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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Friday, November 30, 2012

By Sammy Batten

Whidbee bringing red zone talents to ECU


By Sammy Batten
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Antonio Moore, the head football coach at Northeastern High in Elizabeth City, didn't have a fancy name for his favorite play when the Eagles' offense penetrated the opponent's 20-yard line this season. He just called out, “It’s Marquise Whidbee time.''

“When we were in the red zone, everybody knew it was coming,’’ Moore said. “But they still couldn’t stop him.’’

Few even managed to slow down Whidbee, a 6-foot-1, 180-pounder who was one of North Carolina's most productive prep wide receivers as a senior. Playing for a Northeastern squad that finished 11-3 and advanced to the third round of the state 2-A playoffs, Whidbee hauled in 72 receptions for 1,387 yards and scored 25 touchdowns this season.

According to statistics compiled by the website, Whidbee had the second-highest number of scoring catches in the state this season, just behind the 26 caught by Aaron Seward of Davidson Country Day.

But that wasn't all.

Whidbee starred as the Eagles kick returner, taking back four kickoffs and four punts for touchdowns, and he made two interceptions while playing defensive back.

Those big-play abilities are what prompted East Carolina to offer Whidbee a scholarship after Pirate offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley had a chance to watch highlight video of his junior season. Whidbee accepted in late October to become the third wide receiver prospect in the ECU recruiting Class of 2013.

Whidbee has been displaying those skills since he joined the Northeastern football program as a freshman. His father, T.T., had been played linebacker at the school years before, so Moore was already familiar with the Whidbee named when Marquise arrived.

"He was one of our better athletes, even as a freshman,'' Moore said. "He played on the JVs as a freshman and we brought him up (to varsity) as a sophomore. We had him playing cornerback and on special teams.

"We thought he had special talent, but he's really just matured into an awesome receiver.''

Whidbee’s development as a receiver really began during a junior season when he first played the position full time. He caught 47 passes for 903 yards and scored 15 touchdowns that year, while also returning two kickoffs and two punts for scores.

This year came “Whidbee time’’ as Moore called on his star receiver time after time to get the Eagles into the end zone.

“We had him run a fade pattern versus Edenton Holmes in the playoffs (second round),’’ Moore said. “Everybody in the stadium knew it was coming. But he positioned his body just right and out-jumped the defender to score.

“He just has that unique ability to get to the ball before the defender. He’s very athletic and can really jump. He’s just a great athlete.’’

East Carolina associate head coach and inside linebackers coach John Wiley first began recruiting Whidbee last spring while also pursuing his Northeastern teammate, linebacker Jamieon Moss. Moss first committed to the Pirates before changing his pledge to Virginia Tech.

Meanwhile, Wiley was impressed enough that he brought video highlights of Whidbee to offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley’s attention.

“When he (Wiley) showed the offensive coordinator the tapes, they said, ‘This is a guy we want,’’’ Moore said. “He (Whidbee) was impressed by East Carolina from the start. We take our kids to a couple of games there every year, and I know he was impressed with the way they threw the football when we watched them play. Plus, we have a long history of kids going to East Carolina.’’

Northeastern has a long history of producing college football players, period. The Eagles have sent 32 players to the Football Bowl Subdivision and Football Championship Subdivision ranks since 2005.

Several of those wound up playing for ECU, including wide receivers Phillip Henry and Javon Brumsey, and running back Daronte McNeill. McNeill wound up transferring from ECU to Elizabeth City State.

“Marquise is the best wide receiver I’ve coached, and that’s saying a lot,’’ Moore said. “He just has that field presence. He runs about a 4.5 40, but on the field he looks like a 4.2 kid. He’s shifty and has great vision.’’

Moore did admit Whidbee has some academic work to do before enrolling at ECU, but he is confident that will get done before it’s time to head to Greenville next August.

“They (ECU) came in and looked at his transcript, and want him to finish up strong in that area,’’ Moore said. “But I think he’ll do that, and I believe he can step in and play for them right away next year.’’

The Pirates will be losing just two seniors from their current depth chart after the 2012 season in Andrew Bodenheimer and Derrick Harris. But seven others return, including all-star receiver Justin Hardy.

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11/30/2012 04:06:31 AM


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