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Dynamics beyond the sidelines

2005 Bonesville Magazine: Sneak Peek #2
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
By Ron Cherubini
No. 1: A Champion Looks at His Beloved Alma Mater No. 2: Recruiting Avenues Still Open in All Directions


Recruiting Avenues Still Open in All Directions

Out-of-state prep coaches applaud veteran Holtz regime


Many Pirate fans worried that the firing of former East Carolina coach John Thompson might have a negative impact on the program's recruiting outside the state of North Carolina, particularly Florida, where the prep coaches loved Thompson and his mostly Florida-related staff.

In discussing the incoming recruiting class with many prep coaches from outside the Old North State for the forthcoming 2005 Bonesville Magazine, it is clear that when Skip Holtz and his staff cross the state line, they are still well-recognized, well-respected, and well-liked.

Here is a sampling of feedback from some of those coaches:

 — Coach Gary Cantrell, of powerhouse Atlanta Douglass High School in Douglass, GA, was more than happy that his defensive star, Jeremy Chambliss will be a Pirate next year.

“Jeremy’s recruitment was smooth,” he said. “I have known Rock Roggeman for years, when he was at Alabama State. He was impressed with Jeremy and, honestly, we were impressed with ECU. It worked out well and I expect that ECU will be coming around here more and they are welcomed to.”

Veteran coaches on Holtz’s staff are having a great impact on how prep coaches perceive ECU. Take Fairfield High (OH) coach Scott Datillo, whose center Bryan Gibson will be gray-shirting for ECU this fall.

“Greg Hudson did the recruiting from Minnesota and Coach (Steve) Shank(Shankweiler) from South Carolina," Datillo said. "That is how it got started and they compared notes and liked the kid. Communicating and networking. Hudson came up and Bryan liked him a lot and decided to take a visit and fell in love with the ECU campus. He originally went with not a whole lot of expectations as far as commitment, but he was just going to go. And the Sunday he got back (he) couldn’t stop talking about it. Hudson and Shank did a great job and it validated what a player Bryan has been for us.”

Another Ohio coach, Vince Suriano, who coaches powerful Anderson High School, had nothing but positive things to say about ECU’s recruitment of his star lineman Stephen Heis.

“Greg Hudson was smart enough to see that the kid was playing with a torn ACL and was better than he was playing," Suriano said. "He wants to be a player and Hud saw that. When a recruiting coach goes beyond the numbers and really sees the talent, you know that good things are going to happen (in the program). East Carolina did a great job on Stephen.”

For Griffin High (GA) coach Steve Devoursney, continuity of recruiting was a big positive for ECU. He noted that when Coach Shankweiler left South Carolina for ECU, he didn’t leave behind the players he was recruiting and that meant everything for his star fullback, Ahmad Mayo.

“They were looking for a tailback, they don’t really have a strong kid who can run, block, and catch," Devoursney said. "They thought he was the best one out there that they had seen and Coach Shank and Holtz came after him. When they left USC for East Carolina, they kept recruiting Ahmad and I think that was the big thing.”

Again, Coach Shankweiler, was huge in the recruitment of another Georgia product, John Battle, a fierce offensive lineman from Love Joy High.

“Coach Shankweiler was recruiting him from (USC),” Lovejoy coach Al Hughes said. “I’ve known Shank for a long, long time, and in my opinion, from a high school coach’s perspective, I think he is all that. Shank has got the touch to work with high school kids and recruit them. ECU will do well around here with Shank (in the recruiting trenches).”

The excitement about the veteran recruiters on the Pirates staff extends beyond the realm of high school coaches and into the junior college and prep school ranks.

Coach Bert Williams of Georgia Military College has been sending players to ECU pretty consistently over the years. Players like Keith Stokes, Derrick Collier, Demetrius Hodges and others have moved from Georgia Military to the Pirates. This year, Williams has sent another stellar wide receiver to the Pirates in junior Aundrae Allison, a product of Kannapolis.

“We played South Carolina’s junior varsity team and we have always been heavily recruited by USC,” Williams explained. “They knew of Aundrae and when Holtz and Shank, who I have known for many, many years now, Aundrae was one of the first guys they called about. (ECU) will do well recruiting with the staff they have assembled there. That they are brining a North Carolina guy back home is also a good thing for their program.”

Sending a couple of North Carolina guys back to the state is also a high mark that Hargrave Military Academy coach Robert Prunty gives the Pirates who are welcoming two of his prep players in highly-touted defensive linemen Brandon Setzer and Marcus Hands, of Thomasville High and Laney High respectively.

“I really like the new staff there at East Carolina,” Prunty said. “You know, I knew Skip and Steve when they were at South Carolina. Really, my loyalty is with any coaching staff that is loyal and honest with the players. The East Carolina staff are all veteran, hard-working football guys and will get it done and get it done right at East Carolina. I have absolutely no problem sending players to East Carolina.”

Coach Steve Gaddis at Trinity Valley Community College in Texas didn’t get too involved in ECU’s recruitment of his star kicker, Robert Lee, but he did have some positive things to say about the staff.

“Robert got involved with ECU on his own,” Gaddis said. “He pulled up Division I rosters looking for a school who would need a kicker and found East Carolina. We put together tapes and got them out during the Christmas Holidays. And ECU responded.

“I wasn’t real involved in the recruitment, but I can say that Robert was very excited about it and really liked the staff. I know that Coach Holtz has a very veteran staff there and we look forward to any future relationship that ECU and Trinity might have following Robert’s recruitment.”

Coach Carl Beach of Chaffey College (CA) was impressed by the speed and lightening-like recruiting style the Pirates exhibited in getting in late on his star running back Brandon Fractious.

“The East Carolina staff was on Brandon a bit late,” he said. “But, once they got started they came at him. Once they got the tape of him and once the academics were cleared, they had him locked up. I am really hopeful there will be a relationship we ECU going forward. We have PAC 10 and other C-USA schools coming through here a lot and to have a guy at ECU is a good thing for us. I hope this generates more interest (from ECU).

“Coach Junior Smith was instrumental because not only had he played at ECU, he was a running back there in a passing offense. Brandon was going to go to San Jose State, but that changed quickly after ECU got involved.”

And, what of the Florida prep coaches and the fear of backlash for the dismissal of a largely Florida-centric coaching staff? Well, at least a pair of Florida prep coaches have no problem with the new staff.

“Honestly, we run into more trouble with our own schools like Central Florida,” Lake Highland Prep coach Tim Borcky said. “You really have to take care of home grown talent first and I respect that Coach Holtz is doing that. After you take care of your home base, then spot recruit in different areas like down here in Florida or out in California for your speed guys and up in Pennsylvania, Ohio and over in Texas for your linemen.”

Borcky is thrilled that his big quarterback Rob Kass is headed to ECU.

“It does upset the high school coaches when the local schools ignore you,” he said. “I think Skip did an excellent job getting Connecticut ready for Division I and did come down here when he needed a specific player. East Carolina recruits with a lot of great schools in the Carolinas and has to. He and his staff are always welcome here. They have proved their ability to find talent, recruit honestly, and work well with the high school coaches for my 12 years here, which can’t be said for a lot of schools, some right here in Florida.”

For North Fort Myers coach James Iandoli, who is sending his center Larry Lease to the Pirates in the spring as a gray shirt signee, the last staff was very well-liked. However, he believes that the Florida prep coaches are first and foremost knowledgeable about football and that knowledge tells them that Thompson was not getting it done at ECU. He is well aware of the Holtz legacy and the veteran staff assembled at ECU and has no problem welcoming the Pirates his way.

“We knew the old staff,” he said. “We had a great rapport with Noah Brendise and Thompson was well-liked down here. But, we also have a great deal of respect for the new East Carolina staff. Greg Hudson has made a particularly good impression on us down here. You got a great catch with Hudson… he is such a straight shooter and we are very comfortable with Greg and I believe it is a good relationship.

“We are loyal first to our players and with ECU’s staff there, I feel good about the future relationship and I think they will do just fine here in Florida.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is just a sample from the dozens of pages devoted to recruiting in the forthcoming 2005 Bonesville Magazine, which features articles and timelines on ECU recruits — past and present — and an eye-opening story about the Pirates' new recruiting philosophy.

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02/23/2007 02:06:04 PM

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