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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Wednesday, February 8, 2012

By Sammy Batten

Sammy Batten

Report Card: ECU's 2012 Crop of Newcomers


After further analysis, grade goes up a notch

Thumbnail of ECU's Recruiting Class of 2012


Flashback to Last Year's Recruiting Report Card: Class passes the test


CUSA School-by-School Recruiting Classes

By Sammy Batten
All rights reserved.

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East Carolina red-shirted 19 players from its recruiting Class of 2011 to build depth and stockpile talent for the future. A year later, the Pirates focused on securing immediate help at specific positions.

Seven junior college prospects, including two of whom are already enrolled at ECU, plus one of the nation's top-ranked safety recruits headline the 19-player class Coach Ruffin McNeill and his staff added since the national signing period began last Wednesday. More players could join that group as McNeill stated on signing day he planned to take at least 20 in the Class of 2012.

So next fall will see an large influx of new talent at ECU as last year's red-shirts combine with a 2012 class in which more than half the players will be expected to make an impact during the 2012 season.

Now, as a way to get the know the new class better and look ahead to next season, here's our annual position-by-position report card.

Coaches don't like these things, and that's understandable. They know more about the recruits, their talents and personalities than anyone else.

Obviously, I don't spend as much time studying as they do. My research is based on limited film study, interviews with the players themselves, with their coaches and those who have coached against them. So consider this a method of providing fans a first impression, and not the final judgment on how good this class could be when all is said and done.

We all remember the ECU recruiting Class of 2005 that hardly anyone gave more than a passing glance. That group included virtual no-names like Aundrae Allison, Terrence Campbell, Van Eskridge, Dominique Lindsay, Scotty Robinson, Jay Ross and C.J. Wilson who would go on to form the core of back-to-back Conference USA championship teams.



WHAT THEY NEEDED: Because there isn't a proven quarterback on the roster at this point, signing one was a fairly important objective.


HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Well, in one way the Pirates did help themselves by missing on a quarterback signee, which is why the grade is a D instead of an F. By not adding on this year, they may have created a more attractive situation for one of the numerous quality rising senior quarterbacks in the 2013 in-state recruiting class.

BIG ONE THAT GOT AWAY: Kanler Coker from Flowery Branch, GA, seemed to be a great find for the Pirates when he committed in early December. After spending his first two preps seasons in a running offense, the 6-foot-4 Coker had excelled at running and throwing in the spread attack after transferring to Flowery Branch. But in January the new coaching staff at North Carolina put a full-court press on Coker and convinced him to sign with the Tar Heels.

WHO'S BACK: Rising junior Rio Johnson was the No. 2 quarterback in 2011, completing 20 of 29 passes for 157 yards in four games. Johnson will compete for the starting job with a guy the ECU coaches really like, sophomore Shane Carden, senior Brad Wornick and red-shirt freshman Cody Keith. As we've said before, Keith is a wild card in the group. Highly touted out prep school, he struggled with an ankle injury as a true freshman and really hasn't gotten an opportunity to show what he can do yet at ECU. Spring practice will be his chance.

WHO'S GONE: A great one in Dominique Davis. In just two seasons, Davis became the school career record holder in completions (727), touchdown passes (62) and finished fourth in passing yardage (7,192).

NEED FOR 2013: This will be a “must'' position in the next class, especially considering the amount of in-state talent at the position. Signing one should be a major focus.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: The top three rushers return, plus UNC-Chapel Hill transfer Hunter Furr becomes eligible, so any signee in this category was a bonus.

WHO SIGNED: Three days after signing day the Pirates picked up Vintavious Cooper, a 5-foot-9, 200-pound quarterback from Southwest Mississippi Community College.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Cooper was the starting quarterback for two seasons at Southwest, where he led the conference in rushing this season with 1,273 yards and 11 touchdowns. Needless to say, he won't play QB at ECU. But with 4.4 speed and excellent agility, he's a good fit for the running back position. It shouldn't take long for him to make the transition to running back at ECU, but with the talent returning at that position the Pirates will have the luxury of red-shirting Cooper.

BIG ONE THAT GOT AWAY: Jela Duncan produced 2,307 yards rushing as a senior at Mallard Creek High, the fourth-highest total ever in Charlotte area history. Duncan followed that up with a 100-yard rushing effort in the Shrine Bowl all-star game. ECU was his leader most of the way, but both Duke and Wake Forest closed the gap in the final weeks. The Blue Devils surprised many by snaring Duncan at the finish on signing day.

WHO'S BACK: The top three rushers from last season all return in junior Torrance Hunt (489 yards, 2 TDs), senior Reggie Bullock (428-4) and junior Michael Dobson (221-3). Injuries hindered Bullock after a strong start, so look for him to reclaim the starting job. Junior Hunter Furr transferred to ECU from North Carolina last fall. Furr is a former state sprint champion from Winston-Salem, who never received a fair chance to show what he could with the Tar Heels. He and promising red-shirt freshman Chris Hairston will push the veterans for playing time.


NEED FOR 2013: Only Bullock graduates after the 2012 season, but Dobson, Furr and Hunt are all gone following 2013. The same for Cooper, if he's not red-shirted next season. So with the possibility of five running backs departing over the next two years the number of targets here should be at least two.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: Three was the magic number to replace three graduating seniors.

WHO SIGNED: South Carolina Shrine Bowl all-star member Jabril Solomon from Hemingway and in-state dynamo Quatay Smyre, from Statesville, were early members of ECU's class. Junior college All-American Lance Ray came aboard in early December, choosing the Pirates over Kansas State.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Ray, a product of Quincy, FL, is a Southeastern Conference-type athlete. How do we know? Because he spent two seasons at Arkansas, including one as the Razorbacks chief kick returner, before off-the-field issues sent him tumbling down the depth chart. Ray made the difficult decision to leave and spent last season becoming one of the nation's premier JUCO receivers at Northwest Mississippi Community College. Ray will immediately become one of the fastest athletes in Conference USA and should step right in to replace Lance Lewis as ECU's major deep threat. Smyre is another speed merchant, but lacks Ray's size. He's a 5-10, 165-pound slot receiver who also excels at kick returns. Solomon is yet another track star with 10.5-second 100-meter dash speed, but he's not a finesse receiver. The 6-2, 180-pounder is such a physical player that schools like Clemson, N.C. State and Nebraska offered him scholarships to play defensive back.

BIG ONE THAT GOT AWAY: The Pirates offered several other receivers, but really landed the guys they wanted. That's just another reason they get an A+ in this category.

WHO'S BACK: Rising senior Andrew Bodenheimer, junior Derrick Harris and sophomore Justin Hardy were all starters in the final game of 2011. Hardy, who joined the program as a walk on, emerged as a true star last season when he led the Pirates with 64 catches for 658 yards and six touchdowns. Bodenheimer, a possession-type wide out, was third in receiving (46-484-0). Three others are scheduled to return who caught 23 or more passes, including Harris (23-168-1). Sophomore Danny Webster (43-418-1) was one of the few true freshmen to see action, but a knee injury ended his season prematurely with two games to play. Junior Reese Wiggins (29-432-3) is the third plus-20 catch player. The experience doesn't end with those players, however. Senior Dayon Arrington (2-14), one-time starter Justin Jones (6-41-4), junior Zico Pasut (1-16) and junior Mike Price (2-16) also caught passes in 2011. Sophomore Torian Richardson, and redshirt freshmen Antonio Cannon and Donte Sumpter are talented players waiting for their big breaks to come.

WHO'S GONE: Lance Lewis broke the school record for career TD catches with 22, and also finished third in receptions (149) and yardage (1,716) in just two seasons. Solid contributors Michael Bowman and Joe Womack also depart via graduation.

NEED FOR 2013: This will always be an area of focus in recruiting for the Pirates due to their offensive style. Arrington and Bodenheimer are the only two scheduled to graduate after the 2012 season, but with five others ready to set sail after 2013 you can expect ECU to seek at least four replacements in the next class.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: Injuries decimated ECU's offensive line in 2011, so for insurance just in case it happens again signing three blockers was important.

WHO THEY SIGNED: The Pirates exceeded expectations by signing four offensive linemen. Two hail from South Carolina: J.T. Boyd from Fort Mill and Shrine Bowl all star Jonathan McLaughlin from the ECU stronghold of Mauldin. Ryan Revia from Roanoke, VA, and junior college transfer Keifer Neal rounded out the group.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Neal is a massive 6-5, 310-pounder, who could challenge for a starting job at the vacant left tackle spot. Boyd and Revia are promising projects who'll need time to mature before getting on the field. McLaughlin, too, needs to add some size, but he's probably most ready to play among the true freshmen. Above all else, the Pirates boosted their depth along the offensive line with this group.

BIG ONE THAT GOT AWAY: Kameron Davis, a 6-6, 280-pound tackle from Oakland Park, FL, took an official visit to East Carolina last September and had the Pirates on his list of three finalists along with South Florida and West Virginia. Davis decided in the end to stay closer to home and play for former ECU head coach Skip Holtz at USF.

WHO'S BACK: Because of all the injuries last season, ECU is expected to return six players who logged starts last season. Only junior right guard Will Simmons, however, started all 12 games. Junior Jordan Davis (11 starts at right guard), junior Adhem Elsawi (7 starts at right tackle), junior Grant Harner (8 starts at right tackle), sophomore Drew Gentry (1 start at tackle) and senior Josh Clark (6 starts at center) are others who were in the starting lineup at one time or another. Sophomore Taylor Hudson also appeared in seven games subbing at both guard spots. Four prospects from the Class of 2011 who were red-shirted are now ready to fill in up front: Issac Harris, Stewart Hinson, Chaz Lowery and Tre Robertson. Sophomore Mack Helms, who was slated to be the center starter entering 2011 before an injury sent him to the sidelines, is yet another talent boosting ECU's depth.

WHO'S GONE: Steven Baker started the majority of games at left tackle last season and Hugh Parker made two starts at center. Often-injured Doug Polochak, who made four starts, has also graduated.

NEED FOR 2013: The Pirates appear to have come out of last year's injury issues deeper than ever on the offensive front. But that won't prevent them from going after two to three blocking prospects this year.



WHAT THEY NEEDED: The Pirates probably have more defensive linemen than they need at this point on the roster, and only one of the 12 on scholarship graduates after the 2012 season. It wasn't necessary to sign anyone at those positions this time around, so no need to punish ECU with a grade on this one.



WHO'S BACK: Juniors Derrell Johnson and Matt Milner return at the end positions in the 3-4 as does senior nose guard starter Michael Brooks. Junior Lee Pegues, sophomore Crishon Rose, sophomore Terry Williams and junior Jimmy Booth have all seen extensive playing time, too. Two players from last year's recruiting class expected to make an impact up front next fall are juniors John Lattimore at end and Leroy Vick at nose guard. Both players were expected to make contributions last season as junior college transfers, but were derailed by injuries. Red-shirt freshmen include Jeton Beavers, Johnathan White and Terrell Stanley.


NEED FOR 2013: Brooks is the lone senior. Five others in the junior class, however, make it necessary to sign two here.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: The linebacker corps is a fairly young group, which seemed to indicate this wouldn't be a major focus. One or two signees seemed like plenty.

WHO SIGNED: The Pirates picked up four in-state prospects in Quandarious Crump of Lexington, Drayvon Fairley from Red Springs, Reece Speight of Wilson and Shrine Bowl all-star Dre Scarborough from Beulaville. Receiver/linebacker Dayon Pratt hails from Washington, DC, and junior college transfer Gabriel Woullard is a product of Valencia, CA.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Scarborough was the most physical linebacker in the state. His high school coach compared him to former N.C. State star Nate Irving, which is quite a compliment. The ECU staff believes they got a steal in Speight, who may have been overlooked by other schools because he played defensive end in high school. Fairley and Pratt are splendid athletes who are going to need time to mature physically. Both are tall, fast, lean athletes with super potential. Crump is another fantastic athlete, but he missed most of his senior season after tearing the MCL and ACL in his knee. Plus, he could be headed to the JUCO ranks for a semester before enrolling at ECU, if he sticks to the plan he described to us about a month ago. Woullard is a beast of an inside linebacker and should compete for playing time early.

WHO'S BACK: Senior Chris Baker, junior Justin Dixon, sophomore Maurice Falls, sophomore Jake Geary and senior Marke Powell made starts at the outside positions last season, while senior Daniel Drake, sophomore Jeremy Grove and junior Kyle Tudor did the same in the middle. Grove will be an all-star candidate in 2012 after ranking among the nation's top tacklers last season with 122. Red-shirt freshmen Zeek Bigger and Montese Overton will add even more athleticism to the linebacker corps.

WHO'S GONE: Cliff Perryman finished eighth in team tackles and was a starter at outside linebacker.

NEED FOR 2013: After this year's haul, ECU shouldn't need big numbers here. They'll take a couple if they can find two really good ones.

SAFETY (Grade: A)

WHAT THEY NEEDED: Adding two would make ECU four-deep at each safety position.

WHO SIGNED: Godfrey Thompson from Jackson, MS, signed with the Pirates and enrolled for the spring semester from Hinds Community College. Lucas Thompson from Winter Garden, FL, was rated the nation's No. 6 safety prospect by

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: The Pirates signed two players who can come in and compete for playing time immediately. Godfrey Thompson will have a head start because he'll participate in spring practice. Watch for him to challenge for the starting job at strong safety. Lucas Thompson plays with the tenacious attitude of a linebacker, but can also defend the pass. He has the potential to become an all-star caliber athlete at ECU.

BIG ONE THAT GOT AWAY: None, really. The Pirates nailed their main two targets, although they did offer three-star Jordan Moore from Lithonia, GA. But Moore didn't express any serious interest in ECU beyond the initial scholarship offer.

WHO'S BACK: Junior Damon Magazu has developed into an all-star performer at free safety where he made 80 tackles and four interceptions last season. Senior Justin Venable and red-shirt freshman Rocco Scarfone will serve as Magazu's backups. Sophomores Lamar Ivey and Desi Brown saw action last season at strong safety. They'll be joined at that spot by red-shirt freshman Domonique Lennon.

WHO'S GONE: Bradley Jacobs was the starter at strong safety and finished fourth in team tackles with 71.

NEED FOR 2013: Venable will be the only graduation loss after the 2012 season, so replacing him should be the goal.


WHAT THEY NEEDED: Two or three players who could come in and compete on the field immediately.

WHO SIGNED: Adonis Armstrong from Hinds Community College and Colby Brown of Highland Community College were both top-notch JUCO corners. Deshaun Amos, from Midlothian, VA, was an all-district choice at three different positions — receiver, kick returner and cornerback.

HOW ECU HELPED ITSELF: Armstrong is a ballhawking corner who collected eight interceptions last season at Hinds. Because he's already at ECU, Armstrong should contend for a starting job at one of the corner spots this spring. Brown is also a quick, shutdown corner who may make a run for a starting assignment in the fall. Amos is a multi-purpose athlete who could fit in on special teams very early. He could also wind up playing safety because of his versatility.

WHO'S BACK: Seniors Jacobi Jenkins, Rahkeem Morgan, Kristopher Sykes and Leonard Paulk have played extensively in reserve roles during their careers. Paulk even made one start last season. Sophomore Detric Allen is a gifted young athlete whose career has been slowed by injuries. Red-shirt freshman Glen Hilliard will be in the mix for playing time at corner and on special teams this time around.

NEED FOR 2013: With so many seniors graduating, this will be a major point of focus in recruiting. Signing at least four should be the objective.

Overall (Grade B+)

I've actually changed my opinion somewhat about this class after awarding it a C+ on signing day. Although missing the mark on a couple of positions like quarterback and running back, the wide receiver and defensive elements of this class are much better than I originally thought after looking at them by position.

So, in the final analysis, a B+ is a more accurate grade for this class because of the immediate help it provides at key positions.

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02/20/2012 02:12:34 AM


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