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Tracking the College Gridiron Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Sunday, February 15, 2004

By Sammy Batten
Staff Writer for The Fayetteville Observer

Late gem boosts grade of big class

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In the uncertain world of college football recruiting, there is one thing for sure that can said about East Carolinaís Class of 2004.

The group will have a sizable impact on ECUís program next fall and beyond, if for no other reason than sheer numbers.

The Pirates have signed 30 players to national letters-of-intent, making theirs one of the largest classes in the country.

NCAA guidelines limit schools to a maximum of 25 signees each year. But ECU will be able to circumvent that rule in a couple of ways.

First, some members of the class ó most likely junior college players already enrolled ó will be counted toward the scholarship numbers for 2003. That is allowed if the school falls short of having the NCAA allotment of 85 total scholarships filled. Others may be counted forward to the 2005 class, again depending on where the program sits with the 85 total.

Most likely to be counted back in ECUís class are safety Zach Baker, tight end Shawn Levesque and offensive lineman Joel Renaud. Those three are already enrolled in school and are scheduled to participate in spring practice for the Pirates.

The second way ECU will be able to remain under the 25 limit has to do with academics. Some signees may not meet entrance requirements and wonít enroll, or if they do, itíll be as a Prop 48 players. Since Prop 48 players arenít technically part of the football program, they will count forward to the following yearís recruiting class, if they fulfill freshman-year academic obligations. Players have until June to qualify academically.

Either way, the Pirates have a while to work it all out. Their class doesnít actually have to be down to 25 or under the 85 total until first first day of classes next August.


For the purposes of grading this recruiting class, weíre going to base our appraisal on the assumption that all 30 recruits would make the cut and become Pirates. Hereís our position-by-position evaluation of how ECUís class rates:

  • QUARTERBACK (2): Players returning at position: Patrick Dosh, Soph.; James Pinkney, Soph.; Desmond Robinson, Sr. Players signed: Davon Drew (6-4, 215) New Bern, N.C.; Patrick Pinkney (6-1, 189) Fayetteville, N.C.

The lowdown: ECU grabbed two real diamonds-in-the-rough at quarterback. Patrick Pinkney is a player in the mold of ex-Pirate great Jeff Blake, except that he can run with the football, too. Davon Drew looks like the prototype pocket passer at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, and he has the strong arm to match. But because Drew is so athletic, he could also make an impact at tight end, wide receiver or outside linebacker if things donít work out at quarterback. With Patrick Dosh, Desmond Robinson and James Pinkney entrenched ahead of them, Drew and Pinkney will have time to develop. But in three years, one or both will be ready to take over the reigns of the offense.

Position grade: A.

  • RUNNING BACK (1): Players returning at position: Art Brown, Sr.; Kevin Fain, Sr.; Robert Tillman, Soph.; Marvin Townes, Sr. Players signed: Pierre Bell (6-2, 205) Vanceboro, N.C.

The lowdown: With Art Brown hopefully making a comeback from his injury, and Marvin Townes returning after racking up 1,200 yards rushing last season, it was probably hard to sell ECU to a big-time running back this year. But Pierre Bell wasnít a bad consolation prize. Bell could be a slashing runner in the mold of former Pirate star Leonard Henry, if he continues to develop. Again, you probably wonít see him on the field or at least a year or two, unless he gets moved to strong safety. But heís a solid addition to the running back corps.

Position grade: C.

  • WIDE RECEIVER (1): Players returning at position: Will Bland, Soph.; Bryson Bowling, Jr.; Juwon Crowell, Soph.; Damarcus Fox, Sr.; Bobby Good, Soph.; Iverick Harris, Jr.; Tyreece Hayden, Jr.; Brian Howard, Soph.; Garrett Peterkin, Sr.; Edwin Rios, Sr.; Kevin Roach, Soph.; Steven Rogers, Soph.; Sakeem Wright, Jr. Players signed: Chris Johnson (5-11, 175) Orlando, Fla.

The lowdown: ECUís recruiting corps takes a big hit with the graduation of Terrance Copper. The only receiver with anything close to Copperís overall athletic skills in the program currently is Juwon Crowell. So signing Chris Johnson to the mix was an unnoticed, but important addition. Johnson brings an element of raw speed thatís sorely needed in the passing game. Heís a 10.6-second 100-meter man who knows how to run after making the catch. Others in this class, such as J.J. Millbrook or a Patrick Pinkney could fit in at wide receiver in the future. But until those moves are made, this will be one of the weaker areas in the class.

Position grade: D.

  • TIGHT END (2): Players returning at position: Josh Coffman, Soph.; Tutu Moye, Sr.; James Myrick, Jr.; Kort Shankweiler, Soph. Players signed: Sean Harmon (6-3, 264) Edmond, Okla.; Shawn Levesque (6-4, 260) League City, Texas.

The lowdown: Recruiting filled needs at this spot better than any other on the field. The Pirates signed two junior college transfers, who will should immediately elevate the production at tight end. Shawn Levesque is a big-time blocker who is strong enough to seal off an end and quick enough to get to a linebacker, if needed. Sean Harmon, who originally signed with Oklahoma State out of high school, is a superb pass catcher and will become a big threat for the Pirates near the goal line.
Position grade: A.

  • OFFENSIVE LINE (6): Players returning at position: Virgil Black, OT, R-Fresh.; Jeff Bumgarer, OT, R-Fresh.; Charlie Dempsey, OG, Sr.; Gary Freeman, OG, Jr.; Eric Graham, OT, Soph.; David Jorgenson, OG, Jr.; Trey Magee, OG, Jr.; Hagen Mason, OG, Sr.; Joseph Parsons, OG, Jr.; Drew Sutton, OT, Soph.; Matt Wareham, OG, Jr.; Thomas Wigenbach, OT, Soph.; Hunter Wood, C, Jr. Players signed: Zach Davis, C (6-4, 250) Jacksonville, Fla.; Joel Renaud, OT (6-7, 325) Pompano Beach, Fla.; Richie Santos, OT (6-6, 295) Deltona Beach, Fla.; Chris Sellars, OT (6-5, 310) Newport News, Va.; Paul Walsh, OT (6-5, 300) Tallahassee, Fla.; Mike Williams, C (6-3, 287) Orlando, Fla.

The lowdown: The Pirates were absolutely desperate for help on the offensive line after graduating four of the top eight on their final depth chart of 2003. Pencil in JUCO transfer Joel Renaud in at one tackle. Renaud is already enrolled at ECU and will get a head start on winning one of those vacant jobs in spring practice. Chris Sellars, another JUCO, should also challenge for time at tackle next fall. Although those guys will have the most immediate impact, the prize catch of this group may be Paul Walsh from Tallahassee, Fla. Walsh hails from one of the top prep programs in Florida and was courted heavily by North Carolina and N.C. State before choosing ECU. Heís a talent who could develop into an anchor for the Piratesí offensive front in the near future.

Postition grade: B+.

  • DEFENSIVE LINE (7): Players returning at position: Dontre Brown, DT, Soph.; Wendell Chavis, DE, R-Fresh.; Ike Emodi, DE, Sr.; Mike Horner, DE, R-Fresh.; Shauntae Hunt, DE, Jr.; Lance Neisz, DT, Soph.; Lorenza Pickett, DE, Jr.; Todd Springfield, DE, R-Fresh.; Sammie Walden, DE, Soph.; Guy Whimper, DE, Jr. Players signed: Steve Belford, DE (6-4, 240) Royal Palm Beach, Fla.; Josh Grier, DT (6-3, 315) Daytona Beach, Fla.; Fred Hicks, DT (6-1, 275) Seffner, Fla.; Durwin Lamb, DE (6-3, 230) Miami, Fla.; Mark Robinson, DE (6-4, 208) Longwood, Fla.; Zach Slate, DE (6-5, 210) Melbourne, Fla.; Jarrett Wiggins, DE (6-4, 215) Camden, S.C.

The lowdown: The Pirates didnít have enough defensive linemen in their program when John Thompson took over because the previous staff had run a 3-4 alignment that didnít require many. The staff did an excellent job of re-stocking the position with this class. They did so by signing several impact players as well as athletes who can provide depth at those spots while continuing to develop physically. Josh Grier is an defensive tackle who should make a quick impact. Grier has the size (6-3, 315) and exceptional quickness (4.9 40) that ECU desperately needs in the middle. Steve Belford is a pass-rushing specialist who figure into the picture at defensive end. Other prospects like Mark Robinson, Zach Slate and Jarrett Wiggins have super potential once they add some weight and strength.

Postion grade: B+.

  • LINEBACKERS (4): Players returning at position: Eric Butler, Sr.; Josh Chilsom, Jr.; Chuck Elmore, Jr.; Eric Johnson, R-Fresh.; Richard Koonce, Jr.; Chris Moore, Jr.; Dashaun Stephens, Jr.; Eric Terry, Jr.; Christian Wasielewski, Sr. Players signed: Quentin Cotton (6-4, 210) Kernersville, N.C.; Jamar Flournoy (6-0, 220) Valley, Ala.; Wes Hofacker (6-2, 235) Allen, Texas; Tony Richardson (6-2, 205) Sandersville, Ga.

The lowdown: ECU could have probably used a little more help than it got here, but what it got was pretty impressive. JUCO transfer Jamar Flournoy has a nose for the football and runs well enough to have played safety. He should make an immediate impact on the linebacker corps. Tony Richardson could be the next great Pirate linebacker and Quentin Cotton has tremendous potential as an outside backer. He may be a year away from making a major contribution, but by the fall of 2005 his speed and agility will earn him plenty of playing time.

Postion grade: B.

  • DEFENSIVE BACK (7): Players returning at position: Dontae Bibbs, Jr.; Tommie Bradley, S, R-Fresh.; Jared Brogden, CB, Jr.; Kyle Chase, S, R-Fresh.; Matt Cox, CB, Jr.; Erode Jean, CB, Soph.; Mickey McCoy, S, Jr.; Markeith McQueen, S, Jr.; Antonie Nealy, S, Jr.; Pierre Parker, S, R-Fresh.; Kasey Ross, S, R-Fresh.; Bernard Sintim, CB, Soph.; Donald Whitehead, CB, Sr. Players signed: Zach Baker, FS (6-5, 205) Tucson, Az.; Demetrius Hodges, CB (5-10, 175) West Palm Beach, Fla.; DíMario Kelly, S (5-11, 201) Norcross, Ga.; J.J. Millbrook, CB (5-10, 180) Miami, Fla.; Ted Riley, S (6-0, 184) Boynton Beach, Fla.; Stacy Walls, CB (5-9, 170) Sandersville, Ga.; Travis Williams, CB (5-11, 175) Daytona Beach, Fla.

The lowdown: Zach Baker from Pima JC will become an immediate presence at free safety where both Travis Heath and Richard Moton graduated from last yearís team. Baker is a physical player who also excels at pass coverage. Demetrius Hodges, who originally signed with Virginia Tech, brings those same attributes to cornerback. We expect him to see some significant action next fall, too. J.J. Millbrook is a big-play specialist at cornerback and as a kick returner, while DíMario Kelly is a versatile safety prospect. Overall, the talent recruited here is the best in the class.

Position grade: A.

BOTTOM LINE: Overall, this class may not feature a large number of the so-called national ďblue chippers,íí but it does have a lot of players who will make an immediate impact in places where ECU needs help.

I gave this class a C+ overall on signing day, but the late addition of Quentin Cotton at linebacker, the depth and the raw talent has caused me to bump that up to a B.

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02/23/2007 02:36:15 PM

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