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Tracking the College Gridiron Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Wednesday, February 2, 2005

By Sammy Batten

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Smith primes Fayetteville area pipeline


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Junior Smith is making his presence felt in Greenville again and helping East Carolina shore up its recruiting presence in a key in-state region.

The Pirates' all-time leading rusher returned to his purple-and-gold roots in December as a member of new head coach Skip Holt’s staff. Smith was immediately assigned to recruit the Fayetteville area where he lived and starred as a prep player at E.E. Smith High School.

So it came as no surprise earlier this week when the Pirates landed two players from the region for its recruiting Class of 2005.

Linebacker J.T. McCoy from Seventy-First High School in Fayetteville and offensive lineman Terence Campbell of Purnell Swett High in Pembroke were products of Smith’s recruiting efforts.

The previous coaching staff at ECU had recruited both players, but it wasn’t until Smith arrived on the scene that their interest in the Pirates became serious.

“Coach Smith called me about four weeks ago and said they were going to recruit me, but he didn’t know if I’d get an offer yet,’’ McCoy said. “Then, last Friday (Jan. 29), he called and said if I could get to Greenville that weekend that he had gotten the OK to make an offer.

“So I was off to Greenville.’’

Campbell had a similar experience with Smith as his recruiter.

“Coach Smith really impressed Terence,’’ Purnell Swett coach Thomas Umphrey said. “Before he went to Greenville, Terence really was leaning toward N.C. State. But I think he just fell in love with the coaching staff and how well they treated him at East Carolina.’’

McCoy, a 6-foot-3, 222-pounder with 4.63 speed in the 40-yard dash, was a three-year starter at Seventy-First. He earned first-team All-Mid-Southeastern 4-A Conference honors as a senior when he led all Cumberland County defenders with 173 tackles.

Vanderbilt had originally extended a scholarship to McCoy, but pulled the offer after it received commitments from several other linebackers. But Seventy-First coach Chuck Marrs said Vanderbilt assistant coach David Turner contacted the ECU staff and encouraged them to look at McCoy.

Army, Catawba, Coastal Carolina, Newberry, Western Carolina and Wingate also offered McCoy.

“They’re getting a kid who’s really young to the game,’’ Marrs said. “He’s only played football for three years. Some look at that as good and some think it’s bad. But he hasn’t been playing long enough to acquire a lot of bad habits.

“He’s 6-3, he’s fast and he’s smart. Because of his intelligence, for us, he made all the strength calls on defense. In the league we play in, that takes something special because some teams we play like E.E. Smith don’t use a lot of formations. Then you turn around and play a Jack Britt or Scotland and they use about 30 different formations. You have to have a guy in the middle of your defense who has the mental toughness to recognize that, who can get everybody straight and carry out all the blitzes we do.

“J.T. was that guy. He’s just an absolute great kid to be around.’’

McCoy is excited to have the opportunity to play for East Carolina.

“I can’t wait to get up there,’’ he said. “I believe Coach Holtz is going to make East Carolina a winning program again, and I’m excited to be part of that. The school has made a commitment to winning.’’

Campbell’s route to ECU had a few detours along the way.

The 6-51/2, 300-pounder lived in the Robeson County town of Maxton, but left just prior to the start of his freshman year to live with an uncle in Loveland, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati. He didn’t play football as a freshman at Loveland, then split time between the junior varsity and varsity as a sophomore.

Homesick for his family, Campbell returned to Maxton and enrolled at Purnell Swett for the 2003-2004 school year.

“Every coach’s eyes light up when they see a kid who is 6-5 and close to 300 pounds and is athletic,’’ Umphrey said. “That’s a coach’s dream.’’

Working primarily at offensive tackle, Campbell performed well enough to earn first-team All-Two Rivers 4-A Conference honors as a junior. He followed up by earning second-team honors this season while playing tackle on offense and end on defense.

“He’s so quick for an offensive lineman,’’ Umphrey said. “He runs about a 4.8 or 4.9 40 and is 6-5 and 300 pounds. He is unbelievably quick and agile for his size. He’s also pretty strong, but he’ll have to get in the weight room and get even stronger to play at the Division I level.’’

N.C. State was the first major school to show interest in Campbell, and Maryland was recruiting him as well. But neither program had come through with an offer before Campbell headed to Greenville for an official visit.

“They set me up with a great host in Gary Freeman (offensive lineman),’’ Campbell said. “He was kind of in the same (recruiting) situation and he chose East Carolina a couple of years ago. They just presented the whole package to me.

“But I was really sold when we started taking a walking tour of the campus. I started talking to a coach – I didn’t know who he was – and we were talking about basketball. I didn’t know it was Skip Holtz, the head coach. But that’s how down to Earth they are. I just had a great time.

“I talked to a lot of the players, too. They put players in the NFL and it’s a place I can play early. It’s a great opportunity for me.’’

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02/23/2007 02:36:44 PM

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