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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
February 22, 2010

By Sammy Batten

Report Card: Recruiting Class of 2010

Ruff rounds up sound crop of newcomers

By Sammy Batten
All rights reserved.

Ruffin McNeill had less than two weeks, but East Carolina's new football coach was able to hang onto most of the players who verbally committed to Skip Holtz while adding a few touches of his own to the recruiting Class of 2010.

ECU's new skipper hit the road immediately to court recruits after being hired on January 21 to replace Holtz, who left for a job at South Florida after directing the Pirates to back-to-back Conference USA championships. Holtz and his coaching staff had received pledges from 17 players at the time of his departure.

Fourteen of those stuck with McNeill and the Pirates, and a 15th could still wind up in Greenville by the summer. The end result is an 19-man class that features nine players at the pivotal “trench'' positions on the offensive and defensive lines.

Maintaining many of Holtz's recruits was vital for McNeill because ECU is graduating 28 seniors and losing all-star defensive tackle Linval Joseph to the NFL a year early.

“I went in thinking that I needed to reel in all of them,'' McNeill said. “From that Monday morning to getting snowed in at Maryland on Saturday, I wanted to get all of them. I knew all of them were very important.''

How well McNeill and the Pirates have really faired with this class won't be truly know for several years. But here's our position-by-position analysis of the group, and a early peak into the future at what McNeill may be pursing for 2011.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: Patrick Pinkney, who basically ran the ECU offense for three seasons, finally completed his eligibility. A second player recruited as a quarterback, tight end Rob Kass, also graduates. So signing two at this position was the ideal number.

WHO SIGNED: Shane Carden (6-3, 205) Episcopal HS, Bellaire, TX; Desi Brown (6-2, 190) Webster Groves HS, Webster Groves, MO.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Carden wasn't highly rated, nor did he play against Texas' best competition in a private-school conference. But what Carden brings to the table is a familiarity with the style offense McNeill and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley will be implementing at ECU. He's a smart quarterback who makes good decisions as evidenced by the fact he threw more than 300 passes as a senior and was intercepted just twice. Finally, Carden is a winner, having led Episcopal to the state title as as senior. McNeill was able to lure Carden to ECU in the two-week period after he was named head coach. So, considering the time frame and the need at quarterback, this was a pretty solid addition. Brown is a strong, accurate passer, but may be more of a runner, which is why he eventually may be considered for another position.

BIG ONE THAT GOT AWAY: Well, we're not sure he got away. But former Boston College quarterback Dominique Davis actually signed a letter-of-intent with the Pirates in November during the junior college period after leading Fort Scott to the JUCO national title. Davis, however, did not enroll as expected for the spring semester, which makes him a free agent in the recruiting game again. Our sources tell us ECU is still a possibility for Davis and that he has merely delayed his enrollment until the summer. McNeill visited Davis at his home in Tampa during January, according to sources, and when he departed the quarterback was still coming to Greenville. But at this point, his status is in limbo. If he winds up at ECU, Davis will start next fall and you can raise this grade to B+.

WHO'S BACK: Sophomore Josh Jordan was technically Patrick Pinkney's backup in 2009, but he appeared in just three games (5-of-7 passing for 61 yards). Jordan is more of a passer, while redshirt freshman Rio Johnson is more athletic in the style of Pinkney. Walk-on Brad Wornick, who'll be a sophomore, is the only other option on the roster.

WHO'S GONE: Patrick Pinkney was basically a three-year starter for the Pirates, but has now moved on after six years in the program. Graduating along with Pinkney went one-time starting quarterback Rob Kass, who had switched to tight end, plus walk-ons Joe Sloan (holder for kicks) and Taylor Mazzone.

NEEDS FOR 2011: If Davis winds up at ECU, the need isn't as great. But for the sake of program depth, signing at least one should be a high priority.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: We felt the Pirates needed at least three guys here since all five of the top backs in 2009 will have departed the program by the end of 2010. ECU got a good one, but the grade here was hurt by the lack of better numbers.

WHO SIGNED: Alex Owah (5-11, 190) Harrisburg HS (Hargrave Military Academy) Harrisburg, VA.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Owah was one of the most prolific high school runners in Virginia, collecting 5,475 career rushing yards. He's a guy who can beat you with his speed (4.4 in the 40-yard dash) or bull his way through the line. Those traits are reasons why Virginia took an early verbal commitment from him in 2007. Things didn't work out with the Wahoos, however, and he headed off for a year at Hargrave Military. Although it's hard to imagine Owah being much of a factor in the running back situation this fall, he has already enrolled in school so he'll have the advantage of going through spring practice with the Pirates.

BIG ONE THAT GOT AWAY: The Pirates tried to get on board with the state's top back, Kevin Parks, Jr., of West Rowan High. They were of the first two schools to offer Parks a scholarship, but Virginia swooped in to snare his commitment just after signing day in 2009.

WHO'S BACK: The No. 2 and 3 rushers from 2009 will be back in junior Brandon Jackson (316 yards and three touchdowns on 84 carries) and senior Giavanni Ruffin (308-5-84). Ruffin was especially effective down the stretch with his ability to run with power. Two wild cards next fall could be seniors Norman Whitley and Jonathan Williams. Both are talented backs who couldn't seem to stay out of Holtz's dog house. Whitley was ECU's leading rusher in 2008, but carried the ball just three times last season. The often-troubled Williams was the leading rusher through the first seven games of '08 before off-the-field issues led to his suspension. He was reinstated last season, but rushed only 14 times for 38 yards.

WHO'S GONE: Dominique Lindsay bounced back from a knee injury that wiped out his entire 2008 season to finish his career with a 1,000-yard rushing performance in 2009. Speedy J.R. Rogers, plus special teams standouts Justin Brockmeyer and Darnell Ballard have also graduated.

NEEDS FOR 2011: Three of the top four backs heading into next fall will be seniors, so this will be a major priority for the ECU staff. Signing three backs is essential, even though the role of this position could change dramatically in the offense implemented by new coordinator Lincoln Riley. Watch for the Pirates to recruit more speed backs who have the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: The Pirates had 12 receivers on scholarship coming into 2009 and only three of those are graduating, so this wasn't a major area of concern in recruiting for the previous staff. But because of the emphasis on the passing game in the offense expected to be run by the new staff, the need to sign some help at receiver became a bit more significant.

WHO SIGNED: Torian Richardson (5-10, 169) Byrnes HS, Greer, SC; Lance Lewis (6-3, 200) Concord HS (East Mississippi Community College), Concord; Lamar Ivey (6-1, 182) Eastern Alamance HS, Mebane.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: In Lewis, the Pirates snared a guy who excels at catching the deep ball. He ranked second nationally among JUCO players in touchdown receptions with 16 at East Mississippi Community College, a total that featured scoring catches of 83, 80, 73 and 68 yards. We expect Lewis will work himself into the receiver rotation very early next season. Richardson is a multi-talented receiver-return man who played for a national powerhouse prep program that won two state titles in his three seasons. Ivey may wind up being the biggest prize in the entire class. He's a super athlete who played quarterback in high school and receiver for the Shrine Bowl team. ECU recruited him as a slot receiver or cornerback, but we expect him to wind up on offense where he has the potential to be the next Dwayne Harris.

BIG ONE THAT GOT AWAY: The Pirates reached out early with scholarship offers to in-state prospects like Braxton Deaver and Brandon Braxton from Charlotte Providence, and Matt James of Raleigh Sanderson. But all three made early verbal commitments to other in-state schools — Deaver and Braxton to Duke, and James to Wake Forest.

WHO'S BACK: The dynamic duo of senior Dwayne Harris and junior Darryl Freeney head a contingent of six returning players who caught passes last season. Harris is one of the nation's top talents who led ECU with 83 catches for 978 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2009. Freeney came into his own during the stretch run and finished with 48 receptions for 718 yards and three scores. Junior Joe Womack and walk-on sophomore Andrew Bodenheimer also saw significant action in reserve roles. Watch for junior Michael Bowman, sophomore Jacobi Jenkins and redshirt freshmen like Reese Wiggins, Torrance Hunt and Mike Price to step forward next fall.

WHO'S GONE: Talented, but often-injured Alex Taylor and Jamar Bryant, who ranked third and fourth respectively in receiving last season, are graduating along with valuable utility wide out Reyn Willis.

NEEDS FOR 2011: Wide receivers will become one of the more important commodities for the new staff because of the style of offense they plan to run. The Pirates will graduate three more after 2010, including Harris, so we expect the staff to recruit four to five players in this area to compensate for those losses.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: The Pirates signed three tight ends in 2009, so this wasn't a priority area. But ECU still could have used at least one signee here, especially considering there were several talented ones it pursued.



BIG ONE THAT GOT AWAY: Trevor Sawyer wasn't a highly-rated recruit, but the 6-foot-6, 215-pounder from Asheville impressed everyone at the Shrine Bowl practices with his speed, hands and agility. ECU was the first to offer Sawyer and he committed early. But when Phil Petty wasn't retained as tight ends coach by the new coaching staff in January, Sawyer decommitted and signed with Appalachian State.

WHO'S BACK: Senior Kevin Gidrey is a combo tight end-fullback who caught nine passes for 101 yards last season. But junior Michael Byrd and senior Korey Reynolds are prototypical tight ends who could be more involved in the new offense. Promising redshirt freshmen Justin Jones, a big target at 6-foot-8, and Zico Pasut will get to show what they have to offer this spring.

WHO'S GONE: Converted quarterback Rob Kass, who played in nine games before his season ended with an injury, is the lone graduate among the tight ends.

NEEDS FOR 2011: Part of the offensive transition for the new staff will be to find athletes who'll play more like an H-back than a traditional tight end. The immediate need could be filled by some position changes, so watch for that in the spring. But signing two players with the skills to line up at tight end, out wide or in the slot will be important for the Class of 2011.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: The Pirates needed to sign two center prospects and three to four guard or tackles.

WHO SIGNED: Anthony Garrett (6-5, 305) Shawnee Mission East HS (Fort Scott Community College), Prairie Village, KA; Drew Gentry (6-6, 285) North Florida Christian HS, Tallahassee.; Taylor Hudson (6-5, 290) Mauldin HS, Greenville, SC.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: JUCO transfer Garrett is already enrolled in school, so he could provide some immediate help at tackle, even though the Pirates return everybody off the two-deep depth chart at those positions. Gentry is tall, slender prospect who still has great room for growth. Hudson is the most versatile of the three and is capable of playing any of the three line positions.

BIG ONE THAT GOT AWAY: Takoby Cofield was a strong tackle prospect right in ECU's backyard at Tarboro High School. The 6-6, 290-pounder attended junior and day camp with the Pirates, but decided in June before his senior season to accept an offer from Duke.

WHO'S BACK: Three of the four top players at tackle are back, including starters Willie Smith (rising senior) and D.J. Scott (senior). Senior Cory Dowless is also scheduled to return at one guard spot. Juniors Steven Baker (tackle) and Will Towery (center) also saw action last season in reserve roles as did senior Travis Melvin (tackle). Underclassmen such as Will Simmons (tackle), C.J. Brown (tackle), Josh Clark (guard-center), Jordan Davis (guard), Daulton Faulds (guard) and Grant Harner (tackle) along with often-injured senior Doug Polochak (guard) are others who will need to step up and compete for starting jobs in the fall.

WHO'S GONE: All-Conference USA guard Terence Campbell, starting center Sean Allen along with T.J. Harper, Stephen Heis and Doug Palmer, who also started at various points in their careers, all depart via graduation.

NEEDS FOR 2011: The Pirates are going to need to replace four more seniors after the 2010 season in addition to this year's losses, so signing five or more blocking prospects should be a primary goal in 2011.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: With both starting ends graduating after the 2009 season, signing a pair to replace them was important.

WHO SIGNED: Maurice Falls (6-2, 210) South Point HS, Belmont; Mack Helms (6-3, 275) Leon HS, Tallahassee, FL; Lee Pegues (6-2, 255) Marlboro County HS, Bennettsville, SC; Chrishon Rose (6-4, 275) Bishop McNamara HS, Forestville, MD.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: The Pirates significantly boosted their depth at end by signing four players at the position. Falls is an outside linebacker-end type with excellent quickness (4.5 40 speed) who is already enrolled at ECU. Helms and Rose are bigger, physical athletes capable of bull-rushing the quarterback. Pegues is a combination of the first three. He’s quick, strong, has good size and may be closer to contributing as a true freshman than any of the end signees.

BIG ONE THAT GOT AWAY: At one stage last June, in-state sleeper prospect Justin Taylor had ECU in his top three schools along with UNC-Chapel Hill and Virginia Tech. But by the first of July the battle was over and the Hokies were victorious in landing the 6-4, 220-pounder from South Stanly High School.

WHO’S BACK: Three players who saw significant action in reserve roles return in junior Maurice Mercer (12 games), junior Steve Spence (13 games) and senior A.J. Johnson (7 games). The Pirates will also need a contribution next fall from 6-4, 240-pound redshirt freshman Matt Milner.

WHO’S GONE: All-Conference USA pick C.J. Wilson and his counterpart at the other end, Scotty Robinson, are both departing due to graduation.

NEEDS FOR 2011: A major focus for 2011 will be the end position. Despite signing four this year, two or three more are required.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: Originally, the Pirates were looking to replace just one defensive tackle, but in the end they needed at least two.

WHO SIGNED: No one who will start their ECU career at tackle, but there is a possibility that end signees Mack Helms or Chrishon Rose could eventually wind up moving down.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: By signing wide-body ends like Helms and Rose, ECU has the flexibility to move them to tackle if the needs arises.

BIG ONE THAT GOT AWAY: None really. The Pirates are believed to have offered up to eight tackle prospects, but never really were seriously considered by any of them.

WHO'S BACK: Four players with good experience return at the tackle spots, led by last year's top backups in senior Josh Smith and sophomore Michael Brooks. Both appeared in 13 games and were playing almost as many snaps as the starters by the end of the year. Junior Antonio Allison and sophomore Robert Jones both missed all or part of 2009 with injuries, but saw extensive action in 2008. Allison will be coming back from a broken foot, while Jones is returning from a knee injury. Redshirt freshman Jimmy Booth and senior Andrew Farr, who played in one game last season, should also return.

WHO'S GONE: Jay Ross was an unheralded performer up front for the Pirates and he departs via graduation. Linval Joseph, who earned All-Conference USA honors as a junior in '09, decided to forgo his final college season and make himself eligible for the NFL Draft.

NEEDS FOR 2011: Two more tackles graduate after the 2010 season, and one of them (Smith) is a likely starter. Because they didn't really sign any tackles this time around, getting two or three will be important for the Class of 2011.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: Three players graduated after last season and three more depart following 2010, so signing at least three was the goal.

WHO SIGNED: Jacob Geary (6-3, 220) Cedar Ridge HS, Hillsborough; Jeremy Grove (6-1, 231) Governor Thomas Johnson HS, Ijamsville, MD; Derrell Johnson (6-1, 218) Wyoming Seminary, Baltimore, MD; Terry Williams (6-1, 255) Grayson HS, Loganville, GA.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: By signing four linebackers, ECU enhanced its depth for the future and maybe added some immediate help for its special teams. Grove and Johnson will get a chance to prove themselves in the latter capacity during spring practice after they enrolled in school early. Johnson is a bit of an unknown who notched 150 tackles at a prep school last season. Grove is a strong run stopper, while Williams earned all-state honors and was named linebacker of the year as a senior in a county that's part of the Atlanta metro area. But the real “sleeper'' in this group may be Geary, a tough, rugged son of a high school coach who produced 162 tackles as a senior.

BIG ONE THAT GOT AWAY: The Pirates don't venture into the state of Ohio much in recruiting, but did so early to make the first offer to Cincinnati linebacker Nick Galvin. The 6-1, 220-pounder developed a good relationship with former ECU defensive coordinator Greg Hudson. But when it became apparent Hudson was heading elsewhere when the season ended, Galvin decided to stay closer to home and signed with Western Michigan.

WHO'S BACK: Five players who saw action in at least half of ECU's games in 2009 are scheduled to return, including senior Dustin Lineback and junior Matt Thompson who actually made starts. Juniors Cliff Perryman and Steve Spence, along with sophomore Lamar McLendon finished the year as the backups to the starters. Others who saw playing time that are expected to return are junior Austin Haynes and senior Melvin Patterson.

WHO'S GONE: Three of ECU's top four tacklers have graduated. Second-team All-C-USA pick Nick Johnson had 99 tackles to rank second on the team, while honorable mention all-league pick Jeremy Chambliss had 88 hits, including 11.5 behind the line of scrimmage. Chris Mattocks saved his best for last, making 86 tackles after a successful move to outside linebacker from safety.

NEEDS FOR 2011: The Pirates will still have a relatively young linebacker corps in 2009, so it won't be a high priority. But every year you want to get two or three at these positions for depth purposes.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: ECU was dangerously thin at the safety positions behind the starters, so signing two or three was essential.

WHO SIGNED: Damon Magazu (5-11, 175) Providence HS, Charlotte.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Magazu is a smart, savvy athlete who was named defensive player of the year in Charlotte's tough 4-A league as a senior. He's a real ballhawk in the secondary as evidenced by the 15 interceptions he made over his final two prep seasons. Magazu's good hands and speed also make him a strong candidate to return punts at some point in his career at ECU.

BIG ONE THAT GOT AWAY: Dontavis Sapp, a physical 6-3, 205-pounder from Valdosta, GA, committed to ECU in October after taking an official visit to Greenville. But when the coaching change occurred at Tennessee, the new staff there began courting Sapp and he eventually signed with the Volunteers.

WHO'S BACK: Sophomore Justin Venable is a physical player who appeared in 11 games as a reserve last season. Walk-on Jack Schultz played a lot on special teams and as a backup safety in nine games, while junior Devon Wallace saw action in five games. Redshirt freshman Michael Dobson will engage that trio in the battle for the starting jobs this spring.

WHO'S GONE: Van Eskridge completed one of the best careers by a defensive back in ECU history by repeating as an All-Conference USA selection. Levin Neal, who started after transferring in from N.C. State, was also lost to graduation.

NEED FOR 2011: When you think in terms of numbers, this may be ECU's No. 1 priority for 2011. Signing two or three potential safeties is an absolute necessity.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: Cornerback wasn't a big priority because the Pirates don't lose anybody until after the 2010 season.

WHO SIGNED: Detric Allen (6-0, 180) South Stanly HS, Norwood; Lamar Ivey (6-1, 182) Eastern Alamance HS, Mebane.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: OK, we know we've got Lamar Ivey listed with the receivers, too. But he could just as easily wind up playing corner. And if he does, that will put two of the very best athletes in this class on the corner. Allen and Ivey are both smooth, fast playmakers whether they're on defense or offense. They'll need some time to develop if they are assigned to the cornerback position, but eventually they could be a dynamic starting tandem.

BIG ONE THAT GOT AWAY: Three-star cornerback Chris Sharpe from Stone Mountain, GA, got his first offer from ECU in June and committed on the spot. But after making an official visit to Louisville a month later, Sharpe decided to re-open his recruitment. Middle Tennessee wound up getting Sharpe to sign on the dotted line.

WHO'S BACK: Everybody. The Pirates don't lose a single cornerback off their roster. Starters Travis Simmons and Emanuel Davis will return along with seniors Dekota Marshall and Darryl Reynolds, who have also been starters during their careers. Sophomores Leonard Paulk and Rahkeem Morgan, plus junior Derek Blacknall are also experienced hands coming back to the fold.

WHO'S GONE: Nobody.

NEEDS FOR 2011: Simmons, Marshall and Reynolds graduate after 2010, so pursuing at least two corners to fill those voids would be the goal.

KICKER (No grade)

WHAT THEY NEEDED: Even though ECU loses both its placekicker and punter, replacements for them are already in the program so there was no pressing need.




WHO'S BACK: Junior Ben Ryan has proven himself a capable placekicker during periods when Ben Hartman was slowed by injuries. Ryan is expected to battle redshirt freshman Matt Millisor for the starting duties, while 6-foot-5 junior Nathan Przestrzelski is the frontrunner to be the starting punter.

WHO'S GONE: Two all-stars graduated in placekicker Ben Hartman and punter Matt Dodge. Hartman leaves as the school's all-time scorer, while Dodge was named to three All-American teams as a senior.

NEEDS FOR 2011: ECU may be in the market for a punter, depending on how Przestrzelski handles the job this year.

With all that said and done, this is a solid class that met many of ECU's needs. However, there were enough holes at positions like tight end, safety and the offensive line to drag the overall grade down to a C+.

That's not bad, considering the coaching change and the short amount of time McNeill and his staff had to make their mark on the class.

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02/22/2010 04:18 AM


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