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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Friday, September 19, 2008

By Sammy Batten

THUMBNAILS:  2006  •  2007  •  2008  •  2009

First instinct held true for N.J star

By Sammy Batten
All rights reserved.

Recruiting Links

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Mike Naples is one of those athletes who has always been one of the best at whatever sport he played.

“He's always been the biggest kid on his team and he's always pretty much been the best player, whether it was football, baseball or basketball. Everybody knew who Mike Naples was long before he got to the high school,'' said Greg Arakelian, a long-time assistant and now head football coach at Somerville (NJ) High School.

A central New Jersey town, Somerville is located near the main campus of Rutgers University.

For the past three seasons, Naples has starred for both the Somerville football and basketball squads. A 6-foot-4, 220-pounder with 4.6-second speed in the 40-yard dash, he caught 35 passes and scored eight touchdowns to earn third-team All-Somerset County honors on the gridiron as a junior. Naples also averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds for the basketball squad.

It was the talent Naples displayed in both sports that caught the attention of East Carolina defensive ends coach and special teams coordinator Vernon Hargreaves, who would eventually extend a scholarship offer. Naples was so excited about the offer that he took an unofficial visit to Greenville to check out the school during the Easter break in April.

Upon his return to Somerville, Naples told Arakelian he was ready make a verbal commitment to ECU. Arakelian told him to wait.

“My advice to him was that it's early, wait and see what else happens,'' Arakelian said. “But you could tell he loved it. At least once a week after he got back he'd come to school with an East Carolina T-shirt on.''

So Naples waited. And while he waited other offers came in from Akron, Army, Cincinnati, Purdue and Vanderbilt.

Despite the additional attention, Naples knew he wanted to become a Pirate. So after watching ECU knock off nationally-ranked Virginia Tech and West Virginia to start the 2008 season, Naples decided to pull the trigger.

“Was he swayed (by early wins)? I don't know,'' Arakelian said. “He liked East Carolina before the season started. But the fact they've done so well only helped.''

Naples has begun his third season on the Somerville varsity and caught a 26-yard touchdown pass in the season opener.

He started as a wideout on the varsity as a sophomore when Arakelian was just an assistant under Kevin Carty, Sr., whose son, Kevin Jr., played collegiately at North Carolina before finishing his career at William & Mary.

“We knew right away Mike was going to be a special player,'' Arakelian said. “He was raw, but he could play the game.''

Arakelian took over as head coach last season and he planned to use Naples at receiver and linebacker on defense, but those plans didn't work out.

“In the summer of 2007 he broke his finger playing AAU basketball in Virginia,'' Arakelian said. “He was able to play the entire season with us, but he wasn't cleared to play until opening night. That was his first time in full gear. So we kept him off defense the entire year.

“But last Friday in our opener he was on the field 90 percent of the time. He had a good game at linebacker – he was our leading tackler – and he caught a touchdown as a tight end on offense.''

Arakelian said Naples isn't a traditional tight end or college wideout, which is why the Pirates plan to play him at a hybrid or H-back position where he can use his height and strength to his advantage.

“We have a play called 93 jump, which is exactly what he does on the play,'' Arakelian said. “The quarterback puts air under the ball in the corner of the end zone and they rely on Mike's athletic ability to go up and get it.

“I actually have a whole list of Mike Naples plays where we isolate him on the defender.''

Led by Naples, Somerville is hoping to improve on the 3-7 record it posted last season.

“We've got more of a veteran team this year,'' Arakelian said. “And Mike is our go-to guy.''

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09/22/2008 04:11:13 AM


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