With a big boost from the transfer portal, East Carolina solidified its interior offensive line positions with the recruiting Class of 2022 for the immediate future.
But with an eye beyond that, the Pirates had already issued more than 20 scholarship offers to center and guard prep prospects in the recruiting class of 2023 by early May. In an endorsement of the quality of trench fighters from the Peach State in the ’23 class, 10 of the 21 offers extended to date hail from 10 different Georgia high schools.
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 21 interior offensive linemen ECU has reportedly offered to date, and how the Pirates may stand with them in the early going.
TROVON BAUGH (6-4, 305) Pace Academy, Atlanta, GA: Baugh picked up All-Region 6-A honors as a junior playing right guard for a 6-5 club, although he’s also capable of playing center. He’s racked up close to 40 FBS scholarship offers with one coming from the Pirates on Feb. 21. It’s been another North Carolina school that has caught Baugh’s attention as he’s lined up an official visit to UNC on June 17. Baylor, Georgia, N.C. State and South Carolina appear to be Baugh’s other favorites, with the Bears mentioned as being a possibility for one of his other official visits.
BRENDAN BLACK (6-4, 300) The Bolles School, Jacksonville, FL: An offensive tackle for the prestigious Bolles School program, Black began his prep career at Yulee (FL) High before departing in 2020. He’s a powerful prospect who was a district weightlifting champion as a junior. ECU became one of his offering schools on April 1, joining a collection of FBS and FCS programs. Miami, where Black took an unofficial visit on April 11 and Mississippi State (April 5 unofficial) are the frontrunners at this time.
JOHNATHAN CLINE (6-4, 295) Cartersville HS, Cartersville, GA: Strong, aggressive and intense are the best ways to describe Cline, who has played mostly offensive tackle in high school. ECU got in line by offering Cline in early January and is now one of 30 schools that have offered the All-Bartow County pick. But at this stage of the game, Florida and Tennessee appear to be leaders for Cline’s commitment. The Pirates have also offered Cline’s rising junior teammate, tackle Malachi Toliver, a 6-6, 300-pounder expected to be ranked among the top blockers in the recruiting Class of 2024.
ELIAS CLOY (6-4, 280) Alpharetta HS, Alpharetta, GA: Cloy played his freshman and sophomore seasons at St. Francis High, earning Region 6A honorable mention honors as a freshman and making the second team as a sophomore. Moving to Alpharetta High last season, he made the All-Region first team as selected by Recruit Georgia. ECU came in late with an offer on May 4 in Cloy’s recruitment. Georgia Tech, Liberty and Marshall are the other high-profile programs, besides ECU, that have offered. Cloy has already made two trips to visit Marshall, including one in early April.
JAKE CROCKER (6-6, 295) Princeton HS, Princeton, NC: Crocker is a big talent who hasn’t received the scholarship offers you’d expect. East Carolina and FCS Campbell are his only offers to date, although many others, including Duke, have been showing serious interest. Crocker picked up his offer from the Pirates during a Junior Day event on Jan. 29, then was back in late March for a follow up. He’s scheduled to attend ECU summer camp in June. Expect more offers to eventually come in for Crocker, who was an All-Area pick for the 1-A/2-A ranks by the Eastern N.C. Coaches Association. As a junior, he helped pave the way for two 1,000-yard rushers as Princeton went 13-1 and reached the state 2-A Eastern finals.
PHILIP EICHELZEN IV (6-3, 270) Walton HS, Marietta, GA: Playing center for his prep squad, Eichelzen helped Walton finish 9-4 and advance to the state 6A semifinals last season. He teamed with South Carolina tackle signee Cason Henry to make up one of the state’s best offensive fronts. A brilliant student, Eichelzen has been heavily pursued by a number of Ivy League programs, including Princeton. Air Force, Arkansas State, Army, Lafayette, Stetson and Tulane are also in the mix along with ECU, which just offered earlier this month on May 4. So, this is still a developing recruitment for the Pirates.
NATHAN EFOBI (6-4, 282) South Forsyth HS, Cumming, GA: Efobi was a soccer player until the seventh grade when he gave football a try. He quickly developed into a two-way standout for South Forsyth playing tackle on defense and offense. While making 20 pancake blocks as a junior, he earned All-Metro honors from the Atlanta Journal Constitution for Cherokee/Forsyth counties and was first-team All-Region 6-7A. On defense, he contributed 34 tackles, seven tackles for loss and three sacks. East Carolina is one of 16 offers Efobi is holding at present. It’s been Miami, Penn State and Tennessee, however, that have received unofficial visits from Efobi over the last two months.
JOEP ENGBERS (6-3, 300) IMG Academy, Bradenton, FL: A former teammate of ECU’s Class of 2022 signee Ethan Lang, Engbers was a first-team all-region pick at guard as a junior. He’s originally from Bosqueville, TX, where he was an all-district 7-AA pick as a sophomore before moving to IMG. ECU (Dec. 19, 2021) and Kent State are his only two offers at this point. Engbers has announced a rigorous summer camp schedule that includes Wisconsin (6/6), Texas A&M (6/8), Texas (6/11), Northwestern (6/14), Notre Dame (6/21), Michigan (6/23) and Illinois (6/25).
AARON FEINMORE (6-1, 275) East Coweta HS, Sharpsburg, GA: Feinmore is a center prospect who has earned all-region 2-6A honors three times and was a first-team all-state pick as a junior. East Carolina got involved with Feinmore on Jan. 27 with an offer and he reportedly made an unofficial stop on campus March 19. But his most recent visits in April were to Army and Troy, and he’s scheduled an official visit to Coastal Carolina on June 10.
GABRIEL FORTSON (6-4, 300) North Cobb Christian School, Kennesaw, GA: Another true center on ECU’s radar, Fortson was a first-team all-state pick for Class A Private Schools and the region Offensive Lineman of the Year as a junior. He’s collected a variety of scholarship offers from schools such as Alabama State, Appalachian State, Duke, Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, Mississippi State, Mississippi, Missouri, Troy, Tulane and UCF. Georgia Southern, which received two unofficial visits from Fortson in April, has taken the early lead. But this is still anybody’s game, including ECU, which offered May 5.
LAYTH GHANNAM (6-5, 280) George Washington HS, Charleston, WV: The son of a former Marshall linebacker, Ghannam was named to the Kanawha All-Valley squad by the Charleston Gazette as a junior. His recruitment really picked up in May while making unofficial visits to four schools — ECU, N.C. State, UNC and South Carolina — all of which offered during a whirlwind weekend in early May. Cincinnati and Indiana joined that quartet within days of their offers.
ROBERT GRIGSBY (6-3, 310) North Cobb HS, Kennesaw, GA: “Big Grizz” starred at right tackle as a junior for a 10-2 North Cobb squad, earning all-state honors from the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association and Recruit Georgia. ECU became one of his 30-plus offers on Jan. 18, but didn’t make the cut for his top six released on April 27 that included Mississippi, Mississippi State, N.C. State, North Carolina, UCF and Vanderbilt. He’s set official visits to N.C. State (June 10), Vanderbilt (June 17) and UNC (June 24) to date.
CAL GRUBBS (6-4, 290) Maryville HS, Maryville, TN: A two-time all-region pick and first-team all-state 6A selection as a junior, Grubbs is being recruited to play center by more than 20 programs that have offered scholarships. ECU, with an offer extended on Jan. 14, is among those schools. The Pirates have maintained steady contact with Grubbs with hopes of getting him on campus this summer. Grubbs had a busy March, making unofficial visits to Liberty, Miami Ohio, Cincinnati, Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina and Vanderbilt.
CONNER LEW (6-3, 280) Kennesaw Mountain HS, Acworth, GA: A natural center, Lew was one of the most highly decorated offensive linemen in Georgia as a junior. He earned first-team all state 6-A honors from the Georgia Coaches Association, Recruit Georgia and the Atlanta Journal Constitution for a 10-2 team that reached the second round of the state playoffs. It’s no surprise that Lew has caught the interest of some major college powers such as Auburn, Georgia and Penn State. ECU got in the mix with Lew with a scholarship offer on Nov. 1, 2021. But to date he’s yet to make a trip to Greenville, but did travel to Penn State, Pitt, Miami and Vanderbilt during April.
QUINTON LEWIS (6-4, 290) Northside HS, Warner Robbins, GA: Blessed with a 6-foot-8 wingspan and excellent versatility — he’s capable of playing all three offensive line positions — Lewis picked up All-Region 1-6A honors as a junior. He’s smart, too, carrying a 4.0 GPA and pulling in scholarship offers from the likes of Harvard and Yale. ECU offered Lewis in January, but he has no apparent leaders at this point among his 20-plus offers. Lewis’ only campus visits so far have been to Auburn and Liberty.
RICHARD LUECKE (6-6, 325) Lutheran West HS, Rocky River, OH: This first-team all-conference right guard was a major force for an offense that averaged 262.3 yards rushing last season. Luecke’s efforts were a big factor in running back Eddie Lewis racking up 1,516 yards, which helped Lewis earn a scholarship to NCAA Division II Lake Erie College. Luecke, however, is headed for bigger things. ECU (April 3rd offer), Kent State and Miami of Ohio make up his current offer list, but just in the last month he’s taken unofficial trips to Illinois and Kentucky. Cincinnati has also expressed serious interest in Luecke.
NATHAN MCNEEL (6-5, 260) Godwin HS, Richmond, VA: ECU, which offered McNeel in late January, emerged as a serious contender after he made an unofficial visit to campus in mid-March. McNeel is a raw talent who has only been playing competitive football for two years. But as a junior he still earned third-team All-Region honors and was chosen for the Richmond Times Dispatch’s All-Metro squad. Appalachian State, Georgetown, Kent State, Marshall, Massachusetts, Richmond and Towson are others that have offered McNeel.
SAM PENDLETON (6-4, 305) Reagan HS, Pfafftown, NC: One of the top two offensive line prospects in the Old North State along with South Point’s Sullivan Absher, Pendleton was an All-Central Piedmont 4-A Conference pick as a junior. He reeled in more than 20 offers, including one from ECU last September. Pendleton narrowed his list to a final five of Clemson, Michigan, N.C. State, Penn State and Virginia Tech on February 1st. But a late offer from Notre Dame in mid-March changed the game. He made an April visit to campus and was sold, giving the Fighting Irish his verbal pledge April 25.
BRYCEN SANDERS (6-5, 280) Baylor School, Chattanooga, TN: This consensus four-star prospect can play any of the offensive line positions, but seems best suited for guard at the next level. He comes from a family of offensive linemen. Sanders’ father, Gary, played center at Middle Tennessee State from 1999 to 2001, and is now the tight ends/offensive line coach at the Baylor School. Grandfather, Richard, was a center at Ole Miss in 1970. ECU became one of 27 schools to extend scholarship offers to the younger Sanders in January, but didn’t make his final four of LSU, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee announced on March 29. Sanders will announce his final decision after taking official visits to those schools in June.
BRYCE WEAVER (6-3, 300) D.H. Conley HS, Greenville, NC: The most recent prospect at the high school that also produced ECU stars Holton Ahlers and C.J. Johnson. Weaver, who grew up an ECU fan, has started every varsity game since his sophomore season at Conley. The Pirates are currently his lone FBS offer and he’s been on campus for unofficial visits at least twice this year — for Junior Day on Jan. 29 and spring practice on March 15. I wouldn’t call Weaver a lock for East Carolina, but it’s safe to say he’s a strong lean toward the Pirates.
GERNORRIS WILSON (6-5, 280) Lake Gibson HS, Lakeland, FL: Wilson had no offers heading into his junior season, but things really took off for him in January when multiple schools extended scholarships. ECU got in the picture Feb. 2 with “Sweettreat” as he’s known to teammates. Although Florida hasn’t offered yet, Wilson has reportedly taken at least three unofficial trips to Gainesville and has also visited UCF twice. Mainly a left tackle for an 8-4 club last season, Wilson helped pave the way for 2,377 yards and 29 touchdowns rushing for Utah running back signee Jaylon Glover.