCAA Transfer Portal on Nov. 30 just days after West Virginia completed its regular season against Kansas. East Carolina immediately emerged as a potential destination for Moorer who has three years of eligibility remaining. He announced his decision to play for the Pirates on Dec. 9.
Career notes: Hails from one of North Carolina’s top prep programs at Mallard Creek. … Was an All-I-Meck 4-A Conference pick as a senior after helping the Mavericks average 43.2 points and produce a 10-1 record. … Was named to the North Carolina squad for the annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas in 2018. … Played for the 2015 Mallard Creek squad that won the state 4-AA championship. … Signed with West Virginia over offers from Indiana, Louisville, Maryland, Rutgers, Syracuse and Virginia. … Appeared in 20 career games at West Virginia. … Played in 10 games and made five starts in 2021. … Also played in 10 games as a redshirt freshman in 2020. … Was named to the Big 12 Conference All-Rookie squad.
Fun fact: Moorer and current ECU tight end Ryan Jones were prep teammates at Mallard Creek.
From the film room: Here’s another quality player with FBS experience who should make an immediate contribution to ECU’s blocking corps. Moorer has great size and excellent strength developed through three years in West Virginia’s weight program. He’s a legit NFL prospect who’ll potentially have three years to develop his skills with the Pirates.
*JACOB SACRA, Offensive line (6-5, 315) St. Frances Academy, Madison, VA
In the ratings: (247Sports.com) 3 stars, No. 158 offensive tackle nationally, No. 30 in Maryland.
(Rivals.com) 3 stars, No. 29 offensive guard nationally, No. 9 in Maryland.
(ESPN.com) 3 stars, No. 106 offensive tackle nationally, No. 28 in Maryland.
Other FBS offers: Boston College, Liberty, Maryland, Old Dominion, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Virginia.
Recruiting tale: The Pirates jumped out with an offer to Sacra on February 17 and he loomed as their top offensive line target through much of the recruiting process. He made an official visit to ECU on June 18 and was scheduled to take an unofficial trip to Virginia in early July, but canceled that visit before announcing his pledge to ECU on July 6.
Career notes: Began his prep career at Madison County High in Virginia where he was named to the all-district football team as a freshman and sophomore. … Capped athletic career at Madison County by winning the state Class 2 heavyweight wrestling title as a sophomore. … Transferred to national power St. Frances Academy for his final two prep football seasons. … Starred on an offensive line that helped produce a 39.4 scoring average as a senior. … St. Frances ranked fifth in USA Today’s final rankings of the nation’s top prep football teams in 2021.
Fun fact: Sacra’s father, Michael, produced more than 400 career team wins as head wrestling coach at Madison County High before announcing his retirement in 2020. Jacob won the state Class 2 heavyweight title as a sophomore in his father’s final meet before retiring.
From the film room: Sacra displayed his versatility at St. Frances by making the transition from tackle to center as a senior. St. Frances coach Messay Hailemariam compares Sacra favorably to former player Darrien Dalcourt, who has started at center most of this season for Alabama. Like Dalcourt, Sacra is a true mauler when it comes to run blocking. “He wants to destroy you on every play,” Hailemariam said.
NEMO SQUIRE, Running back (5-6, 189) Dillon HS, Darlington, SC
In the ratings: (247Sports.com) 3 stars, No. 149 running back nationally, No. 37 in South Carolina.
(Rivals.com) 2 stars, unranked.
(ESPN.com) 3 stars, No. 92 running back nationally, No. 25 in South Carolina.
Other FBS offers: Air Force, Army, Eastern Michigan, Georgia State, Western Kentucky.
Recruiting tale: ECU running backs coach Chris Foster and defensive line coach Roy Tesh spearheaded an aggressive recruiting effort to land Squire, who impressed the entire coaching staff during an unofficial visit to campus in June. The result was a scholarship offer from the Pirates on August 1. Although Squire was already familiar with the ECU program, he received some special input from Dillon offensive line coach Norman Quick, who also happens to be an ex-Pirate offensive lineman. Behind the efforts of Foster and Tesh, and reinforced by Quick’s thoughts, Squire committed to ECU on August 26.
Career notes: A four-year varsity starter for one of South Carolina’s premier prep programs. … Amassed almost 4,500 career rushing yards, including 1,100 yards as a senior. … Made his varsity debut in 2018 by carrying the ball 151 times for 1,053 yards and 14 TDs as a freshman. … Added 851 yards on 161 carries and scored 15 times as a sophomore. … Had most productive season as a junior when he gained 1,550 yards and scored 21 TDs. … Rushed 13 times for 220 yards and two TDs in state playoff win against Hanahan that season. … Selected for the South Carolina squad for the annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas game as a senior. … Also participated in the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Bowl all-star game played on Dec. 11 in Myrtle Beach. … Three-time all-region selection.
Fun fact: Squire was a bit of a football prodigy. He was so gifted as a running back he actually played for the high school’s junior varsity team as an eighth grader while still attending the city’s middle school. Squire racked up over 1,600 yards rushing that season.
From the film room: Remember Junior Smith? The diminutive Smith, who played for the Pirates from 1991-94, remains the school’s all-time rushing leader with 3,745 yards and is now in the ECU Athletic Hall of Fame. Well, Squire may be the second coming of Smith. Listed at 5-foot-6, Squire is a powerful and fast ball of energy who is not only a big-play threat running the ball, but is also a quality receiver out of the backfield. He’s extremely durable despite his height, and off the field is a quality citizen who was awarded the Bridge Builder Excellence Award for his work off the field by the S.C. Football Hall of Fame.
SHAVON REVEL JR., Cornerback (6-2, 170) Ronald Wilson Reagan HS/Louisburg College, Winston-Salem, NC
In the ratings: (247Sports.com) 2 stars, No. 5 junior college cornerback nationally, No. 134 in Florida.
(Rivals.com) 3 stars, unranked.
Other FBS offers: East Carolina was his only FBS offer.
Recruiting tale: Revel impressed the ECU coaching staff with his performance at a summer camp last June when he ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash and produced an 11-foot broad jump. That led to a scholarship offer, which Revel quickly accepted on June 18 to become the first member of ECU’s recruiting Class of 2022.
Career notes: Only appeared in two games at Louisburg College as a redshirt freshman in 2021. … Made one tackle and an interception. … Sat out the 2020 season at Louisburg due to COVID-19 pandemic. … Was a two-way standout at Ronald Wilson Reagan High as a senior in 2019. … Made 33 catches for 439 yards and five touchdowns as a receiver on offense and had 38 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, a sack and four interceptions on defense. … Caught 26-yard TD pass with 32 seconds left to give Reagan a 21-17 win against East Forsyth, which was the Raiders first in school history against East. … Played at R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem as a junior. … Had 11 tackles in five games on defense there as a sophomore. … Also lettered in track and field. … Timed at 6.90 seconds in the 55-meter dash and produced a long jump of 20 feet, 9.5 inches. … Has been timed at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Fast fact: Revel has two brothers who are also playing college football. Older brother Shaheim is a running back who played the 2021 season at NCAA Division II Virginia-Wise. Shaheim has since been accepted at ECU and will try to make the Pirates’ roster as a sophomore walk-on. Younger brother Shamar, a defensive back, was a freshman this season at Louisburg College.
From the film room: First and foremost, Revel is wicked fast. That ability is most evident as you watch him stick to receivers trying to get deep, or when he closes rapidly on ball carriers. But speed isn’t Revel’s asset. He has a tall, rangy frame that will allow him to handle bigger receivers or tight ends in pass coverage. And he plays with an aggressive style that will also make him a candidate to contribute at safety, if needed. Revel may turn out to be the steal of this recruiting class for ECU.
BROCK SPALDING, Wide Receiver (5-9, 180) South County High School, Lorton, VA
In the ratings: (247Sports.com) 3 stars, No. 81 wide receiver nationally, No. 55 in Virginia.
(Rivals.com) 2 stars, unranked.
(ESPN.com) 3 stars, No. 178 wide receiver nationally, No. 34 in Virginia.
Other FBS offers: Army, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, Connecticut, Duke, Liberty, Marshall, Maryland, Massachusetts, Old Dominion, Toledo, Tulane.
Recruiting tale: ECU outside receivers coach Drew Dudzik, who is a product of the Northern Virginia area himself, had a well established relationship at South County High via former head coach Gerry Pannoni. That helped Dudzik cultivate a relationship early in the recruiting process with Spalding, who received a scholarship offer from the Pirates on May 14, 2021. “You combine that (Dudzik relationship) with what (head) Coach (Mike) Houston has done wherever he’s gone and the job he’s doing now at ECU, and it was a pretty easy decision for Brock,” South County coach Tynan Rolander. Spalding accepted the offer on June 21, becoming one of nine prospects who gave a verbal commitment to ECU between June 18 and June 27.
Career notes: Earned All-District 4 honors as a senior when he caught 45 passes for 1,052 yards and 17 touchdowns. … Had over 100 yards receiving in five of 12 games. … Best game came against Westfield when he caught four passes for 146 yards and two TDs. … Highlighted by an 88-yard TD reception. … Selected to the All-MET first team by the Washington Post. … Made 45 catches for 788 yards and 10 scores as a junior in eight games. … Had 8 catches for 172 yards and two TDs in the opener against Hayfield. … Helped team win state 6A title as a sophomore when he caught 85 passes for 1,405 yards and 22 touchdowns to earn first-team all-state honors. … Played on varsity as a freshman in 2018. … Also played lacrosse as a sophomore.
Fun fact: Brock’s older brother, Dillon Spalding, was an all-state receiver at South County in the recruiting Class of 2018 who made 196 career catches for 3,470 yards and 53 touchdowns. He was heavily recruited by the Pirates and others before deciding to sign with West Virginia. Dillon spent a redshirt season with the Mountaineers before deciding to transfer to James Madison in 2019. After one year at JMU, he departed and joined Virginia Tech as a walk-on player in 2020. Dillon Spalding isn’t currently listed on Virginia Tech’s roster for 2021.
From the film room: Spectacular is the best way to describe Spalding when you watch his highlight videos. He is a big-time playmaker, who can turn a short pass into a long gain or beat you deep. But where Spalding is most impressive is when he’s working in traffic, especially in the end zone. He’s athletic enough to outjump defenders for the ball, and he’s strong enough to rip it away from them. Either way, it almost always seems like he comes down with the football, hence his 47 TD receptions over the last three seasons. Spalding isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty blocking downfield either, which is another impressive aspect of his game.
ELISHA SAMPLES, Offensive line (6-3, 283) North Forsyth High School, Cumming, GA
In the ratings: (247Sports.com) 3 stars, No. 208 offensive tackle nationally, No. 158 in Georgia.
(Rivals.com) 2 stars, unranked.
(ESPN.com) 3 stars, No. 150 offensive tackle nationally, No. 133 in Georgia.
Other FBS offers: Georgia Southern, Troy, UAB.
Recruiting tale: ECU’s courtship of Samples lasted all of 19 days. Pirates’ running back coach Chris Foster took note of Samples on June 3rd during the Total Exposure Camp at Mercer University. The initial meeting led Samples to make an unofficial visit to Greenville on June 21 during which ECU extended a scholarship offer. Samples, despite receiving eight offers from other schools around the same time, opted to make his decision early and made a verbal commitment to ECU on June 22nd.
Career notes: Three-year member of varsity squad at North Forsyth. … Spent his sophomore season as a backup tight end, but didn’t log a reception. … Became starter on offensive line as a junior for a 6-4 club. … Named to the All-Forsyth County News team as a junior and senior. … Selected to the 2021 preseason all-state 7A team. … Also named to the watch list for the 2021 Blue-Grey All-American game. … Began his high school career at Horizon Christian Academy as a freshman.
From the film room: There’s a lot to like about Samples. Physically, he has body length, long arms and the speed to get out front to throw blocks on screen plays. He displays exceptional footwork, which enables him to be equally effective on run or pass plays, and is ahead of most high school blockers technique-wise. Sure, Samples needs to pack on a few pounds before he’s ready for AAC action, but that shouldn’t take long once he’s immersed in ECU’s strength and conditioning program. I don’t say this too often about offensive linemen, but Samples has the potential to make a contribution very quickly with the Pirates.