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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Wednesday, May 7, 2008

By Sammy Batten

PREVIOUS CLASSES:  2006  •  2007  •  2008

'09 recruiting starts with lithe lineman

By Sammy Batten
with additional staff contributions.
All rights reserved.

East Carolina’s assistant head coach and defensive backs coordinator Rick Smith dropped by Bartlett Yancey High School early last spring just to say hello. By the time he departed, Smith had discovered a player who would eventually become the Pirates’ first recruit for 2009.

“We just happened to have finished up early in the weight room and some of the guys were playing two-hand touch,’’ Bartlett Yancey head coach Dennis Bannick recalled. “Coach Smith walks up and sees this big guy out there doing things that big guys shouldn’t be doing. He was jumping up catching balls, making moves on guys, and this is a guy who’s 6-foot-3 and 290 pounds.

“Coach Smith thought he’d found an athlete. He told us he’d be in touch.’’

Smith followed through on his promise after watching video highlights from Bartlett Yancey’s 2007 season featuring defensive tackle Michael (pronounced Mik-Ale) Brooks. The Pirates would eventually become the first school to extend a scholarship offer to Brooks, who accepted in mid-April to become the first member of ECU’s recruiting Class of 2009.

Brooks made three unofficial visits to Greenville, the final one for the Pirates annual spring scrimmage on April 12. He committed to ECU several days later.

N.C. State and North Carolina had also been showing interest in Brooks, but he felt at home in Greenville where he’d spent plenty of time in the past visiting his god-parents. “They lived there for about 15 years and their kids went to Rose High School,’’ Brooks said.

But the major reasons Brooks decided to commit to ECU had more to do with the Pirates and the successful program being directed by head coach Skip Holtz.

“Everybody was just so friendly down there,’’ Brooks said. “It was more like a family. Each time I visited everybody came up to talk and make me feel at home.

“Me and my coach also looked at their depth chart. Their (ECU) coaches told me how many linemen they had leaving. I wanted to play early, so that affected my decision.

“And a big factor was that they’re winning. They’ve got two bowl rings, and they beat Boise State (in Sheraton Hawaii Bowl) this past year. That was big. They showed that they can compete with some of the bigger-name schools. Hopefully, I can help them continue that.’’

The decision makes Brooks the second member of his family to receive a football scholarship from a major-college program. His cousin is former N.C. State quarterback Jamie Barnette, who became that school’s all-time leader in passing and total offense between 1996-1999 before being surpassed by Philip Rivers.

Brooks began his football career in the recreation leagues in nearby Roxboro. But it wasn’t until the seventh grade that he began to show real promise.

“I’ve been a big guy since middle school,’’ Brooks said. “I was like 260 pounds in the seventh grade, but I was only, like, 5-9. But when I hit high school I jumped to 6-2 or 6-3.’’

Brooks was good enough as a freshman at Bartlett Yancey to play for the varsity squad. Bannick, who was a first-year head coach at the time, decided to leave Brooks on the junior varsity while he worked to rebuild the varsity program.

“When I saw him, I knew he had potential,’’ Bannick said. “But I was new to the program and we had a bad class of seniors. Sometimes when you take over a program you have to get rid of some bad apples. I didn’t want him (Brooks) to pick up any bad habits from those guy, so I left him on the JV's where he had a lot of success. I believe that helped him.’’

Brooks has been a mainstay for Bannick’s defense the last two seasons. He’s twice been named the team’s defensive MVP, led the squad in sacks, tackles for losses and tackles, and as a junior earned All-Triad 3-A Conference honors.

“He’s the main reason why in one year we cut our defensive scoring by 300 points,’’ Bannick said. “He puts pressure on the offense. He’s the quickest guy off the ball I’ve coached in 20 years. His first two steps are unbelievable.

“Last year he was double-teamed every game. But he still got into the backfield. I feel he’s a very good fit for ECU. I think ECU got a steal from all these other schools.’’

Bannick plans to expand Brooks’ role in 2008, using him on the offensive line as well as at defensive tackle.

Brooks doesn’t mind. He’s hoping to help Bartlett Yancey, which loses just three starters from 2007, make a significant improvement over last year’s 1-10 finish.

“This is the same group of guys who started with me in the ninth grade,’’ Brooks said. “I think we should be pretty good.’’

All rights reserved.

[View previous ECU recruiting classes.]

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05/07/2008 02:33:13 AM


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