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View from the East
Thursday, January 24, 2002

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Kicker Validates ECU's National Recruiting Respect


Superficially it was just another football commitment, number 19 for East Carolina among the group of high school seniors the Pirates coaching staff are expected to sign to scholarships on Wednesday, February. 6. Or it could have been No. 18 if reports are true that North Carolina has made a move on defensive back Jacoby Watkins of Scotland County.

But regardless of the number, the commitment of kicker/punter Ryan Dougherty of Boone High School in Orlando, Fla. is special. It’s a special commitment because of its significance on the national scene, because it exemplifies the recruiting style of ECU coach Steve Logan and because it shows the meticulous detail with which the Pirates approach special teams.

Besides all of that, Dougherty is a unique athlete. Dougherty, who is listed at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, wasn’t thinking about a scholarship to ECU when Boone football coach Phil Ziglar saw him kick a soccer ball virtually the length of the field two years ago. Ziglar reasoned that Dougherty’s leg strength could be translated into kicking a football as well.

The Boone Braves, it should be pointed out, are doing something right with special teams personnel. The program’s last two punters, Keith Cottrell and Ryan Hamre, have gone on to perform collegiately at Florida State and Indiana.

Ziglar didn’t convince Dougherty to come out for football and then stick him over on the corner of a practice field to learn by trial and error. Braves assistant Ken Henley went to some clinics on kicking so he could learn how to teach Dougherty the proper techniques.

Dougherty learned well. He punted for a 41.1-yard average this past season and his kickoffs usually sailed through the end zone for touchbacks.

“I don’t think we had but two that were returned all season,” Ziglar said.

Dougherty hit two of his three field goal attempts this season. Just two of three?

“We actually lined up in field goal formation five times,” Ziglar said. “But twice we pitched to Dougherty and he ran for touchdowns.”

Yes, along the way the Boone coaches learned that the soccer guy, the center midfielder, had some other skills that translated well on the football field.

“We had a passing league in the summer and they saw I could catch the ball,” Dougherty said.

So Dougherty developed into a receiver, too.

“He was also our No. 3 quarterback,” Ziglar said.

He was also All-State — and that gets you noticed in Florida, a mecca for college recruiters this time of year. Hometown Central Florida was interested. So was Miami — just the 2001 national champions. So was Memphis from Conference USA, which must replace All-America kicker Ryan White.

ECU defensive coordinator Tim Rose was a late entry into the recruiting competition. Ryan and his dad, Mike, visited Greenville last weekend.

“Just the way they dealt with him sold him on the school,” said Dougherty’s mother, Gay. “They were up front and honest. They told him what they would expect from him.”

Something told Dougherty that ECU was the place.

“Honestly, I really liked the coaches better,” he said. “It’s a nice campus and I like North Carolina. I’ve been there a few times.”

He won’t play soccer for the Pirates but he probably won’t redshirt in football this season.

“He (Coach Logan) told me I’ll come up August 1,” Dougherty said. “He doesn’t know if I’ll kick or punt. They have two seniors (kicker Kevin Miller and punter Jarad Preston), but they told me I will play some. And if I’m better, I’ll play ahead of them next year. But it will probably be just here and there to get some experience.”

Some programs rely on walk-ons to do the kicking chores but Logan isn’t one to leave those aspects of the game to players who just show up on campus. He even scholarships the long snapper for the punting unit.

Although he can’t comment on recruits before they sign, it’s obvious that Logan wants to get Dougherty gradually acclimated before Miller and Preston finish their eligibility.

ECU had just eight touchbacks on its kickoffs in 12 games last season. The Pirates compensated by kicking high and to the sides to allow the kick coverage unit to get down field and contain.

“We had just one blow up on our kick coverage, which is one too many,” Logan said. “But in terms of return yards average, that unit did an outstanding job.”

Average starting position for ECU’s opponents following kickoffs last season was the opposition’s own 27-yard line. That’s factoring in a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Louisville’s Zek Parker, the “blow up” Logan referred to.

Chris Baglio is a prospect within the program whose leg strength may allow him to do the kicking off next season. But Dougherty will likely contribute in 2002, too.

For ECU to get Dougherty over a list of programs that includes Miami is significant in terms of how the Pirates are perceived nationwide and especially in football-rich Florida. The Pirates also have a commitment from quarterback James Pinkney of Boca Raton Olympic Heights High.

Dougherty liked ECU’s honesty and his recruitment shows Logan is already thinking about special teams for the 2003 season.

Popular Pirate in Two Sports

Football defensive lineman Damane Duckett has been a fan favorite in some cameo appearances in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum this season. Duckett didn’t play in an 80-58 loss to DePaul on Wednesday night.

Logan said he talked with Pirates basketball coach Bill Herrion before Duckett went out for the hoops unit.

“I don’t mind it,” Logan said. “Troy Smith and J.J. McQueen (receivers) played some basketball here. Being involved with an offseason sport gives them structure and Damane is doing a great job academically. He’s probably in better shape than a lot of our defensive linemen right now.”

But come Febrary 12, basketball season will apparently be over for Duckett. That’s when spring football practice starts.

“Damane will be in spring ball,” Logan said. “That’s one of the things that was agreed on.”

Logan appreciates the excitement that has developed around basketball with ECU’s move to C-USA.

The reason? Minges Coliseum has become a more exciting environment for football recruits.

Two Departures

Linebacker Reggie Hamphill and tight end Eric Butler have left the ECU program.

Hamphill did not start but had 14 solo tackles and four assists in seven games as a junior in 2001. Hamphill had one tackle for loss, forced one fumble, recovered one fumble, had one pass break-up and one interception.

Butler, a redshirt freshman during 2001, did not play last season. Butler’s younger brother, Lance, was a highly-recruited player who went to Florida.

McMullan at Third

Assistant baseball coach Kevin McMullan will coach third base this season. Head coach Keith LeClair, who previously coached third, will remain in the dugout due to health considerations. The Pirates started practice on Tuesday.

Stokes Missing

A “personnel matter” was how ECU athletics director Mike Hamrick described the absence of Pirates women’s basketball coach Dee Stokes at last Sunday’s 54-39 loss at Charlotte.

Stokes has been removed for the time being from her coaching responsibilities. The situation is expected to be resolved this week. But the basis for what amounts to a suspension and the manner in which it will be resolved are not publicly known.

Stokes is 50-52 in four seasons coaching the Pirates. First-year assistant Gene Hill, formerly head coach at South Carolina-Spartanburg, has been coaching the team. Practices have been closed this week.

Stokes came to ECU as Dee Gibson but later changed her name to honor her father. A graduate of UNC Charlotte who began her college playing career at Wake Forest, Stokes served as an assistant at Texas A&M and then Nebraska before following Anne Donovan as women’s coach at ECU.

The Pirates are 3-13 this season and 1-3 in C-USA. ECU hosts Houston at 7 p.m. on Friday.

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02/23/2007 12:58:25 AM

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