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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Monday, February 28, 2006

By Sammy Batten

Defensive recruiting effort plugged gaping holes

Editor's note: This is the second 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. Today's article examines the defensive recruits. Earlier this month, Batten's analyzed the Pirates' harvest of offensive players.


At first glance, it may appear that East Carolina’s coaching staff had a two-track mind when recruiting talent for its defense in the Class of 2006.

Of the 14 recruits expected to play defensive positions next fall, 11 of those were either defensive linemen or linebackers. While that may seem like overload to the casual observer, the ECU coaches were actually addressing immediate and major needs with those signings.

The situation at linebacker was especially precarious after four-year middle linebacker starter Chris Moore, starting outside linebacker Richard Koonce and a top backup on the outside, Josh Chilsom, completed their eligibility last fall. The result saw the ECU staff sign seven linebacker prospects, including three from the junior college ranks who are expected to have an immediate impact on defense.

While ECU wasn’t as desperate for help on the defensive front, securing more talent at that position was also important. The Pirates will lose at least three prominent members of its defensive front after the 2006 season and six more are scheduled to depart after ’07.

Here’s a position-by-position graded analysis of the defensive players of the recruiting class and some thoughts on how they may impact the Pirates next fall.


WHO SIGNED: Joe Council (6-3, 245) Walterboro, S.C.; Davion Holman (6-4, 245) Orlando, Fla.; Travis Melvin (6-6, 260) Fayetteville, N.C.; Willie Smith (6-6, 230) Kenly, N.C.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: None of these guys figure to see the field in 2005, but what the Pirates did acquire with this group is some excellent potential. Melvin and Smith are projects. Melvin, in fact, played mostly at offensive tackle in high school. But both are tall, athletic specimens who, with a year of intensive weight training, could develop into special players. Council is a tremendously quick athlete who actually split time between defensive end and linebacker in high school. He and Holman will also have some work to do in the weight room before seeing action, but both should be ready by 2007 when the current defensive end ranks begin to thin out.

WHO’S BACK: Senior Shauntae Hunt started 10 games for the Pirates last year at one end and fellow senior Michael MacDonagh started three of the final four games at the opposite end. One of those is likely to give way to junior Marcus Hands, if he’s able to return 100 percent from shoulder surgery that prematurely ended his 2005 season. Hands was ECU’s sack leader before suffering the injury. Providing depth behind that trio should be junior Michael LaGow, red-shirt freshman Scotty Robinson and junior walk-on Craig Harper.

NEEDS FOR 2007: The Pirates need to sign two or possibly three more defensive ends because they lose five to graduation over the next two years.


WHO SIGNED: Any of the defensive end signees could win up here, but those four are expected to start out their careers at end.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Still to be determined.

WHO’S BACK: Junior Brandon Setzer and his backup, junior Wendell Chavis, manned one tackle position all season, while junior Mark Robinson made nine of his 10 starts at nose tackle. Senior Dontre Brown and junior Fred Hicks also saw extensive action at nose tackle, so the Pirates look well stocked here for the immediate future.

NEEDS FOR 2007: All five of the above will be gone after the ’07 season, so signing at three tackles would be a wise move.


WHO SIGNED: Chris Atkins (6-3, 200) Chattahoochee, Fla.; A.J. Johnson (6-2, 225) Atlanta, Ga.; Nick Johnson (6-1, 225) Charlotte, N.C.; Lorenzo Osborne (6-3, 200) Atlanta, Ga.; Orlando Farrow (6-3, 235) Georgetown, Del.; Danny Muhwezi (6-3, 235) Germantown, Md.; Fred Wilson (6-2, 255) Cross, S.C.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: The Pirates not only filled some immediate needs by signing three junior college transfers at linebacker, but they looked to the future as well by bringing in four prep players at the position. Farrow, Muhwezi and Wilson are all already enrolled at ECU and will immediately join the competition to replace graduated starters Chris Moore and Richard Koonce in spring practice.

WHO’S BACK: Sophomore Pierre Bell is a budding star at outside linebacker, and junior Durwin Lamb and sophomore Jarrett Wiggins saw extensive action in backup roles last season. Senior Patrick Dosh spent time last season on offense as a blocking back, but is expected to return to defense this spring. Dosh was one of ECU’s top special teams tacklers in ’05. Junior Quentin Cotton was a highly touted prep player who got his feet wet last year. Cotton should become a factor on special teams or at linebacker this season. Junior Julius Hill, who transferred in from the U.S. Naval Academy last year, may also have something to offer.

NEEDS FOR 2007: Honestly, the Pirates could take the year off at this position in recruiting, but with the talent at linebacker in the upcoming senior class they’ll probably be able to nab one or two quality guys.


WHO SIGNED: Dan Wideman (6-2, 210) Greenwood, S.C.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: It’s hard to say for sure that the Pirates helped themselves in this area because Wideman may wind up playing other positions. He was a stellar running quarterback in high school, but his speed, body type and aggressive attitude seem to be a good fit for safety. Either way, Wideman probably won’t be ready to make a contribution until at least a year down the road.

WHO’S BACK: Senior Pierre Parker returns as a potential all-star candidate at free safety, while senior Kyle Chase is also back after seeing extensive action last season as the No. 2 strong safety. Three red-shirt freshmen with excellent promise in Jeremy Chambliss, Van Eskeridge and Chris Mattocks should vie for backup roles.

NEEDS FOR 2007: Recruiting several safeties should be a priority for ECU. Parker and Chase are set to graduate next May, leaving only four players to man the two safety positions. It’s imperative the Pirates not only sign two or three safeties, but to find at least one who can make an immediate impact.


WHO SIGNED: Dekota Marshall (6-1, 185) Jacksonville, N.C.; Darryl Reynolds (6-1, 185) New Bern, N.C.; Travis Simmons (5-10, 175) Tallahassee, Fla.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Speed. The three corners signed by the Pirates will wind up being three of the fastest on the roster immediately. Dekota Marshall has been timed at 10.56 seconds in the 100-meter dash, Darryl Reynolds is one of the state’s top hurdlers and Travis Simmons is a 4.4 40 guy. That speed won’t only be valuable to ECU in the secondary, but also on special teams where all three are potential big-play makers as return men.

WHO’S BACK: Senior Kasey Ross started all 11 games at one corner position last season, while sophomores Stacy Walls and Travis Williams both appeared in 11 games as backups. There’s also senior Erode Jean, a former starter, and exciting sophomore J.J. Millbrook.

NEEDS FOR 2007: Every team needs to sign at least two corners and ECU is no exception. But with the talent the Pirates got this year at the position that should be all that’s necessary.

Overall, this was an excellent class for East Carolina because it met immediate needs and built for the future. Therefore it gets a solid B grade from us.

Next, we’ll take a look at how the rest of Conference USA fared in recruiting this year and compare those classes to the Pirates.

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02/23/2007 02:37:32 PM


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