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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Friday, February 8, 2008

By Sammy Batten

RECRUITING THUMBNAILS:  2006  •  2007  •  2008

Recruiting class merits solid grade

By Sammy Batten
All rights reserved.

College football recruiting is all about meeting needs.

So, when trying to evaluate the recruiting class East Carolina added on college football’s national signing day on Wednesday, I didn’t start by counting the stars assigned to the 18 new Pirates by the national analysts.

Instead, I went back and reviewed all the comments ECU head coach Skip Holtz made about his team’s weaknesses in 2007, I studied the Pirates depth chart and roster, and lastly I considered the talent each recruit brings to the table.

Even with that extensive research, trying to predict the true quality of a recruiting class is only speculation. The real experts are the ECU coaches who courted these players for months, and in some cases for years.

For conversation sake, however, here’s one man’s opinion based primarily on how well the Pirates met their needs, especially on the offensive line, at linebacker and in the secondary.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: Signing at least one quarterback was already important because the Pirates would have been graduating three of the four scholarship programs on the 2007 roster over the next two seasons. But with red-shirt freshman D.J. McFadden expressing an interest to move from signal caller to wide receiver and another of 2007’s quarterback recruits, Rodney Cox, expected to move to tight end when he reports this spring after sitting out the fall as a partial academic qualifier, signing a quarterback became essential.

WHO SIGNED: Josh Jordan (6-4, 210) St. Amant, LA.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Jordan already has the kind of arm strength that will rival last year’s co-starter Rob Kass. It’s strong enough that he won the state javelin championship as a junior. But it’s the intangibles that really impress you about Jordan. He’s the son of a former college coach, so he knows the game and usually makes good decisions with the ball. And he’s tough as nails. Jordan played the second half of his senior year with a hairline fracture in his foot. Despite the injury, Jordan directed his team to the state 5-A championship, throwing for 392 yards and seven touchdowns in the final. You hate to put pressure on someone before he even steps on campus, but Jordan looks like ECU’s quarterback of the future to me. The only reason the Pirates don’t get an 'A' is because they probably could have used another one just like Jordan.

WHO’S BACK: Junior Rob Kass and senior Patrick Pinkney were co-starters in ’07 and will probably take the bulk of the snaps in ’08. Junior Brett Clay, who actually started last year’s opener against Virginia Tech, returns as the No. 3 guy.

NEEDS FOR 2009: Securing one quarterback is critical, but two would be the perfect number.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: Even with the great Chris Johnson departing, the Pirates are well stocked with good young running backs. So the need wasn’t great unless they could find a truly great one to coral.

WHO SIGNED: Nobody yet. Marquan Brown, a 5-foot-7 whirling dervish of a runner from Fayetteville’s Gray’s Creek High School, verbally committed to ECU. But because of some issues with paperwork, Brown hadn’t signed a letter-of-intent as of Feb. 7. Gray’s Creek coach David Lovette still expects Brown to join the Pirate class. A second potential running back commit, Darius Spencer from Asheville’s Reynolds High, is probably headed to junior college. But Reynolds coach Shane Laws said Spencer is determined to make it to Greenville eventually, so look for him again in the Class of 2010.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: It hasn’t yet. But if Brown signs they’ll be adding an exciting player to its ranks, one who could make an huge impact down the road as a kick returner.

WHO’S BACK: Dominique Lindsay, a senior, basically took a backseat in the run game to the dynamic Johnson. Lindsay will get a chance to shine in ’08, but the real up-and-comer in ECU’s backfield picture is hometown product Jonathan Williams. Williams averaged 6.8 yards on limited carries as a true freshman and should compete for a starting role in the spring. Also in the picture will be former top recruit Norman Whitley, a sophomore, and walk-on senior Brandon Simmons. JUCO transfer J.R. Rogers never made an impact in ’07, but he could be a factor this time. Kevin Gidrey, a sophomore, appeared in 11 games last year as a fullback. He’ll be joined at that spot by red-shirt freshman Ben Herlocker.

NEEDS FOR 2009: Signing two is a necessity, and three would be ideal.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: Picking up two guys to replace graduating Steven Rogers and Phillip Henry was the goal.

WHO SIGNED: Dayon Arrington (6-2, 205) Silver Spring, MD; Jacobi Jenkins (6-0, 175) Rocky Mount, NC; Adrian Jones (5-11, 180) Laurinburg, NC; Joe Womack (6-1, 195) Jacksonville, NC.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Arrington is the physical receiver with an attitude that the quarterback likes to look for on third-down plays or when you need to throw one up in the end zone. He’ll see action in some capacity next fall. Adrian Jones is probably the most versatile athlete in the class, while Joe Womack is another big receiver who’ll be making the conversion from high-school quarterback. Jones and Jacobi Jenkins are both prep sprint stars that’ll eventually provide excellent speed to the receiving corps.

WHO’S BACK: Junior Jamar Bryant has star potential and should be an all-league candidate next fall, while sophomore Dwayne Harris is a developing player who can hurt opponents catching, running or even passing the football. Senior T.J. Lee and junior Kyle Johnson saw extensive action last year as reserves. Junior Alex Taylor and red-shirt freshman DeMario Waymon are other possibilities.

NEEDS FOR 2009: The Pirates are only expected to lose Lee after the 2008 season, so it won’t be a priority. But with the passing game so prominent at ECU you can expect one or two to be signed anyway.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: Before the news that Rodney Cox will probably convert to tight end this spring, getting two in this class was pivotal because the probable top two on the ’08 depth chart graduate after next season. In the end, one was sufficient.

WHO SIGNED: Mike Brown (6-4, 230) Reidsville, NC.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Brown wasn’t heavily recruited, despite an impressive prep resume. He’s got good hands and mobility, but it wouldn’t take much for him to grow into an offensive tackle once he gets to Greenville. With that in mind, the Pirates probably fell a little short of the goal at tight end.

WHO’S BACK: Starter Davon Drew will be a senior next fall as will his backup, J.R. Kraemer. But don’t be surprised to see the athletic Cox develop quickly. Like Drew, he was recruited as a quarterback. Red-shirt freshmen Michael Byrd and Will Towery will also return.

NEEDS FOR 2009: Signing one for good measure will give the program a nice round number of four at tight end.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: Four to five signees were imperative for the offensive line simply to bolster the depth. But some immediate assistance was needed at guard and center. The hopeful return of former starter Terence Campbell to action in ’08 will be a major boost at tackle.

WHO SIGNED: C.L. Brown (6-4, 315) Wilmington, NC; Josh Clark (6-4, 265) Gastonia, NC; Dalton Faulds (6-3, 285) Ponte Vedra Beach, FL; Grant Harner (6-6, 300) Jacksonville, FL; Logan Kudlinski (6-5, 265) Orange Park, FL; T.J. Harper (6-2, 315) Meridian, MS.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: T.J. Harper, a JUCO transfer, is already enrolled at ECU and will, at the very least, compete for a backup job at guard or center. Dalton Faulds, who played on an offensive line as a sophomore at Nease High School that blocked for Tim Teabow, will also be trained at center where the Pirates struggled last year because of injuries. Harner and Kudlinski are future tackle prospects, while Clark projects at guard. So ECU got immediate help, replenished its depth and signed some super future prospects for its blocking corps.

WHO’S BACK: Junior Doug Palmer started every game at right guard last season and junior Sean Allen played in all 12 games as a reserve. Allen will probably shift over to left guard and battle sophomore Andrew Farr for the starting job Matt Butler held for 36 straight games. Junior Cory Dowless, sophomore Larry Lease and sophomore Doug Polochak round out the guard corps. Senior Stanley Bryant, sophomore D.J. Scott, sophomore Travis Melvin and senior Willie Barton are all experienced tackles. If Terence Campbell returns from his heart issues, that could be the most experienced and deep position on the team. Junior Stephen Heis returns at center along with senior Fred Hicks.

NEEDS FOR 2009: Even when your cupboard is full, signing two or three offensive linemen is a good policy.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: The Pirates signed a huge class of defensive linemen in 2007, so there really wasn’t a major need at all in terms of numbers.

WHO SIGNED: Robert Jones (6-3, 260) Tucker, GA; Allen Crowder (6-2, 260) Mebane, NC; Anthony Garner (6-1, 290) Siler City, NC.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Jones may wind up being the steal of the class. He’s quick, has room to grow and time to do it because there are so many veterans ahead of him at defensive end. But watch his progress. In about two years, he could be special. Anthony Garner has potential at nose guard and Allen Crowder is a workout beast who opened a lot of eyes at the annual Shrine Bowl all-star week in December.

WHO’S BACK: Senior Zack Slate and junior C.J. Wilson were the starters at the spots when the season ended. Their backups are also returning in junior Scotty Robinson and sophomore Willie Smith. But watch for senior Marcus Hands to reclaim one of the end jobs after missing a lot of time last year due to injury. There’s also sophomore Chris Atkins, sophomore A.J. Johnson and red-shirt freshman Maurice Mercer. The top tackles are sophomore Linval Joseph, senior Khalif Mitchell, junior Jay Ross and senior Brandon Setzer. Red-shirt freshman Antonio Allison is another big man ready to contribute in the middle.

NEED FOR 2009: Hands, Mitchell, Slate and Setzer will graduate after 2008, so pursuing at least two as replacements will be important.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: Four linebackers graduated from the ’07 squad and five others, including two walk-ons, will leave after next season. The Pirates probably could have used at least two here. But they picked up just one and he played defensive back in high school.

WHO SIGNED: Max Joyner (6-2, 191) Greenville, NC.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Joyner is first and foremost a winner, who has grown up in an ECU family, so he’ll do whatever it takes to help the Pirates be successful. With a little time and diligence, he could blossom into an outstanding linebacker and special teams star.

WHO’S BACK: Seniors Quentin Cotton and Pierre Bell are back at the outside linebacker spots. Top reserves Dalvon Mack, a senior walk-on, and juniors Jeremy Chambliss and Lorenzo Osborne are also back. Senior Jarrett Wiggins, senior walk-on Juan Quintanilla, and red-shirt freshmen Austin Haynes, Cliff Perryman and Steve Spence will provide depth.

NEED FOR 2009: Because linebackers are such an important element of special-teams play, too, you can never have enough. So it’s always wise to sign two or three every year.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: Three-quarters of the ECU depth chart graduates after ’08, which made this an important area in recruiting this time around. Two or three signees were needed here.

WHO SIGNED: Justin Venable (6-1, 185) Climax, NC.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Venable is one of those guys who will knock your lights out if you come into his area. He was downright intimidating during Shrine Bowl all-star game workouts and wound up earning defensive MVP honors for the North Carolina squad. Venable is fast, too. He’s been timed at 4.38 in the 40-yard dash. The Pirates got a real talent here. The only problem is they needed another two just like him.

WHO’S BACK: Junior Van Eskridge is back at free safety and senior J.J. Millbrook is the incumbent at strong safety. Senior Leon Best and junior Chris Mattocks finished last year as their backups. Sophomore Melvin Patterson and last year’s recruiting haul at safety — Matt Thompson, Devon Wallace and Julian Carter — are ready to see their first significant action.

NEED FOR 2009: Some of the other 2008 signees could wind up at safety, like Joe Womack or Adrian Jones. But until then ECU should try to sign two more next February.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: Nobody ever has enough corners, or enough speed at the cornerback position. ECU is no different, so getting at least three in this class was important.

WHO SIGNED: Rakheem Morgan (6-0, 180) Asheville, NC; Leonard Paulk (5-11, 180) Columbia, SC.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Paulk is an aggressive, hard-hitting athlete whose brother Rodney plays linebacker at South Carolina. Morgan was a high school quarterback, so he’ll need time to learn the cornerback skills. But both players have the speed, athleticism and instinct to excel at the position by the time they are red-shirt sophomores.

WHO’S BACK: Senior Jerek Hewett, sophomore Dekota Marshall, sophomore Darryl Reynolds and sophomore Travis Simmons are returning vets with starting experience. Red-shirt freshmen Derek Blacknall and Emanuel Davis, two gems from the 2007 class, are now ready to get their feet wet.

NEED FOR 2009: The rule above still applies. You can never have enough corners, so get two or three.

The East Carolina recruiting Class of 2008 may not have impressed any of the national recruiting analysts. But in the final analysis it fulfilled the needs of the program at this stage, which earns it a solid 'B' in our forum.

[View thumbnail sketches of all players in ECU's football recruiting class of 2008.]

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02/08/2008 02:36:32 AM


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