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Insights and Observations

Henry's Highlights
Wednesday, February 7, 2007

By Henry Hinton

Recruiting: The Pirates are back in vogue

By Henry Hinton
All rights reserved.

6:30-9:00 a.m.

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By late Wednesday afternoon, the truth will be known about the 2007 recruiting class. Expectations are definitely high after hearing of the caliber of prep players who have committed to Skip Holtz and his hard working, hard recruiting coaching staff.

There are always at least one or two guys that change their mind at the last hour, but this year’s East Carolina recruiting class promises to be one of the best ever. Some are even predicting that it will be the absolute best.

East Carolina usually signs a few players every year that have offers from teams in the ACC, Big East or some other school in one of the BCS conferences. Often there is some special reason a player signs with ECU instead of heading up the road and playing for one of the other in-state schools or a couple of states away.

An example of that would be David Garrard or Marcus Crandell, both offered by the in-state ACC schools to the west, but signed by East Carolina. Garrard and Crandell were drawn to the Pirates because of the promised opportunity to come in and start at quarterback — a commitment the other schools would not make.

This year Skip Holtz and staff have put together a class of high school seniors that many Division I-A football schools would be proud of, with as many as seven players from this year’s class fielding offers from “BCS” schools.

Penn State, Louisville, Virginia and Virginia Tech reportedly offered a scholarship to one player who eventually gave Holtz a verbal commitment. Florida, Auburn, Georgia and LSU offered another.

South Carolina and N.C. State were still after Harnett Central quarterback Rodney Cox as late as this week, but he is expected to sign his letter of intent with the Pirates later today.

ECU is expected to sign somewhere around 25 high school seniors. Approximately 20 of them hail from the state of North Carolina. The change in the recruiting strategy from former Pirate head coach John Thompson to Holtz is evident. Thompson concentrated on out of state targets, and primarily Florida kids.

The Florida recruiting strategy has been put to the test by many universities hoping to take advantage of the rich talent pool in that large and populous state. East Carolina’s rank in the minds of 17-year olds, however, has proven to be a challenge. The Pirates have plucked a few gems over the years out of Florida. For instance, Jeff Blake and Larry Shannon both hailed from the Sunshine State.

Holtz and staff are getting back to what has worked at ECU in the past, particularly during the Steve Logan years, recruiting North Carolina, particularly the star high schoolers east of I-95.

Some of the bigger names expected to be announced as Pirates later today include:

— Running back Jonathan Williams from JH Rose High School in Greenville. Jonathan was the offensive MVP of the 2006 Shrine Bowl and led Rose to its fourth consecutive 4-A state championship.

— Running back Tyrell Worthington from South Central High in Winterville. Tyrell is a highly recruited two-sport star and also wants to play for Billy Godwin’s Diamond Pirates. He is also projected to be selected in this year’s Major League Baseball draft, a factor that could come into play, depending on the round in which he is drafted.

— Running Back Daronte McNeil from Northeastern High School in Elizabeth City. Daronte may be one of the most highly touted prospects in this class. He is a beast at 6 foot 1 inch, 233 pounds, and he reportedly has received at least ten Division I offers.

— The aforementioned quarterback, Rodney Cox from Harnett Central High in Angier. Rodney is projected to play wide receiver in college. His 6 foot 6 inch frame and athletic ability make it easy to see why he received a lot of attention through the recruitment process.

— Quarterback D.J. McFadden from Charlotte’s Independence High School. D.J. is a proven leader. He quarterbacked the state’s high school powerhouse to another undefeated season and another 4-AA state championship for Independence.

— Defensive Tackle Linval Joseph from Santa Fe High in Alachua, FL. This guy is huge at 6 foot 6 inches and 310 pounds. He is projected to play defensive tackle or offensive line for the Pirates. Linval originally committed to Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators last July. He held offers from some of college football’s most storied programs in the SEC. ECU defensive backs coach Rick Smith is receiving the credit for convincing Joseph to come play for the Pirates instead.

— Defensive Back Emmanuel Davis from Manteo. Davis committed to play for John Bunting’s North Carolina Tar Heels back in July. After Bunting’s release at UNC-Chapel Hill, Davis began to weigh his options and decided he felt more comfortable wearing purple and gold.

These seven players seem to be the most sought after by other I-A programs but they just scratch the surface on the talent that Holtz and company will be bring to Greenville next fall.

The fax machine and Fed Ex man will be busy bringing in their national letters of intent all day in the football offices inside the Ward Building on campus.

No surprises unless they are positive ones. That is the theme Holtz and his staff are hoping for on the biggest day in college football outside of the regular season.

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This page updated 04/21/08 07:06 PM.

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