By Sammy Batten
All rights reserved.
Because of the style of
offense East Carolina has adopted under second-year coach Ruffin
McNeill, the search for playmakers at the wide receiver position will be
a focus for almost every recruiting class.
The Pirates have kicked
off that pursuit for the Class of 2012 by securing their first verbal
commitment from one of the state's elite playmakers.
Quataye Smyre, who will be
a senior next fall at South Iredell High School in Statesville, accepted
a scholarship offer from ECU following a visit to Greenville for Junior
Day activities on March 20. He'd taken other unofficial recruiting
visits to Auburn, N.C. State and North Carolina before deciding to give
his pledge to McNeill and the Pirates.
“He had a chance to meet
Coach McNeill and the rest of the staff at Junior Day,'' South Iredell
coach Scott Miller said. “The way they made him feel that weekend helped
him make an early decision.''
Smyre has been making big
plays for South Iredell since being promoted to the varsity under some
extraordinary circumstances from the JV squad for the third game of his
The Vikings were preparing
to play rival West Iredell, which featured current Wake Forest freshman
wide receiver Quan Rucker. Rucker, however, was playing quarterback at
the time and Miller needed someone with the athleticism to shadow him on
Miller's pick was the
5-foot-10, 165-pound Smyre.
“We brought Quataye in as
a spy,'' Miller said. “He was the only kid athletically who could keep
up with Quan. So we used him at cornerback to follow Quan all night.''
The fact that Smyre
succeeded as a freshman in such a pressure situation came as no surprise
to Miller, who had been watching him since middle school.
“I was actually the
defensive coordinator at the time (at South Iredell),'' Miller said. “My
son was a year younger than Quataye and they were on the same middle
school team. He was an unbelievable athlete, even at that age.
“He is a kid who truly
loves football and gives it all he has. He runs track to make himself
faster. From the very start, we could tell he was a kid who had a
chance, if he kept working hard, to make it to the next level.''
Recruiters began to take
notice of Smyre last season when he rarely came off the field.
“If he made a huge play
and was so out of gas he couldn't make the next play he'd come out, but
he wasn't out of the lineup very often,'' Miller said.
Smyre saw action at wide
receiver, running back, quarterback, defensive back and as a kickoff and
punt return man. He collected 51 tackles and four interceptions on
defense, caught 36 passes for 749 yards and 12 touchdowns at wide
receiver and rushed 13 times for 130 yards and three scores.
But Miller cites one of
Smyre's most exciting plays coming on a punt return against Bunker Hill.
“It was our sixth game and
we were both 5-0,'' Miller said. “He got the ball and went to his right.
Then he reversed his field and came all the way around for a touchdown
that swung the momentum in our favor on homecoming night. It was just a
big athletic move.''
As a return man, Smyre
took seven kickoffs back for 203 yards and a touchdown and on 12 punts
accumulated 134 yards and another score last season.
The combined production
earned Smyre Iredell County Player of the Year honors.
East Carolina began
pursuing Smyre even before his junior year after Miller delivered a
sophomore highlight video to the Pirate staff at the state high school
coaches clinic. Then-ECU assistant coach Mark Nelson began recruiting
Smyre until he resigned from the staff in July. Duane Price took over
Smyre's recruitment when he replaced Nelson in late July.
By January 2011, Smyre had
his first scholarship offer from Price and the Pirates.
ECU's decision to recruit
Smyre as a wide receiver was a big factor in his early commitment.
“Quataye really wants to
play receiver,'' Miller said. “We run the same Air Raid type offense as
East Carolina where we run four and sometimes five wide outs at the
time. They had him very high on their board as a slot receiver. Other
schools were talking to him about defensive back. But he knew if he went
to East Carolina he had a chance to play wide receiver.''
Smyre will spend the
spring performing for South Iredell's track team where he runs the 100-
and 200-meter dashes – he has a best time of 10.9 seconds in the 100 –
and is part of the 4x100 and 4x200 relay squads. But it's on the
football field that his future is bright.
“He'll do whatever it
takes to become a success at the college level,'' Miller said. “East
Carolina is getting a good one.''