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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Friday, December 15, 2006

By Sammy Batten

Offensive Analysis  •  Defensive Analysis  •  Thumbnails

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

'Tis the season to be jolly for ECU

Pirates' recent treasure finds include blue-chippers as well as a postseason berth.

By Sammy Batten
All rights reserved.

Christmas came about three weeks early for Coach Skip Holtz and the East Carolina Pirates.

The Pirates not only secured their first bowl bid since 2001 by beating N.C. State at the end of November, they also pulled off two major in-state recruiting coups in the first week of December.

Quarterback Rodney Cox from Harnett Central High School in Angier and running back-cornerback Tyrell Worthington of South Central High in Winterville became the most prominent prospects yet to make verbal pledges to ECU.

Rodney Cox profile rates Cox the nation’s No. 20 dual-threat quarterback and the state’s No. 17 prospect overall. Worthington is rated the nation’s No. 29 cornerback prospect by Rivals and is No. 16 among North Carolina players.

Cox is one of those athletes who immediately attracts attention because of his size (6-foot-6, 228 pounds) and speed (4.6-second speed in the 40-yard dash). Schools such as Clemson, N.C. State and South Carolina had also offered Cox scholarships before he decided to cast his lot with the Pirates.

N.C. State was the early favorite to land Cox, but the dismissal of head coach Chuck Amato in November led to a change of heart.

“Yes, that was a factor for me,’’ Cox said. “I had been talking to Coach Amato the whole time from the start of my junior year to the end of my senior season, then he gets fired. Now they have Coach (Tom) O’Brien coming in, and he’s a man I haven’t talked to before.

“That made me start thinking that East Carolina’s program is on the rise. It’s close to home, so all my friends and family can come up to see me in Greenville. And Coach (Junior) Smith did a good job recruiting me.’’

Smith, ECU’s running backs coach, received the commitment from Cox personally when he visited Harnett Central on Dec. 4. Smith remained in town to watch Cox perform in a basketball game that evening.

The decision capped a stellar prep career that began for Cox as a running back on the junior varsity as a ninth grader. The arrival of Marc Morris as head coach following Cox’s freshman season signaled a major change in offensive style at Harnett Central.

“I’d been playing running back since my Pop Warner days,’’ Cox said. “I was fast and usually the most athletic person out there, so they just gave me the ball and I ran.

“When I was a freshman we were running a Wing T offense where the quarterback is just another runner. But when Coach Morris came in and installed an offense that really needed a quarterback who could run and throw — that’s when they switched me to quarterback.

“I had some reservations about it. But I worked hard over the summer and got the job done.’’

You could say Cox was a natural.

He threw for 1,726 yards and ran for 1,310 more to earn his conference’s player of the year honors. Cox followed that up with a monster junior season in which he ran for 2,295 yards and 32 touchdowns, while passing for 1,471 yards and 17 more scores.

Although slowed by a knee injury during his senior season, Cox still sparked Harnett Central to a 12-1 record and a second straight Cape Fear Valley 3-A Conference title. The Trojans reached the second round of the state 3-AA playoffs.

Cox earned all-league honors after rushing for 1,559 yards and 21 touchdowns, while passing for 1,471 yards and 15 scores.

Because Cox is such a great athlete it has been speculated that he might be converted to another position at the college level. Cox said the Pirates are going to give him a chance to play quarterback, but that he won’t mind if he’s asked to shift to another position.

“I’m going to try to fit into the program first,’’ Cox said. “I think I can be a pretty good quarterback. But I’ll play where ever they need me.’’

Cox will make his official visit to Greenville on January 6.

Tyrell Worthington profile

The Pirates landed another exceptional and versatile athlete in Worthington, a 6-foot, 180-pounder with 4.47-second speed in the 40-yard dash. North Carolina, N.C. State and Virginia Tech had offered him scholarships, but Worthington chose to stay close to home.

“Greenville is like home to me,’’ Worthington said. “I’ve spent a lot of time there and feel comfortable with the school, the players and the coaching staff. I think I can have a good career there.’’

South Central High School opened just four years ago in the same county — Pitt — in which ECU is located. Worthington entered the school as a freshman and played for varsity football team in its inaugural season.

Head coach Kemp Ewing said it was evident immediately that Worthington’s skills were superior to the normal freshman.

“He is a poster child for loyalty,’’ Ewing said. “He had the opportunity to go to another high school in our area and he chose not to. He stayed with us and helped our program grow.

“I’ve been around some Division I kids before. Because of some of the things he did as a young player for us we knew it would be a short time before people noticed and started to recruit him.’’

Worthington was a four-year starter at tailback and safety for South Central. He ran 140 times for 1,129 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior on offense, and collected 96 tackles on defense.

As a senior, he produced 2,431 yards rushing, which included a 414-yard rushing effort in one game against Havelock.

The Pirates haven’t specified where they’ll use Worthington, but Ewing would prefer to see him with the football in his hands.

“I think they’re still kicking around some things, but I’d like to see him run the ball,’’ Ewing said. “He has great vision, great speed and great body awareness. He knows where his body is at all times and he makes a lot of people miss when they try to tackle him.’’

Worthington has no preference about his position.

“I’ll play anywhere, although I do enjoy running the ball,’’ he said. “I just want to help them keep winning.’’

Worthington is in South Carolina this weekend trying to lead the North Carolina squad to victory in the annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas all-star game. He’s playing running back for the Tar Heel squad.

One hitch with Worthington’s commitment could be his baseball career. A speedy center fielder who hit .400 as a junior, he is expected to be selected in the professional baseball draft next June.

“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,’’ Ewing said. “There were two or three major league teams in here visiting him last weekend. A lot of teams are showing interest in him.’’

Worthington said his decision to attend ECU or play professional baseball will depend on where he’s taken in the draft.

“If I get drafted high, I’ll have to see what kind of money they’re offering,’’ he said. “If it’s not that great, I’ll go to ECU and play football and baseball.’’

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02/23/2007 02:37:53 PM


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