Two players previously recruited for other schools by
members of East Carolina’s new coaching staff are the latest to join the
Pirates’ recruiting Class of 2003.
Defensive end Todd Springfield of Lovejoy, Ga., and
defensive back Kasey Ross from Gainesville, Fla., made verbal commitments to
ECU over the weekend even though both knew very little about the Conference
USA school’s football program until about a month ago.
“I had never even been to North Carolina,’’ said Ross, a
playmaking 6-foot-1, 190-pounder who got a crash course on the state and
East Carolina during an official visit to Greenville on the weekend of Jan.
Springfield got his introduction to ECU in similar, sudden
“I didn’t (know) anything about East Carolina, but two of
their coaches came from Middle Tennessee and Florida and had been recruiting
me to both places,’’ the 6-4, 258-pound Springfield said.
Credit for luring both players to Greenville goes to ECU’s
new defensive coordinator Jerry Odom, who came with head coach John Thompson
from Florida, and defensive line coach Fred Tate, a Middle Tennessee
assistant last season.
Thompson then closed the deal when the players came in for
“When I was there on my visit the first thing he (Thompson)
told us was ‘We’re going to be in Memphis,’’’ Ross said. “That's the highest
place you can go if you win the conference. He wasn’t guaranteeing anything,
but he told us if we pulled together we could make it happen. After watching
a highlight film of last season on my visit, I think there is a good chance
we can win the conference and take it from there.’’
Ross and Springfield could figure into whatever outcome the
Pirates produce next fall. Both will add much-needed speed and athleticism
to a defensive unit that hasn’t had enough of those qualities in recent
Ross, whose uncle, Keith Ross, played at Florida State,
spent most of his prep career at Gainesville High playing quarterback. He
passed for 1,565 yards and rushed for 985 as a senior in earning Gainesville
Area Offensive Player of the Year and second-team all-state honors.
But when Gainesville played an opponent featuring a
top-flight wide receiver, Ross would double up as a cornerback on defense.
“I’ve been a quarterback since I was five years old,’’ Ross
said. “But in big games in high school, like when we played against Antonio
Cromartie at Tallahassee Lincoln, they play me at cornerback against them.
So it’s a position I’m used to, even though I played about 95 percent of the
time at quarterback in my career.’’
Ross isn’t predicting he’ll win a starting job as a true
freshman at ECU, but he does anticipate making an impact.
“I’ve got a pretty good chance of working in with the nickel
package where they use five defensive backs,’’ Ross said. “I know there will
be a lot for me to learn, but I expect to pick things up pretty fast. I’m
going up there to make something happen.’’
Central Florida, Florida and Iowa State were also recruiting
Ross, but the Pirates were the first school to make an offer.
Springfield was garnering significant college attention
before committing to ECU, despite having just two seasons of varsity
football under his belt. He had scholarship offers from Clemson, Florida,
LSU and Mississippi before choosing the Pirates.
That list becomes even more impressive considering
Springfield didn’t start for Lovejoy High as a junior.
“I transferred to Lovejoy from a Catholic school where I had
played some football,’’ Springfield said. “When I got to Lovejoy, the
coaches asked me to come out and I did. So, basically, my junior season they
just wanted me to get used to the program. I didn’t play very much, probably
three minutes every game.
“But I picked things up pretty fast.’’
Springfield blossomed as a senior, making 75 tackles and two
sacks to earn all-county and all-region honors. He hopes his speed (4.7 in
40) and quickness will enable him to see some action for ECU in 2003.
“They said if I come in and do the job and play well, then
they’ll have no choice but to start me,’’ Springfield said. “They’re going
to have a new defensive attitude and I want to be a part of it. I’ve been
told they’ll use me at end and tackle.’’
While the Pirates made two significant additions in
Springfield and Ross, they also lost a previously committed member of the
Recruiting Class of 2003.
Offensive lineman William “Web’’ Brown from Starmount High
School in Boonville, N.C., backed off his pledge to ECU and made a verbal
commitment to South Carolina over the weekend. The 6-5, 270-pounder had
named the Pirates as his choice last summer after attending the school’s
But after Steve Logan resigned as ECU head coach in
December, Brown began having second thoughts. He continued to consider the
Pirates and even made an official visit on Jan. 10 to meet the new coaching
staff. But after visiting South Carolina last weekend, he decided to become
a Gamecock instead.
“I had a great time on my visit to East Carolina, too, but I
just felt more comfortable at South Carolina,’’ Brown said. “They have a
great stadium and great facilities. It kind of reminded me of Buffalo in a
way, with the urban layout. I felt at home.’’
Brown moved to Boonville from Buffalo, N.Y., two years ago.
The loss of Brown leaves East Carolina with
12 known verbal commitments with
just over a week left before the national signing period begins on Feb. 5.
Two other players ECU had been pursuing chose another C-USA
school over the weekend. Twins Eric and Thomas Miller from Melbourne, Fla.,
both committed to Louisville during official visits. The Millers are
cornerbacks who played for Florida state champion Palm Bay Senior High