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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Wednesday, February 8, 2006

By Sammy Batten

Report card: Incoming talent level on the upswing

Editor's note: This is the first of two columns in which football recruiting guru Sammy Batten issues position-by-position grades of East Carolina's newest crop of signees in the context of the program's present and future needs. This article examines the offensive recruits. A subsequent article by Batten analyzses the Pirates' defensive harvest.


Depending on which national recruiting service you consider more reliable, East Carolina’s football recruiting Class of 2006 was:

A) The best among Conference USA teams; or,

B) A middle-of-the road class among the league's programs.

We tend to favor the computerized rankings that astutely placed the Pirates’ 27-player class first among C-USA teams and No. 64 nationally. Although the latter figure may not be impressive on the surface, it also marks a major step forward from last year.

Left with less than three months to execute a solid recruiting plan after taking the ECU job in early December 2004, Coach Skip Holtz still signed managed to sign 23 players in 2005. But that group was ranked 84th by

Given a full year to recruit, Holtz and his staff were able to meet immediate needs, fulfill promises to recruit Eastern North Carolina, and begin building the depth required to survive the 12-game regular seasons that every team will play in 2006.

Holtz was especially successful at plugging holes along the offensive line and at linebacker with junior college transfers, three of whom are enrolled at ECU already and will participate in spring practice.

The recruiting campaign also concluded on an attention-grabbing note when the state’s top running back, Norman Whitley from Richmond Senior High in Rockingham, decided on national signing day to become a Pirate. It’s not coincidence that the Whitley deal was sealed by ECU’s all-time leading rusher and running backs coach Junior Smith.

No doubt Smith saw a bit of himself in Whitley, an undersized, but strong, swift, hard-working back.

Here’s our position-by-position graded analysis of the offensive players in the ECU class, a look at returning players and a guess at what the Pirates may be looking for at each spot in the recruiting class of 2007.



HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: OK, the Pirates did sign two high school quarterbacks in Dan Wideman from Greenville, SC, and Dwayne Harris of Stone Mountain, GA. Both are swift, strong athletes whose skills are better suited for wide receiver or defensive back. But either one could also fit nicely as a dual-threat quarterback, if the Pirates ever need it, which is why the grade here is B. Fortunately, it probably won’t be necessary because ECU has signed two quarterbacks in each of the last two classes and all four are still in the program.

WHO’S BACK: Senior James Pinkney will be back to handle the starting duties, while red-shirt freshman Rob Kass is expected to battle sophomore Davon Drew for the backup job. Sophomore Patrick Pinkney is said to be progressing after a second shoulder surgery in two years and could also figure into the competition, along with red-shirt freshman Brett Clay.

NEEDS FOR 2007: Find one so good he’ll step in and challenge for the starting duties immediately, or sign a raw talent who is willing to red-shirt and can help you down the road. Either way, the Pirates will need to sign at least one quarterback after really not focusing on the position this year.


WHO SIGNED: Kevin Gidrey (6-2, 250) from Virginia Beach, VA; Norman Whitley (5-9, 180) from Hamlet, NC.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: First of all, ECU doesn’t even have a true fullback on its roster now that Jermarcus Veal has graduated, unless you count senior Kort Shankweiler, who has filled in there and everywhere else on the field the past two seasons. So the hefty Gidrey should be a welcome addition for the Pirate tailbacks, who will now have an adequate escort into the defensive front.

Signing Whitley wasn’t only a publicity coup for the Pirates. The guy can really play. Ask anyone who was at the Shrine Bowl All-Star game, where Whitley ran for more than 130 yards, scored twice and came away with MVP honors against the best seniors from South Carolina. He’s a back with excellent vision, speed, great cutback skills, surprising power and a burning desire to be the best. We believe all those, especially the latter, will make Whitley one of ECU’s best backs ever before he graduates.

WHO’S BACK: The 2005 season ended with rising junior Chris Johnson as the starter at tailback and senior Brandon Fractious in the No. 2 position. But shifty senior Robert Tillman — if he returns from his suspension for this semester — and sophomore Dominique Lindsay, who made a surprisingly strong contribution with 210 yards rushing as a true freshman, will get plenty of snaps as well.

NEEDS FOR 2007: Even if Lindsay and Whitley are ECU’s tailback-tandem-of-the-future, the rest of the tailback corps, except Johnson, are out of Greenville in another season. Bringing in two tailbacks, maybe one of them a pure power back, and another fullback should be in the plans for 2007.


WHO SIGNED: Javon Brumsey (6-4, 190) from Elizabeth City, NC, Melvin Patterson (6-3, 205) of Alachua, FL, and DeMorio Waymon (6-3, 185) from Tallahassee, FL.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Only time will tell, but we believe the Pirates pulled off a pair of major recruiting coups in netting Brumsey and Patterson.

Brumsey is first and foremost the kind of big target every quarterback seems to spot when he’s in trouble or near the end zone. But he’s also deceptively fast (4.43 40 time) and has exceptional hands. Don’t be surprised if he makes it on the field next fall.

Patterson was rated by as the nation’s 41st-best wide receiver prospect, but he would have been much higher if not for a knee injury that wiped out most of his senior season. Still, schools such as Iowa, West Virginia and N.C. State pursued Patterson to the finish. Give him a red-shirt to make sure he’s completely healthy, then watch Patterson become a quick contributor at ECU.

Waymon is another receiver with playmaking abilities who isn’t far from being ready to contribute.

WHO’S BACK: Hopefully, a healed Aundrae Allison is back, healthy and ready to repeat the incredible success he enjoyed in his first season at ECU. Allison, a senior, could use a little more help this time around from senior Bobby Good, who ended 2005 as the other receiver starter, and top backups Phillip Henry and Steven Rogers. Both are juniors.

Senior Kevin Roach, junior Juwon Crowell and sophomore Jerek Hewett are other letterwinners returning to the receiving corps, while red-shirt freshmen Kyle Johnson and Alex Taylor will look to establish themselves this spring.

One other element of a returning sort deals with Jamar Bryant. Bryant transferred from Georgia last year, sat out the season and should be ready to suit up in spring practice. That’s significant because Bryant was one of North Carolina’s top prep receiver prospects two years ago as a senior at Richmond Senior High in Rockingham. If he’s as good as advertised, Bryant may be just what ECU needs to take some of the pressure off Allison.

NEEDS FOR 2007: With seven sophomores and freshmen making up part of its receiving corps next fall, ECU may not see a pressing need to sign any pass catchers in ’07. But in an offensive scheme that requires plenty of good-hands people, it never hurts to bring in one or two newcomers every year.



HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: It didn’t. Barring a position change we’re not aware of yet, none of the players in this class are tight ends. Javon Brumsey could grow into the position, but that won’t happen anytime soon.

And that’s what the Pirates needed, somebody who can play soon at a position where their depth is non-existent and talent is limited.

WHO’S BACK: Senior Jay Sonnhalter finished last season at No. 2 on the depth chart and appeared in 11 games.

NEEDS FOR 2007: The Pirates will be desperately seeking tight ends and could easily make room to sign three in the class.


WHO SIGNED: Cory Dowless (6-5, 300) from Franklinton, NC, and D.J. Scott (6-6, 305) of Green Cove Springs, FL.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Dowless and Scott have just the kind of size you like to have protecting the quarterback’s flanks. They also move pretty well for big guys. Both were good pickups, but ECU didn’t totally fulfill its needs here. The Pirates are dangerously thin all along the offensive front and return just three tackles with game experience. So Dowless or Scott, or both of them could be forced into action as true freshmen if the injury bug strikes.

There is a possibility that transfer Willie Barton, who is already enrolled at ECU, could wind up at one of the tackle spots. But Barton was a JUCO All-American at guard, so we have him penciled in there at this point.

WHO’S BACK: Starting left guard Eric Graham will be a senior and the backup at both tackles, senior Lance Neisz, is also back. Converted tight end Josh Coffman, a senior, and senior Thomas Wingenbach are the only other roster players who have seen game action at tackle. But Wingenbach ended last season as the No. 2 left guard.

Red-shirt freshmen Stephen Heis and Paul Walsh will get their chance in the spring.

NEEDS FOR 2007: The Pirates are going to need talent and numbers at tackle in 2007. Signing as many as three tackles wouldn’t be overdoing it.


WHO SIGNED: Sean Allen (6-3, 290) from Wilson, NC, Willie Barton (6-5, 350) Palmetto, FL., Doug Polochak (6-4, 270) of Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, and Andrew Farr (6-4, 280) from Pell City, AL.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Willie Barton was a two-time JUCO All-American at guard for Georgia Military Academy. Barton should immediately be the leading candidate to move into the right guard job vacated by graduated Chris Sellers.

Likewise, Andrew Farr, who spent the fall at Hargrave Military Academy, has the size and experience to make an early contribution. Farr is already enrolled and will participate in spring practice, which may put him ahead of Barton when preseason drills begin.

Allen is a compact, powerful blocker who could be ready next fall, if needed. Polochak still has some growing to do, but has big-time potential.

WHO’S BACK: Junior Matt Butler will return to his starting job at left guard. Senior Thomas Wingenbach was Butler’s backup at the end of the season. Beyond that there’s only red-shirt freshmen Terence Campbell and Jonathan Battle.

Help could also come from a group of gray shirts/Prop 48 cases now enrolled in school. Those include a pair of Fayetteville, NC, products in Doug Palmer and J.T. McCoy, Ohio’s Bryan Gibson, and Florida’s Larry Lease.

NEEDS FOR 2007: Two or more are a necessity, and more if the gray shirts/Prop 48s don’t come through.



HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: It didn’t in this area.

WHO’S BACK: Both the first- and second-team center from the end of last season have graduated and red-shirt freshman Zack Davis is transferring, leaving senior Drew Sutton to handle the snapping.

NEEDS FOR 2007: One of the major needs will be to sign one or two centers.

In the next column, we’ll take a similar look at ECU’s defensive signees and what the future looks like at those positions.

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02/23/2007 02:37:31 PM


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