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College Sports in the Carolinas

View from the East
Saturday, December 6, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

J.T. beating bushes for quick fix


East Carolina is seeking the fast solution to improving the talent level of its football program. The Pirates are scouring junior colleges for that rare athlete who can meet demanding standards in the classroom and on the field.

“We’ve got to find guys to immediately impact our program — not just make us better,” ECU coach John Thompson told the Raleigh Sports Club this week. “Can they help us beat Southern Miss? Can they help us win the conference? ... We’re going all across the country. ... If we get four, five or six, we’ll be better.”

At present the Pirates have two commitments from Pima Community College in Tucson, Ariz. The first is well-traveled tight end Willie Metcalf, who is 6-feet-7, 260 pounds and has run an electronically-timed 4.7-second/40 yards. Pima also is sending free safety Zack Baker (6-2, 205, 4.5/40) ECU’s way.

Metcalf is from the Dayton, Ohio, area and originally signed with Ohio State. He spent two weeks in the Buckeyes’ preseason football camp before it was determined that he was not academically eligible, according to the NCAA. Three junior colleges later and he has one season of eligibility left. He’s apparently worth a grant for that span to the Pirates. He did, after all, draw recruiting interest from Miami (Fla.), according to Pima coach Jeff Scurran.

The Storm went 6-5 last season.

“Willie is a good blocker with a great upside,” Scurran said. “He runs well. His problem is he makes some great catches but he sometimes struggles making the routine catch.”

Metcalf played football and basketball at Eastern Arizona before focusing on basketball at Spoon River College in Canton, Ill., in the 2001-02 season, where he averaged 11.0 points and 6.4 rebounds for a 22-9 team.

“Willie was a good basketball player but he never got himself in basketball shape,” said Spoon River hoops coach Jon Grzanich. “He wasn’t the player he could have been if he had gotten in shape and worked on his game. We had numerous calls but he didn’t take care of the academic end.”

Scurran said the Pima football program was in its third year of existence. He previously coached at Sabino High School in Tucson where he coached Baker’s older brother on a state championship team. Zack Baker was all-conference at Pima.

“He has great speed and he’s physical,” Scurran said of Baker.

The Pirates also have four commitments from high school players, including three from Florida. The most recent addition is free safety Jonathan Warren of Madison County High in Florida. Earlier, the Pirates had received commitments from quarterback Antonio Miller of Charlotte Olympic, center Zach Davis of Trinity Christian in Jacksonville, Fla., and offensive lineman Mike Williams of Boone High in Orlando, Fla.

Miller (6-1, 190) received offers from Kansas State, Maryland, Marshall, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest, but committed to ECU after a visit in mid-July.

Davis (6-4, 250, 4.9/40) had interest in Central Florida, South Florida and Vanderbilt before choosing ECU.

Williams is from the same prep program that produced Ryan Dougherty, who made first team All-Conference USA as a punter for the Pirates during his freshman season in 2003. ECU defensive coordinator Jerry Odom was instrumental in getting a commitment on June 30 from Williams, according to Braves coach Phil Ziglar.

Curry’s message

The Pirates began preseason practice with a visit from former Georgia Tech, Alabama and Kentucky coach Bill Curry. Thompson was on Curry’s staff as linebackers coach at Alabama in 1987.

“He said in football and in life and in everything you do, there are two pains and you live with either one of them,” Thompson said. “You live with the pain of discipline or you live with the pain of regret. Our football team, our coaching staff and the Pirate nation — all of us right now — are living with the pain of discipline. Don’t look back with regret. We’re building something here and we’re growing something here that’s going to last.”

State high school football championships

Two former Pirate players will guide their high school programs in state championship games at Groves Stadium in Winston-Salem today. Greg Thomas, who lettered at ECU in 1983-84, will coach Greenville Rose in the NCHSAA 4-A final against Winston-Salem Mount Tabor at noon.

New Bern, coached by Chipper Williams, who lettered at ECU in 1969, will meet Charlotte Independence in the 4-AA championship at 4:30 p.m.

Rose center Nick Grimes, the son of ECU offensive line and assistant head coach J.B. Grimes, has been offered a scholarship by the Pirates and so has New Bern quarterback Davon Drew. Rose back Andre Brown remains a possibility to join the ECU program. Drew has thrown for 1,635 yards and 18 touchdowns. Brown has run for 3,194 yards and 43 scores.

Richmond County missed a 30-yard field goal in the closing seconds of a 20-18 loss at Independence last week while New Bern advanced with a 24-21 win over visiting Southeast Raleigh on a 19-yard field goal by Matt Revels with 43.7 seconds left.

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02/23/2007 12:39:50 AM

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