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Tracking the College Gridiron Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Sunday, December 19, 2004

By Sammy Batten

Verbals still hold as Holtz regime settles in



Eddie Guth recognized something special in Trippe Hale as early as the seventh grade.

Guth is the head coach at St. Paul’s Episcopal High School in Mobile, Ala. He also teaches physical education classes at the school, which is where he first encountered Hale.

“Trippe jumped out at me in my seventh-grade P.E. class because of the way he handled himself,’’ Guth said. “Then, when I saw him play football, it was evident to me he had that potential for greatness that would help him excel in high school and on Saturdays.’’

Guth’s initial evaluation has proven correct. Hale just completed his third straight season as a varsity starter at St. Paul’s, where he’s performed primarily as a free safety, cornerback and punt returner.

“He’s really done it all for us,’’ Guth said. “The kids on our team have tremendous respect for him. He’s our team captain, which is a very prestigious award on our team.

“But the best thing about Trippe is that he hates to lose. East Carolina is getting a real gem.’’

Hale became the fourth member of ECU’s recruiting class a few weeks ago as the coaching change was occurring. He was recruited by former Pirate offensive line coach Robert McFarland.

But like the other three players recruited by the former coaching staff – Garner linebacker Josh Smith, Tennessee defensive back Dave Thomas and Florida wide receiver Craig James – Hale is still planning to attend ECU and play for new head coach Skip Holtz.

“It was a tough situation, but I think the change will be good,’’ Hale said. “I’m looking forward to playing for Coach Holtz.’’

Hale will be the second member of his family to suit up in the purple-and-gold. His father is Steve Hale, who played safety for the Pirates between 1975-77. The elder Hale now serves as executive director of the Senior Bowl, one of the nation’s premier college all-star games that’s annually played in Mobile.

East Carolina was the first school to offer Hale a scholarship, but he was also being recruited by Fresno State, Hawaii and West Virginia.

“I was interested in them (ECU) from the start,’’ Trippe Hale said. “They started contacting me right before my senior season started. Because of my dad I’ve always followed their program. It just seemed like a good place for me, too.’’

Hale has been recruited as a defensive back by ECU. As a senior, he compiled 90 tackles and made four interceptions from his safety slot for a 5-6 team.

“I think he can succeed in many different areas,’’ Guth said. “He has great vision and he’s able to recognize what’s happening in front of him and react. He breaks on the ball extremely well.’’

Smith, Thomas and James have re-confirmed their commitments to ECU personally or through their head coaches.

James, a 5-10, 160-pounder from Lee High in Jacksonville, Fla., enjoyed a stellar senior season at running back. He rushed for 796 yards on 86 carries and scored six touchdowns. James also contributed 28 tackles at cornerback on defense.

Lee High coach Randy Glass said James is still scheduled to make official recruiting visits to Middle Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

“But I think he’s still committed to East Carolina,’’ Glass said. “I think he’s just waiting to hear from the new coaches, but I believe he’ll stay committed there.’’

Smith, a 6-2, 205-pound linebacker for plays for ECU alum Nelson Smith at Garner, said he was concerned initially when John Thompson was ousted as the Pirates’ head coach.

“As soon as I heard, I made some phone calls and I was told I might want to start looking around again,’’ Smith said. “I was pretty much up in the air because I didn’t know if the (ECU) scholarship offer would still be honored or not. But (ECU athletics director) Terry Holland said everything would be honored. So I’m still committed.

“I really wanted to go there and I’m glad this worked out.’’

The 6-foot, 185-pound Thomas helped his Riverdale High squad to a 15-0 finish and its fourth state 5-A championship in Tennessee since 1994 earlier this month. Thomas played quarterback, defensive back and served as a punt returner for Riverdale. He finished the year with 1,198 yards and 15 touchdowns passing while completing 51.6 percent of his throws.

Thomas also contributed 967 yards rushing, had a 13-yard average on punt returns and punted for a 39-yard average.

In late November, Thomas was honored as Tennessee’s “Mr. Football’’ in the 5-A classification.

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02/23/2007 02:36:20 PM

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