College Sports in the Carolinas
Watch for Al Myatt's
profile of new ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in this summer's
from the East
Friday, July 9, 2004
By Al Myatt
ECU beefs up recruiting clout
on home front
East Carolina signed 16 players from Florida in its 2004 recruiting class
compared to just four from North Carolina, a disparity that Pirates football
coach John Thompson appears to be in the process of addressing with a deft
An announcement is expected from ECU next week that successful former
Williamston coach Harold Robinson will be working in high school relations
for JT's program.
Not that there's anything wrong with players from Florida.
Miami, Florida State and Florida have all won national championships with
considerable help from home state talent. In fact, Florida is fertile
recruiting ground for many nationally-powerful programs. N.C. State has
certainly enhanced its roster with Florida players since Chuck Amato
returned to his alma mater from Florida State.
Thompson's initial signing classes have taken advantage of his own Sunshine
state connections. A former defensive coordinator at Florida, Thompson and
several members his staff have probably more comfortable finding players in
areas of the country that they are more familiar with than North Carolina.
They've been doing what comes naturally, because finding players is the name
of the game. For example, the father of ECU defensive coordinator Jerry Odom
is one of the most highly respected high school coaches in Florida and it's
to ECU's advantage to make use of such connections.
Remember where Jeff Blake, the quarterback who guided ECU to an 11-1 record
in 1991, was from? He was from Sanford, Fla.
When it comes to sheer numbers of talented prospective athletes, Florida has
North Carolina beat and it's really not even close. Florida's warmer
climate, the absence of spring football in North Carolina's high schools and
the ACC's influential identity for so long as a basketball league are all
factors that have been cited in the lack of volume of football players
developed in state.
And the quality players North Carolina does produce often prefer to go out
of state. Those who stay home are subject to tugs of war between five
Division I-A programs in the state.
But Thompson said at the outset of his regime at ECU that he was looking
forward to recruiting in-state. Traditionally, North Carolina, particularly
the area East of I-95, has been a great source of players for the Pirates.
By adding Robinson to work in high school relations, ECU is saying it
intends to heighten its in-state recruiting presence.
Running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Jerry McManus has done an
admirable job of bringing in quality and quantity of in-state recruits
during his eight years on the ECU staff even though, ironically perhaps,
McManus is from Florida, too.
With the addition of Robinson, McManus will operate less like the Lone
Ranger that he has been the last two years in state. Bringing Robinson
aboard is a sign to high school coaches in the region and across the state
that Thompson is serious about going after their top players and not just
saying the right things about his intentions in that regard.
Robinson has already sent some top talent to ECU from Williamston. Pernell
Griffin led Robinson's 1995 team to the state 1-A championship as a junior
before becoming a star linebacker for the Pirates. Ronald Pou, another
Williamston product, was a solid contributor at noseguard at ECU after
transferring from Georgia Military. Receiver Kevin Roach and defensive
lineman Mike Horner are players Robinson coached on the high school level
who are currently in the ECU program.
Robinson was at Williamston for 31 seasons, 26 as head coach. He guided the
Tigers to a 1-A state title in 1999. For those unfamiliar with 1-A football
in North Carolina, state titles by Eastern teams have been something akin to
the Florida Marlins beating the New York Yankees in last year's World
Series. Teams from the west and the Smoky Mountain Conference in particular
have been dominant.
This will be Robinson's second stint working with the ECU football staff. A
1972 ECU graduate, Robinson was a graduate assistant for ex-Pirates coach
Sonny Randle on a Southern Conference championship team in 1973 while he
completed work on his Masters degree in physical education. Robinson also
has a Masters in high school administration.
Although Williamston is a small town program in rural Martin County
competing in a small classification, Robinson has been influential
statewide. He is a past president of both the state high school football
coaches association as well as the state coaches association. He was an
assistant coach for the North Carolina Shrine Bowl team in 1996.
Robinson improved the process of selecting players for the Shrine Bowl when
he was named head coach for the all-star game in 2001 as he instituted
Shrine Bowl combines at several locations across the state. Prospective
players came in to show their skills and be timed in the 40-yard dash with
college coaches permitted access as well. It was a great step forward in the
selection process for the game which had previously relied on nominations
from coaches and reviewing tape of the players.
But Robinson didn't get to coach the 2001 Shrine Bowl team against the South
Carolina stars because of a schedule conflict when Williamston reached the
state championship game again that season. Robinson was named to coach the
2002 Shrine Bowl, a game North Carolina won, 28-0, as a current Pirate,
Pierre Parker of Wilson Beddingfield, was named defensive player of the game
for the winning team.
Robinson campaigned behind the scenes for years for ECU to be a host site in
football in the state high school playoffs and that goal will soon become a
Robinson also has long held the desire to return to his alma mater and help
the football program. Thompson is providing a great opportunity for him to
do just that.
Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.
Click here to dig into Al Myatt's Bonesville
02/23/2007 12:45:59 AM