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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Monday, February 11, 2008

By Sammy Batten

RECRUITING THUMBNAILS:  2006  •  2007  •  2008

Recruiting class merits solid grade

By Sammy Batten
All rights reserved.

One recruit reminds his former high school coach of NFL Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin. Another member of East Carolina’s recruiting Class of 2008 conjures memories of Clemson cornerback Crezdon Butler for his prep mentor.

But that’s just an example of the talent Dayon Arrington and Rakheem Morgan will be bringing to Greenville next fall. The dynamic pair were just two of the 18 players officially bound to the Pirates after signing national letters-of-intent last Wednesday.

Arrington, from Silver Spring, MD, spent this past season catching passes at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, VA. Playing for Hargrave’s star-studded post-graduate team, Arrington had several outstanding performances in the team’s 5-3-1 finish.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder scored his first touchdown of the year on a 20-yard run on Sept. 3 versus Robert Morris, but his biggest outing came on Oct. 14 against Louisburg. Arrington hauled in six catches for 115 yards and two scores versus the Hurricanes.

It was at Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville, MD, that Arrington’s career got off the ground.

“From they day he walked in the door as a freshman, he was about 6 feet and about 165 or 170 pounds,’’ said former Paint Branch head coach Ernie Williams. “He was very athletic. He’s just one of those kids from the moment he walked through the door you knew he was special.’’

Arrington began his football career at Paint Branch playing quarterback, running back and wide receiver on the freshman team. But before that season ended, Williams had promoted Arrington to the varsity as a utility player.

Over the next three years, Arrington would become a star at Paint Branch in football, basketball and track. He led the basketball team in scoring as a junior and senior and was one of the state’s top high jumpers in track (he has a 31-inch vertical leap).

On the football field, he developed into one of the area’s best receivers, and as a senior led Montgomery County with 40 catches for 914 yards and three touchdowns.

“I remember one game we were playing our arch rivals on television,’’ Williams said. “On the first pass of the game we threw a deep route to him, but the ball was overthrown over his opposite shoulder. But he reached up, snagged the ball with one hand and fell backwards. It was one of the greatest catches I’ve seen from a high school kid.’’

Despite the prep success, Arrington wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school, mainly because many scouts felt his speed – he was running a 4.65-second 40-yard dash at the time – was too slow for a major-college wide out. But after working with a personal trainer and spending a season at Hargrave he’s trimmed that to 4.5.

Virginia seemed destined to sign Arrington out of Hargrave. Arrington had been a Cavalier fan growing up. But once the Pirates got involved in early December, Arrington’s plans began to change. He eventually chose ECU over offers from Kent and Virginia.

ECU head coach Skip Holtz said on national signing day that he thought Arrington was the one player in this year’s recruiting class who is most likely to see action as a true freshman in 2008.

Williams, who now coaches at Blake High School, understands why.

“He reminds me of Michael Irvin when you watch him play because he’s a big kid,’’ Williams said. “He’s physical and he doesn’t run away from people. When he gets in a tight corner he uses his body extremely well and has great hands.’’

Morgan’s path to the major-college football ranks has been similar to his former high school teammate at Asheville High School, Crezdon Butler.

Butler preceded Morgan as the quarterback for the Cougars. While Morgan toiled on the varsity as a cornerback on defense and wide receiver on offense during his freshman and sophomore years, Butler was spearheading Asheville’s drive to the state 3-A championship in 2005. On the way Butler broke the school’s 63-year-old career rushing mark previously held by legendary Charlie “Choo-Choo’’ Justice with 5,030.

A year later Butler earned freshman All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors from The Sporting News after playing extensively at cornerback for Clemson.

Morgan was already showing his talent, however, even when Butler was still on the Asheville team. He caught the game-winning touchdown pass from Butler as a sophomore in the state championship contest.

Upon Butler’s graduation, Asheville coach Danny Wilkins tabbed Morgan as his successor at quarterback.

“He put up some pretty good numbers for us,’’ Wilkins said. “He became our all-time leading passer over the last two years and this year he was named by the Asheville Citizen Times as the Western N.C. Player of the Year.

“He’s been one of our leaders. He can beat you with his legs as well as his arm from the quarterback spot.’’

Morgan, a 6-foot, 180-pounder, passed for 3,084 career yards, including 1,810 for 22 touchdowns as a senior. He also added 1,173 yard and 12 more touchdowns on the ground.

Buffalo, Marshall, Elon, Gardner-Webb and Georgia Southern were just some of the schools recruiting Morgan. But Wilkins said once the Pirates made it clear they wanted Morgan, he was ready to commit.

“They came in sort of in the middle of the process,’’ Wilkins said. “They had to tie up some other things on their (recruiting) board before they made an offer. They were telling him all along they wanted him. But once they offered it was a done deal.

“He was real excited. He’s been wearing purple to school every day since he committed.’’

The Pirates are expected to use Morgan at safety or cornerback. Wilkins likens Morgan’s skills at corner to Butler’s.

“Crezdon is a little faster on the hoof than Rahkeem, but I really believe Rahkeem’s best days are ahead of him,’’ Wilkins said. “He’s not even close to fulfilling his potential physically. But he has great closing speed and a really good instinct for the game.’’

All rights reserved.

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

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02/13/2008 12:18:36 AM


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