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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Wednesday, October 12, 2011

By Sammy Batten

Speight bringing "disruptive" style to Pirates

Bucking the Star System

Among the wide-ranging features in the 10th Anniversary Edition of Bonesville The Magazine is an eye-opening report by Fayetteville Observer and Bonesville columnist Sammy Batten on East Carolina's propensity for out-witting the so-called recruiting experts by attracting players that excel beyond their "star system" projections. Both the traditional print and online Flash versions of the magazine may be ordered through links elsewhere on this page.

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Conference Realignment Archives

By Sammy Batten
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East Carolina's coaching staff was impressed last summer when Reece Speight was clocked at 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash during summer football camp. But before offering a scholarship to the Wilson, NC, prospect, they wanted to see how he performed in the first game of the 2011 season for Beddingfield High School.

“They say my first game would determine how hard they would recruit me,'' said Speight, a 6-2½, 220-pounder who plays defensive end for the Bruins.

The decision to pursue Speight and offer a scholarship was pretty easy for the Pirates after they received a video copy of Class 2-A Beddingfield's 13-3 victory over 3-A Northern Nash. Speight was a force on defense, making 12 overall tackles and five tackles for loss.

Two weeks later, Speight had a scholarship offer from the Pirates. He accepted the offer on September 15, right before a game against Greene Central.

“I just loved the atmosphere when I was in Greenville,'' Speight said this week. “It's really close to home. Being from Wilson, it only takes 30 to 45 minutes to get to campus.

“I went there for the opening game and loved the coaching staff. I loved being around their players and the campus was just great. I liked how I felt when I went there. People really embrace the team and they are a close knit group. It was just the kind of organization I wanted to be part of.''

Promoted to the varsity at the end of his freshman season, Speight became a starter for the Bruins as a sophomore. He's started every game for Beddingfield since his sophomore year and was selected to the All-Eastern Plains 2-A Conference team as a junior on the defensive line.

But the Pirates are expected to convert Speight to outside linebacker after gaining his verbal commitment over an offer from Football Championship Subdivision Elon. Duke and N.C. State were also expressing interest in Speight, according to Beddingfield head coach and former ECU linebacker Tyrone Johnson.

Johnson has watched Speight develop from a chubby middle schooler into a sleek, athletic high school senior.

“He actually played with my son in the youth leagues,'' said Johnson, who lettered for the Pirates in 1983 and 1984. “He really was an overweight kid. But he matured. He got older, taller, slimmer and faster.

“He really put in the work in the weight room and on the practice field. He also played basketball and ran track, and all that has helped him. Reece has really worked to make himself a Division I football player.''

Speight was a football fan long before he ever got on the field. He used to spend Mondays watching NFL games with his grandfather, Donald Speight of Wilson. Speight also gained an appreciation for the sport by watching cousin, Jacobi Jenkins, play at nearby Rocky Mount High School. Jenkins is now a junior cornerback for the Pirates.

Despite his plump stature as a youngster, Speight realized he had ability in football.

“Even though I was kind of a fat kid, I really got off the ball quicker than the other guys I was playing against,'' Speight said. “'I've maintained that quickness at each level and I think that's one of my strengths.''

When asked to describe his style of play, Speight quickly responded with, “Disruptive.''

“I really like messing up the other team's plans,'' Speight said. “Whatever they're trying to do, I want to be in the way.''

Because Speight has been so effective causing problems for opposing offenses, many teams choose to run plays away from him. But even that backfires at times, like it did in Beddingfield's 34-7 victory against Farmville Central on October 7.

Farmville Central attempted to run an option play away from Speight's defensive end position.

“He thought the quarterback had the ball, so he tackled him first,'' Johnson said. “He realized the quarterback had pitched it, so he ran right through him and tackled the running back, too. Both were behind the line of scrimmage.''

Speight doubles as an offensive guard for the Bruins, but could play a number of positions, according to Johnson.

“If we used a tight end, he'd be a really good one,'' Johnson said. “But he plays offensive guard because he knows he's helping the team. He's all about team, not self.''

The pledge from Speight gives ECU two linebacker prospects in its recruiting Class of 2012. He joins Dre Scarborough from East Duplin High School in Beulaville, NC. The Pirates have six known commitments, including the most recent one from Washington, DC, wide receiver Dayon Pratt.

E-mail Sammy Batten

Sammy Batten's Archives

10/12/2011 03:52:17 AM


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