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College Football in the Carolinas

View from the East
Thursday, February 7, 2002

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Logan Primed and Ready for Favorite Time of Year


As he put the wraps on what appears to be a solid recruiting class, East Carolina coach Steve Logan was looking forward to the start of spring practice next Tuesday. Just a few points on the Pirates signees before we examine the coach’s favorite time of the year.

Logan expects safety Richard Moton and punter/kicker Ryan Dougherty to be the most likely possibilities to contribute immediately. Moton, a junior college transfer, is from Logan’s home area of Tulsa, OK, and the ECU coach played that card to win the free safety over an assortment of Midwestern suitors. Obviously, pass defense is an area that the Pirates must address and Moton will be given an opportunity to contribute right away.

Logan would also like to get the strong-legged Dougherty on the field some next season to begin acclimating him for the 2003 season when kicker Kevin Miller and punter Jarard Preston will have completed their eligibility.

Others who might possibly contribute immediately, depending on the degree of presence with which they arrive on campus and the rate at which they adjust to the speed of the college game are defensive lineman Dontre Brown, speedy defensive back Reicko Jones and tight end Mar’ques Woolford. All three play positions where the Pirates could use help.

Logan expects to redshirt the rest of the incoming players. He likes defensive tackles Eric Terry and Shauntae Hunt but is not banking on either being academically qualified. Linebacker Lorenza Pickett is a talent at a position where the Pirates appear well-stocked.

Quarterback James Pinkney was coveted by mid-level programs in the Big 12 and was aware of ECU’s quarterback tradition. Quarterbacks Kort Shankweiler and Will Bland are good athletes whose skills could translate at other positions.

Receivers Iverick Harris and Mickey McCoy could emerge as the class of the recruiting class but ultimately ECU’s priority wasn’t highlight film personnel.

ECU signed six offensive linemen.

“Steve Shankweiler (offensive line coach and the father of 2002 signee, Kort) has a great eye for players who can work in this system,” Logan said. “He’s done a great job of restocking our offensive line. Those guys, a lot of times are not NFL prospects, but they function well as a unit in this offense.

“The demands on offensive linemen in this offense are extraordinary from the standpoint we want you to trap block, run block, option block and drop back pass. Not many people do all that and it starts up front with those linemen and Steve has a way to teach it. He has an eye for the kind of kid who can do that for us.

“We’ve got most of our offensive line coming back but we were still down in numbers. That was the biggest number we were trying to solve with this recruiting class. ... We got enough of ’em that we’re going to be in good shape and the main thing is that they’re mobile. We can’t have big, immobile guys. We’ve got have guys who can move their feet and all those youngsters can.”

Logan charts his recruiting classes and has determined that generally half are still in the program as fifth-year seniors. About half of those are significant contributors on the field.

Logan isn’t very elaborative about his new signees. How good are this year’s recruits? As the ECU coach likes to say, he’ll have a better idea of their abilities next year — and he can tell you for sure in five years.

Spring’s the Thing

Logan will begin learning more in five days about the Pirates’ prospects for next season.

“Spring practice,” he said. “The best time of year starts next Tuesday. We’re all juiced up and ready to go. We’ve got our practice scripts ready. I can’t wait. It is the single best four weeks of the year for me. You get to teach. No call-in shows, no TV shows. It’s just me and the kids. It’s just a great time of year.”

Developing a quarterback for next season is a high off-season priority. Paul Troth, who saw limited action in three games as a true freshman last season, will go into spring ball as the starter. Redshirt freshman Sakeen Wright, who is coming off a knee scope, could challenge.

Logan said there is also the possibility of preparing Richard Alston for some action in the quarterback rotation — which was his role for two years before he moved to receiver last season.

“We may put Richard under center for a series or two,” Logan said. “He’ll play some wide receiver and may return some punts. He’s a talented guy. He’s got to touch the football.”

The youthful segment of the quarterbacking crew will scrimmage live in spring ball.

Logan feels running backs Art Brown and Marvin Townes can be as productive as a tandem as Leonard Henry was this past season. The offensive line should be a strength to build on. Defensively, spring ball will be a time of evaluation and retooling for coordinator Tim Rose.

“We’re going to change the model a good bit on defense,” Logan said. “We’re going to take on some different characteristics. Tim’s been about doing some schematic changes since the end of the season.”

Logan expects the defensive-oriented nature of last year’s signees to begin to manifest itself next season.

“We’re going to be able to put a set of linebackers on the field that are just ridiculously fast,” Logan said.

Junior Vonta Leach will step in. Josh Chisolm, Chris Moore and Jemarcus Veal are among the redshirt freshmen who comprise the speedy linebacker corps of the future.

The defensive front has some quality returners including Ronald Pou, Damane Duckett and Ja’waren Blair. The outside linebacking crew with John Williamson, Christshawn Gilliam and Antwane Yelverton should be another team strength.

The secondary is something of a work in progress with Antoine Nealy, Travis Cox and Tyrell Powell coming off redshirt freshmen seasons to join a suspect cast of defensive backs from 2001.

The Pirates will seek some answers in terms of personnel and schemes from a perplexing 2001 season during the spring session.

“We’re looking forward to it,” Logan said. “Coach (Jim) Whitten has had them in off-season conditioning for four weeks between the bowl game and the start of second semester.”

After four weeks of spring ball, the Pirates will have another period of conditioning before preseason practice. Wednesday was test day for bench press maximums in addition to signing day.

Tight End Question

Another knee injury has likely ended the playing career of Delton Woodard, a redshirt freshman who was expected to contend for the starting job at tight end next season. Logan said Woodard, who blew out a knee in high school, will likely become a student assistant coach with a medical provision. That will allow ECU to keep him on scholarship without counting his grant toward NCAA limits.

Logan has a good track record of not abandoning medical casualties once they have committed to the Pirates.

No Excuses

Jim Ward, a co-chairman of the fund-raising effort for the new baseball stadium at ECU along with Walter Williams, said there are plenty of reasons Pirates fans could have backed off on the drive which has already accumulated over half of its $6 million goal during the private phase of the campaign.

“There’s the slow economy, the declining stock market, and September 11,” said Ward, whose son, Bryant, a senior third baseman led the team in hitting last season with a .366 average. “But being a Pirate is not about making excuses.”

Davis Runs Reverse

Parade All-America defensive back A.J. Davis of Northern Durham apparently changed the commitment he had made to North Carolina in favor of N.C. State as the Tar Heels generally took a backseat on a number of players they were waiting on late in the recruiting process. A well-informed source indicated Davis’ SAT score made him unlikely to qualify academically for next season. It’s likely a year in prep school is in store for Davis before he joins the Wolfpack.

The Commitment Trail

ECU lost two of its own commitments — defensive back Jacoby Watkins of Scotland County to UNC and offensive lineman Daniel Inman of Hope Mills South View to Georgia. Coach Logan said the period before signing day is less hectic than it used to be.

“Ten years ago, I would have stayed up all night long in a Marriott Hotel chasing some kid down at the very last minute,” Logan said. “Then you’d have to be at his house on signing day. Then you’d go home and have a nervous breakdown for three days because you didn’t get any sleep for a week.”

The process has changed because coaches can no longer be on the road just before signing day.

“It’s all done by fax machine now,” Logan said.

Most of the commitment shifts occur earlier as a result, the Pirates coach said.

“Water seeks its own level,” Logan said. “What happens is Ohio State didn’t get this guy because he went to Penn State. So Ohio State says ‘Go down to North Carolina and get that kid.’ All of a sudden that kid who was going to North Carolina ends up going to Ohio State. North Carolina says, ‘Go get Jacoby Watkins because we’ve got to have a corner.’ So East Carolina — we end up going to Florida to get Reicko Jones.

“We had Watkins as a corner and that’s who we wanted, O.K.? Because he’s an hour and a half away from here. But that’s what happens when kids start making their decisions. If you’d follow one of those trails one year, it would be a fascinating journey. That’s what happens.

“Carolina lost a guy. ... What does East Carolina do? Well, Reicko Jones was going to Iowa. We knew about him (Jones) but — same old thing — I’d rather have the local guy. But we go down there and say ‘Hey, rather than going eight million miles from home, how about going just four million miles from home?’ So we beat Iowa.

“So guess what? Iowa had to go get somebody. It would an amazing trail to follow.”

Logan said the American Football Coaches Association has discussed an early signing date similar to that which exists for basketball.

“It might clear the water up a little bit,” Logan said. “The last thing I want to do is fly a kid in here who really wants to go to Florida State. Tell me. You know. Go. Maybe it would help some of that.”

Logan doesn’t beg recruits to come to ECU anymore, doesn’t try to inflate their egos with praise. He tries to project the player realistically into the program and asks them if they’re really interested in playing football for the Pirates. He doesn’t wait long for an affirmative response — or he moves on.

“The No. 1 attribute, the No. 1 value, the No. 1 characteristic I’m looking for in a kid, in a player, is he wants to be here,” Logan said. “We don’t beg ’em to come here. I want a young man who wants to be here and he’ll play his heart out. One of the characteristics that all the coaches we play against say about us is, ‘How do you get your kids to play so hard?’ The answer to that is, it starts right now.

“Every one of those kids who signed that national letter — none of them were recruited from the standpoint of ‘We gotta have you,’ ‘You’re the greatest player I’ve ever seen,’ or ‘We can’t get along without you.’ That kind of recruiting, we don’t do that.

“I want a young man who really wants to be here — at the exclusion of other places. I think that’s been a strength for us.”

Logan’s football camp remains a useful tool in recruiting, exposing youthful players to the ECU coaches and vice-versa. Logan counted 12 players among the incoming class of 22 who had attended his summer camp.

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02/23/2007 12:58:00 AM

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