The tight end in college football has evolved over the last decade from being a brute blocker and extension of the offensive line into a multi-purpose weapon in many major college offenses.
East Carolina has utilized the tight end as more than a blocker at times over the past two decades with players such as Davon Drew and Bryce Williams ranking among the Pirates top pass catchers. Drew ranked second in receptions for ECU as a senior in 2008 with 43 catches for 695 yards and three touchdowns, while Williams was second in 2015 after hauling in a school tight-end record 58 balls for 588 yards and four scores. Both went on to enjoy careers in the National Football League.
And as far back as 1991, Luke Fisher was one of ECU’s receiving leaders with 48 catches and a school tight-end record of 686 yards.
Ryan Jones became the first tight end since Williams to finish among the top Pirates in receptions last season, ranking third on the team with 37 catches for 442 yards and five touchdowns.
But while Fisher, Drew and Williams were more traditional tight ends who played mostly attached to the line of scrimmage — Williams did line up at receiver on occasion in 2015 — Jones is more of a hybrid athlete. One play he may be attached to the line, and on the next he’s lined up in the slot or outside.
It appears the Pirates are targeting tight ends of both styles for the recruiting Class of 2023.
Currently, ECU has reportedly extended scholarship offers to five tight ends. Because schools can’t comment on who they’ve extended offers to, these offers are based on published reports or Twitter posts by the players themselves.
Here’s a brief look at the five tight ends ECU has reportedly offered to date, and how the Pirates may stand with them in the early going.
VANCE BOLYARD (6-5, 225) Northern Guilford HS, Greensboro, NC: Bolyard’s 4.75-second speed in the 40-yard dash and his long frame make him a mismatch for defensive backs or linebackers. He used those skills to grab 21 passes for 267 yard and four touchdowns in 10 games as a junior. ECU made its bid for Bolyard with a scholarship offer in late January. But the Pirates didn’t make Bolyard’s list of six finalists he announced on April 6. Those lucky programs included Duke, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, Rutgers and Pittsburgh.
JAYVONTAY CONNER (6-4, 230) East Forsyth HS, Kernersville, NC: Conner has transferred to East Forsyth for his senior year from Opelika, AL, where he caught 24 passes for 405 yards and six touchdowns as a junior. College recruiters, more than 40 of whom have offered him scholarships, have followed Conner to the Old North State. East Carolina got in the game with an offer to Conner on March 1. But the Pirates were absent from his list of six finalists announced in mid-April that includes Florida State, Maryland, Mississippi State, South Carolina, UCF and Virginia Tech.
LAWSON LUCKIE (6-3, 225) Norcross HS, Norcross, GA: The Pirates were already involved with Norcross wide receiver Nakai Poole, so it was only natural they’d also offer Luckie, a four-star prospect whom 247Sports.com rates the nation’s No. 11 tight end. But ECU and 25 other schools were really never in the mix for Luckie, whose father and uncles all played at Georgia where they were teammates with current Bulldog head coach Kirby Smart. The youngest Luckie committed to Georgia right after the national championship game in January. As a junior, Lawson Luckie hauled in 33 receptions for 358 yards and three touchdowns.
ANTHONY MILLER JR. (6-5, 240) Duluth HS, Duluth, GA: Miller is on the larger end of tight end prospects being pursued by ECU, but he’s just as athletic as the others. As a two-year starter at Duluth, Miller has collected 43 receptions for 703 yards and six touchdowns. He’s received scholarship offers from Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Army, Coastal Carolina, Duke, Eastern Michigan, Florida State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Liberty, Louisville, Maryland, Memphis, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, UAB, UCF and USF. The Pirates also offered on January 21 and got Miller on campus for an unofficial visit March 19. Miller has also taken trips to Florida State, Coastal Carolina and Georgia State.
JAVONTE VEREEN (6-4, 205) Havelock HS, Havelock, NC: East Carolina has enjoyed great success recruiting talent from state power Havelock, snaring guys such as Guy Whimper, Nishad Strother and Avery Jones to name a few. But the Pirates struck out with Vereen, a multi-talented, big-play tight end who made 31 catches for 985 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior. The performance earned Vereen offers from the likes of Boston College, Buffalo, Charlotte, Duke, Eastern Michigan, Georgia, Georgia Southern, Louisville, Maryland, Miami, N.C. State, N.C. Central, USF and the Pirates. But N.C. State won the battle for Vereen on April 1.