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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Tuesday, January 16, 2007

By Sammy Batten

Offensive Analysis  •  Defensive Analysis  •  Thumbnails

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

ECU's D-line set to grow in stature

West Iredell's Allison and Northern Nash's Baker bringing more size to Pirates' defensive front

By Sammy Batten
All rights reserved.

Two of the most recent recruits head coach Skip Holtz and his coaching staff have secured for East Carolina are the biggest yet for the Class of 2007.

Literally, the biggest.

Antonio Allison, a 6-foot-4, 305-pound defensive tackle from Statesville, and 6-7, 250-pound defensive end Steven Baker of Rocky Mount added some heft and height to the Pirates class after making verbal commitments to Holtz.


Baker has actually been known more for his exploits on the basketball court and the track. He’s a double-figure scorer and top rebounder for the Northern Nash basketball squad this year, while last spring Baker placed third in the state 3-A shot put with a toss of 48 feet, 10 inches.

But because Northern Nash has struggled on the gridiron recently, including this season when the Knights finished 1-10, Baker wasn’t a major target for most NCAA Division I-A programs. East Carolina, however, recognized Baker’s potential and understood the benefit of pursuing a big man in its own backyard.

“He’s a big boy,’’ said Northern Nash coach Richard Bunch. “He’s been in our program for four years. When he came over here as a freshman, some of the college coaches saw him when they came by to talk about other kids. When they saw him, they got interested right away because of his size.

“But most of those schools were basically sitting on hold, waiting for him to do a few things before they showed more interest. But East Carolina has spent two years really working on him. I think that’s one reason he went with them.’’

East Carolina was the first school to come through with a scholarship offer before the 2006 season began. Baker accepted the offer in mid-October.

Although he has played defensive end in high school at times, Baker is expected to play defensive tackle for the Pirates. It’s a position Bunch believes Baker is well suited to play.

“He really takes up a lot of space,’’ Bunch said. “We’ve played him inside and out this year, but he’s a tough person to move out of that middle.


Allison is also projected to play defensive tackle after playing there three of the last four seasons on the varsity at West Iredell for Coach Mark Weycker. Weycker said Allison displayed potential to earn a Division I-A scholarship as early as his freshman season.

“In all honesty, we knew when he was a freshman that this was a young man with size and quickness,’’ Weycker said. “But it’s one of those things that you hope the kid continues to work hard and progress to reach that potential.

“Antonio has done a good job fulfilling his potential here.’’

Allison closed out his prep career in impressive fashion, earning first-team all-county honors from the Statesville Record & Landmark, first-team All-Northwest by the Winston-Salem Journal and second-team All-Piedmont by the Charlotte Observer.

For a team that won nine games and reached the state playoffs, Allison had 102 tackles, including nine for losses, and had four sacks.

“We’re a two-platoon team, but he did spend a little time on our heavier goal-line set on the offensive side,’’ Weycker said. “There were many battles on our staff over that young man and who would get to coach him. But when you’ve got that size, and you can run and make plays like Antonio was able to make, he’s got to be on the defensive side of the ball.

“He really came on in the second half of his junior year. I think he just came to the realization when he went hard every play that he was a force that made our football team so much better. This year he was our second-leading tackler as a defensive lineman.’’

Allison was so dominant that he made West Iredell’s opponents make considerations for him in their gameplan.

“People made the mistake early of trying to figure out if they could run right at him,’’ Weycker said. “People who tried to run at him and that didn’t work real well. We had a pretty good inside linebacker and he (Allison) helped that young man become the leading tackler throughout the season.

“About game five everyone figured they couldn’t run at him. His quickness and ability to get off blocks, and still be able to run the ball down, discouraged them after about the fifth game.’’

Marshall had also offered Allison a scholarship, but the Pirates' consistent interest won him over in the end.

“They stayed with Antonio throughout his senior season, and it (ECU) ended up being a good fit academically and athletically,’’ Weycker said. “After taking a visit there he figured that was the place he wanted to continue his career.’’

Weycker could see Allison making a contribution next fall at ECU.

“One of the things he can provide right off the bat is good size on the defensive line,’’ Weycker said. “He has the skills and the movements, too. If they’re looking for inside help, he’s somebody they should take a look at.’’

Baker and Allison are the first two defensive line prospects committed to the Class of 2007, but they may not be the last.

The Pirates hosted one of the state’s top defensive line prospects on the weekend of Jan. 5-7 in Tydreke Powell from Ahoskie’s Hertford County High School. The 6-3, 298-pounder has ECU among his final five schools along with North Carolina (1/26 visit), Clemson (1/12), Penn State (2/2) and Virginia Tech (1/19).

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02/23/2007 02:38:33 PM


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