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Jim Bob Bryant has seen a
lot of quality football players come and go at Havelock (NC) High
School, and he knew he had another good one in Malcolm Ashley back in
the fall of 2009.
But even though Ashley was
a big, promising freshman junior varsity lineman, Bryant kicked him out
of the program.
“In middle school he was
allowed to do what he wanted to do because he was the best player down
there,'' Bryant said. “But we have a set of rules here regarding how
many practices you can miss. By the sixth week of the season he had
missed the required number of days, so I kicked him off the team.
“I did that to teach him
about work ethic, the importance of practice and commitment.''
Ashley sat outside the
fence surrounding the practice field every day after his dismissal,
watching the Rams run through their drills. When the season ended, he
asked Bryant for a second chance.
“He hasn't missed a
practice since,'' Bryant said. “He's been a joy to coach.''
Ashley became a varsity
starter as a sophomore, playing on the offensive and defensive lines.
East Carolina immediately recognized his talent and offered a
The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder
finally accepted the offer last week when ECU offensive coordinator
Lincoln Riley dropped by the school on a recruiting visit.
“Lincoln Riley did a great
job recruiting him,'' said Bryant, who attended ECU and played high
school football in Williamston for the Pirates director of high school
relations, Harold Robinson. “He felt like was a part of their team even
before he became part of it. ..."
East Carolina was Ashley's
only offer, but other schools like Clemson, Maryland, N.C. State, North
Carolina and South Carolina had been showing interest. He becomes the
third member of ECU's recruiting Class of 2013, joining linebackers
Jamieon Moss of Elizabeth City
Tristan Mumford from
Ashley has become a
mainstay of Havelock's program and last season helped the Rams achieve
the ultimate goal — becoming state 3-A champions. The 6-foot-4,
245-pound tight end-defensive end was named to the All-Coastal 3-A
Conference and All-New Bern Sun Journal All-Area squads on defense where
he made 58 tackles and two sacks.
The Pirates have recruited
Ashley as an athlete who could wind up playing on the offensive or
defensive lines, according to Bryant. His combination of speed (4.89
seconds in the 40-yard dash), size and strength (290 bench press, 490
squat) make him a candidate to play defensive end or offensive guard.
Bryant believes Ashley's
best potential is on the offensive line.
“I'm an offensive line
coach, so I would like to have him there because I know how good he
is,'' Bryant said. “East Carolina offered him after seeing a highlight
tape on which he was making blocks 20 or 30 yards down the field. I
think that convinced them he is a special player.''
doesn't end on the line. His most memorable play during Havelock's drive
to the state title came on the punt team.
“He loves contact,''
Bryant said. “In our game against South Central last year, he hit their
punt returner and knocked him five yards in the air down the field. It's
incredible to watch on film.
“He usually drew a double-
or triple-team when he played on the defensive line for us. Because of
that, our linebackers were free to make a lot of tackles. He is just
hard to block, and not just because of his size. He's got great arm
length, he's quick and he's powerful.''
The Pirates are also in
hot pursuit of Havelock's multi-purpose athlete, Pharoh Cooper. The
5-11, 184-pound Cooper starred at wide receiver, defensive back and on
special teams as a junior for the Rams. He caught 65 passes for 1,285
yards and 14 touchdowns on offense, had 41 tackles and five
interceptions on defense and averaged 17.7 yards on 27 punt returns.
East Carolina was the
first school to extend an offer to Cooper, but N.C. State and South
Carolina have since offered.
A third Havelock player
Bryant said has been offered by ECU is running back Derrell Scott, who
will only be a junior next season. Scott, a 5-11, 175-pounder, rushed
for 2,500 yards and scored 25 touchdowns during his rookie varsity
season as a sophomore.
Even though he hasn't even
started his junior year at Havelock, Scott already has scholarship
offers from the Pirates, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and
With all that talent
returning for 2012, Bryant is expecting another run at the state
“We have 10 starters back
on defense and six on offense,'' Bryant said. “On paper, we've got a
chance to have another successful season.''