By Sammy Batten
All rights reserved.
The decision was a natural
one for Montese Overton. Even though the talented prep linebacker had
scholarship offers from the likes of Arkansas, N.C. State, South
Carolina and Tennessee, it was a lifelong connection to East Carolina
that led him to join the Pirates recruiting Class of 2011 on January 9.
Overton has played the
last three years on the varsity squad at South Central High School
located just outside Greenville in the Pitt County town of Winterville,
which has given him a close-up perspective of the ECU program. But his
connections to the school aren't just geographical.
His father, Darrell
Overton, is a former Pirate basketball player who lettered under coaches
Mike Steele and Eddie Payne from 1988-91.
“He gave serious thought
to all the offers he was receiving,'' South Central defensive
coordinator Lamont Gaddy said. “But because his dad and his mom both
went there, ECU may have had the inside track all along.''
The decision by Overton
gives the Pirates another significant boost through recruiting to
upgrade its defense and bolster a position where they lose three players
from the season-ending two-deep depth chart. Those include starters
Melvin Patterson and Dustin Lineback as well as backup Wes Pittman.
current commit list of 17 players
includes 11 who are expected to man defensive positions. Two of those
are linebacker prospects in Overton and
Treshawn Council from Durham's
Hillside High School.
Overton has been a primary
player on South Central's varsity since his sophomore season. But he was
well known to the coaching staff there long before he arrived on campus.
“He was pretty good in
middle school, so he was on our radar before he came over here,'' Gaddy
said. “When he first stepped on campus his physical stature kind of set
him apart from other kids. Also, he has a lot of intangibles and he was
fast. He looked really good running. He stood out as a college prospect
almost from the first day, physically.''
Overton would spend his
first season with the Falcons on the junior varsity where played
linebacker and wide receiver. But his career on offense didn't last
long, according to Gaddy. “We tried him at wide receiver, but we
realized his hands weren't good enough, so we limited him to defense on
Playing both inside and
outside linebacker in South Central's 3-4 alignment, he helped the
Falcons to the first winning season in the school's young history as a
junior. He contributed 64 tackles and six quarterback sacks on a
defensive unit that limited foes to 15 points a game. The performance
was a key element in South Central's 8-4 finish.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder
followed that up with an even more spectacular senior season. He made
200 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and five sacks to earn area defensive
player of the year honors from the Greenville Reflector newspaper.
It was one of the top
individual performances in South Central history and earned him a spot
alongside Tyrell Worthington as the best football players ever at the
school. Worthington, a running back-defensive back who was once
committed to the Pirates, opted for a career in professional baseball.
He was a fifth-round pick in the 2007 amateur draft by the Arizona
Diamondbacks and spent three seasons in their minor league organization.
Gaddy said Worthington may now be pondering a return to football.
“I'd say Montese is right
up there as the best overall we've had here with Tyrell Worthington,''
Gaddy said. “He's a tremendous athlete.''
As an example of Overton's
athleticism, Gaddy recalled two plays he made during the 2010 season.
“There was one against
Washington where he threw off an offensive lineman, faked out another
blocker and made the tackle,'' Gaddy said. “There were a couple of times
he fought through and blocked extra points to show off his speed. Then
there was one against West Craven where he busted into the backfield,
kind of redirected, got off a couple of blocks and made a big tackle for
“Those are the kind of
things he did for us all year. He made the big plays for us on
ECU began recruiting
Overton when Skip Holtz was still the head coach. When Holtz departed
for South Florida after the 2009 season, Coach Ruffin McNeill's staff
assumed his recruitment.
“Coach Holtz and his staff
were on him hot and heavy,'' Gaddy said. “When Coach Holtz left, there
was a period it slowed down as the new staff came in and got their feet
wet. But once they got their eyes on him, they were on him heavy, too.''
Because of Overton's
physical style of play, Gaddy believes he can compete for playing time
at ECU as a true freshman on special teams, and perhaps at linebacker.
“He's going to do whatever
it takes to be ready, I can tell you that,'' Gaddy said. “He's going to
get bigger and stronger over the summer. With the way he works and the
needs they have over there, I think he could see some time as a true