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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Monday, July 17, 2006

By Sammy Batten

Offensive Analysis  •  Defensive Analysis  •  Profiles

QB's & Receivers  •  O-Linemen & RB's  •  Profiles

McFadden sets sights on succeeding Pinkney

Independence QB bonds quickly with Holtz and Petty


Darryl McFadden, Jr., or D.J. as family and friends call him, wasn’t really into football when he was young.

“It was funny because I played football in a recreation league, but I really wanted to be a basketball player,’’ McFadden said. “At one point I got so big my Dad said, ‘OK, we’re going to make you a quarterback.’ Well, I didn’t want to play quarterback. I wanted to play wide receiver.

“But when I went into the ninth grade at Olympic (High School), the coach there told me I could be a Division I quarterback. So I started working hard and look where I am now.’’

Now, McFadden is the starting quarterback for North Carolina’s premier high school football program, Charlotte’s Independence High School. More important to East Carolina fans, he’s also the newest member of the Pirates’ recruiting Class of 2007.

McFadden became the third member of the ECU class in early July, about two weeks after visiting the Greenville campus for a one-day camp for top prospects. He’d been offered a scholarship by the Pirates in early June and weighed that offer against ones from Marshall and Vanderbilt.

A budding relationship with head coach Skip Holtz and quarterbacks coach Phil Petty convinced McFadden that ECU was the right place to continue his football career.

“I really connected with Coach Holtz and Coach Petty,’’ McFadden said. “They are such down-to-Earth guys. When I was down there for the one-day camp we were joking and talking the whole time. Most coaches do that when you’re there to make you want to come to their school. But that was really who they are.

“Coach Holtz has taken a program that was 2-9 and made a complete turnaround. There is nowhere to go but up. I see the potential for East Carolina being a pretty good team in a couple of years.’’

McFadden was also intrigued by the spread offense implemented by Holtz. The system is similar to the one run at Independence by head coach Tom Knotts, who emphasizes the passing game.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder excelled in the spread in his first year as a starter in 2005. McFadden completed 230 of 464 passes for 3,877 yards and 33 touchdowns for a squad that went 16-0 and claimed a sixth straight state 4-A championship. The Patriots extended their national-best winning streak to 92 straight games with the 38-19 win against New Bern last December in the state 4-AA finals.

“We run an offense that’s very similar (to ECU) in that we like to throw the ball out of the shotgun about 60 percent of the time,’’ McFadden said. “That was really significant to me that ECU ran something that I’m familiar with. I didn’t want to go to a school where they barely threw the ball. It’s just the kind of offense that suits me.’’

The opportunity at East Carolina was also a drawing card for McFadden. Starting quarterback James Pinkney will complete his eligibility following the 2006 season, creating an opening for McFadden and the program’s other young quarterbacks like Brett Clay, Rob Kass and Patrick Pinkney.

“With (James) Pinkney leaving, Coach Holtz told me flat out that I’d get the same opportunity as everybody else,’’ McFadden said. “He said he wasn’t pulling my leg. He will give me a chance early to compete and make some noise early.’’

Expectations are high this year for James Pinkney, who threw for 2,773 yards and 14 touchdowns last season for the Pirates. He should be a strong candidate for All-Conference USA and national honors.

Following such an impressive act would be nothing new for McFadden. He’s part of a quarterback tradition at Independence that includes current Florida quarterback Chris Leak and incoming Georgia freshman Joe Cox.

Replacing Cox as the Independence starter was a pressure-packed situation for McFadden last fall.

“It was, especially early in the season,’’ McFadden said. “Everyone was so used to our quarterbacks throwing up good numbers and they always want to compare you like, ‘Joe Cox wouldn’t have done that.’ But once we got our offense going and I started putting up big numbers, things got easier.’’

McFadden calls himself a cross between Leak and Cox in terms of his style at quarterback.

“I think all three of us are kind of the same because we’re all pocket quarterbacks,’’ McFadden said. “You never see us run that much. I ran the most this year than any of us, but I barely ran. I had seven rushing touchdowns.

“But Chris has the strongest arm of the three. Joe is better at accuracy. I’m better at standing in the pocket, taking a hit and making plays.

“Mainly, I am a pocket quarterback. When it comes time to run, I can, but I choose not to. A lot of people say I should run more, but I feel productive doing what I’m doing. So I’m going to keep doing it.’’

Now that his college decision is out of the way, McFadden can focus on leading Independence to yet another state championship. He’s spending his summer working out at the school and serving as a part-time host at a local restaurant.

“A state championship is always the expectations at Independence and in the community here,’’ McFadden said. “We’re going to be fairly young on defense, but we have a great receiver back in Jason Barnes. Once we gel I think we’ll still be a pretty tough team to beat.

“Our coach, Coach Knotts, knows football. Every week he prepares you the best way possible. You know if you listen to him, you’re going to be successful. That’s the feeling I get with Coach Holtz. He won’t settle for just average. He wants the best out of you on every play.’’

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02/23/2007 02:37:41 PM


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