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Football Recruiting Report
Friday, February 15, 2002

By Sammy Batten
Staff Writer for The Fayetteville Observer

Pirate Football Signing Day Report Card


Compared to a year ago, there was a minimum of fanfare when East Carolina recently announced its 2002 football recruiting class.

It's not that ECU didn't have something to celebrate, because there is plenty of potential in the group of 22 signed to national letters-of-intent on February 6. But the '02 signees lack a nationally-hyped prospect like quarterback Paul Troth, whose signing in 2001 brought instant prestige to the recruiting class.

Instead of so-called "blue chip'' players like Troth, the Pirates signed a collection of athletes with exceptional raw talent, most of whom will require a year or two of seasoning before making contributions on the field. Defensive back Richard Moton, a junior college transfer, is the only recruit guaranteed not to red-shirt next fall.

Others could play, but for the most part, we really won't be able to judge the true level of this group for about two years. But we'll try anyway with this position-by-position evaluation of the Pirates recruiting class.

Jump to Position: [ QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | NT | LB | DB | P/K ]

[ Back to Top ] QUARTERBACK (Will Bland, James Pinkney, Kort Shankweiler): Even though David Garrard is graduating, ECU still has some exciting talent at quarterback, led by rising sophomore Desmond Robinson and Troth, who will be a red-shirt freshman. And let's not forget that Richard Alston has a year of eligibility remaining and he could be a factor at that position, if needed.

So what the Pirates needed from recruiting was to build some depth and find players to groom for the future. They accomplished both those goals and more with this trio.

Pinkney has excellent height (6-foot-4),  is mobile and capable of making strong throws on the run. If he uses the next two years wisely as he waits for playing time, Pinkney could be first in line to succeed Troth.

Bland and Shankweiler are projects. Neither has an especially strong arm, but Bland is an impressive runner with 4.4 to 4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound Bland could easily help ECU at another position like H-back, receiver or running back if things don't work out at quarterback. And although expectations aren't high for Shankweiler, he is the kind of smart, hard-working athlete who will do whatever it takes to make a contribution. The situation makes Shankweiler the perfect choice for class "sleeper.'' - (C+)

[ Back to Top ] RUNNING BACK (none): Rising junior Art Brown and sophomore Marvin Townes are the heir apparents to graduated Leonard Henry. Behind those guys, however, is just one other young back in sophomore Demarcus Fox, so signing someone for depth purposes would have been a good idea. But the leading candidate, Joel McClenney of Perquimans, never panned out and ECU was left empty-handed. If Bland or someone else in the class winds up playing here, that will fill the void. Until then, only one grade applies. - (F)
[ Back to Top ] WIDE RECEIVER (Bryson Bowling, Iverick Harris, Mickey McCoy, Kevin Roach): Injuries clobbered the Pirates at receiver last year, which made creating some depth there necessary in recruiting. The Pirates did that and then some, getting four players who are capable of making an impact next fall. McCoy is an excellent prospect at H-back where his receiving and rushing skills can be exploited, while Bowling is a big-time deep threat. The 6-5 Roach is the next Larry Shannon/Arnie Powell.

The real prize of this group is Harris. The 6-3, 195-pounder is so talented he was even pursued by Notre Dame early in the recruiting process. He can get deep, leap and take the ball away from defenders, or catch a short pass and turn it into a long gainer. Harris is a lot like Troy Smith, ECU's former record-settting receiver. - (B+)

[ Back to Top ] TIGHT END (none): East Carolina went so far as to offer a starting job to 6-7, 215-pound Manny Lawson, according to his coach at Eastern Wayne High School, Joe Mitchell. But the Pirates lost the Lawson sweepstakes to N.C. State and got shut out at a position where they could have used the help. - (F)
[ Back to Top ] OFFENSIVE LINE (Gary Freeman, Eric Graham, David Jorgenson, Steve Mercier, Drew Sutton, Thomas Wingenbach): There's no real superstars here, but are there ever on the offensive line? Nice size and excellent numbers makes this a stronger effort than the general public may believe. Freeman, Jorgenson, Mercier and Wingenbach are all under-rated and will form the foundation of ECU's future blocking corps. Losing a commitment from big-time tackle prospect Daniel Inman of Hope Mills, N.C., in January was a big blow to the class and a major frustration for Pirate fans. Inman was the ECU commit, but wound up signing with Georgia. - (B)
[ Back to Top ] DEFENSIVE LINE (Shauntae Hunt, Eric Terry): A pair of stars-in-the-making. Hunt (6-6, 248) and Terry (6-4, 225) are tall, long-armed pass rushers who run like linebackers. Give them a year in ECU's weight training program and these guys will be absolute terrors for opposing quarterbacks. - (B+)
[ Back to Top ] NT (Dontre Brown): The 6-foot Brown isn't tall enough for the defensive line by many schools' standards, but he's a perfect fit for nose tackle in ECU's 3-4 alignment. He's tremendously strong and tough as nails, which is why he was a starter for three seasons at one of the state's premier prep programs, Douglas Byrd. - (C)
[ Back to Top ] LINEBACKER (Lorenza Pickett): The Pirates probably didn't get enough help at linebacker, but they did sign one very good one. Pickett is a helmet-rattler, who forced 10 fumbles as a senior to earn defensive player of the year honors in one of the state's best 4-A leagues. Whether it's on special teams or as a back-up at inside linebacker, watch for Pickett to see some action next fall. - (C-)
[ Back to Top ] DEFENSIVE BACK (Jared Brogden, Reicko Jones, Richard Moton, Mar'ques Woolford): Continuing to upgrade the speed of its secondary was a priority for ECU, and one it met in signing Brogden, Jones and Woolford. All three have the speed to make big plays at cornerback or on kick returns. Moton is a physical hitter who should contribute as a back-up at safety and on special teams.

Knocking the grade down in this area significantly, however, was the late defection of cornerback Jacoby Watkins. The Scotland High School star backed out of his pledge to the Pirates in January to sign with North Carolina. Watkins was the state's second-best cornerback prospect this season behind N.C. State signee A.J. Davis, according to SuperPrep recruiting magazine. - (C+)

[ Back to Top ] PUNTER-PLACEKICKER (Ryan Dougherty): Starting punter Jared Preston and placekicker Kevin Miller are both graduating after the 2002 season and Dougherty is the heir apparent to one of those jobs. He may even get a chance to handle the kickoff duties next fall, which would cut down the
wear-and-tear on Miller's leg and give Dougherty game experience. Either way, it was a good move on the ECU staff's part to sign a kicker, especially one with Dougherty's potential. - (B)

The overall grade for this class? I see it as about a C+. It's a better-than-average group that will improve ECU's team speed and depth at almost every position. But there are a few too many diamonds-in-the-rough to push the grade any higher.

Of course, if those diamonds mature quickly, the Pirates could be richer than expected two years from now.

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02/23/2007 02:35:29 PM

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