Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Friday, July 12
, 2013

By Sammy Batten

Prep coach sees bright future for Carter

Pirates tap Sunshine State to shore up linebacker corps

By Sammy Batten
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Sometime during the spring semester of the 2011-2012 academic year, Ponte Vedra (FL) High School football coach Mike Loyd walked into the gymnasium and something immediately caught his eye.

"There was this kid in there dunking the ball with both hands without taking a step,'' recalled Loyd, a veteran coach who has worked 27 years in the high school and college ranks.

Joe Carter was a sophomore who had just transferred to Ponte Vedra from Indiana. Loy would learn that Carter was lacking football experience but was blessed with athleticism and a tremendous work ethic.

"I saw the athleticism right away,'' Loyd said. "He could run in the 4.58 range (in 40-yard dash) and is a 38-inch vertical (leap) guy. He was a step behind in regards to football knowledge. But he is really a driven young man. He's the hardest working kid I've had in my 27 years as a football coach.''

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Carter went on to start for Loyd at outside linebacker as a junior, producing 50 tackles, two sacks and an interception playing alongside Tennessee commit, Dillon Bates. When East Carolina's defensive coordinator and secondary coach Rick Smith dropped in to watch Bates last spring, he came away impressed with Carter.

The result was a scholarship offer from the Pirates, which Carter accepted on June 28 to become the fifth member of the recruiting Class of 2014. Carter is the first linebacker to made a pledge to ECU and the third defensive player.

"They (ECU) came down to see Dillon Bates and I told them Joe Carter was a Bates clone,'' Loyd said. "I've been fortunate enough to coach a lot of NFL and Division I players, and I told them Joe Carter is one of those guys. This is not rocket science like a lot of young coaches want to make it. Joe is a guy who can run, jump and is a great student-athlete. He's an even better young man off the field. He wants to be great.

"It didn't take long for a real ball coach to see his ability to play at that (Division I) level and that he could be an impact player at that level.''

Loyd should know. During a five-year stint as head coach at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in the 1990s, he coached linebacker Charlie Clemmons who went on to play at Georgia and earn a Super Bowl ring with the St. Louis Rams. He later helped develop future Oklahoma and NFL tight end Jermaine Gresham while head coach at Ardmore High School in Oklahoma. Those are just two of hundreds of players Loyd has workd with that went on to college or professional football.

Carter's talents remind Loyd of Clemmons.

"Charlie was a hybrid guy,'' Loyd said. "He played for me in the 1990s at Northeastern Oklahoma when we won the national (junior college) championship. He got his break and ended up playing with the Rams and Texans. He won a Super Bowl ring and was a first-team All-SEC pick.

"Joe reminds me of Charlie because he's very explosive. They are a similar size and have that same desire and drive.''

Carter's desire helped make a play last season that Loyd has kept pictured in his memory and on the wall in the team weight room. During the Sharks 10-2 finish, which also included the Class 5-A district title, Carter launched himself to block a punt.

"The picture of it is on the wall here in my office,'' Loyd said. "He's blocking the punt and he's parallel across the line of scrimmage. He just sold out completely to get the punt blocked. That showed me right there what kind of character and determination he has. He gave his body to help our team win. He blocked three or four punts for us last year.''

Air Force, Alabama-Birmingham, Appalachian State and Lehigh also offered Carter scholarships in addition to ECU. Indiana, Michigan State and Purdue were also expressing interest, according to Loyd.

The Pirates signed a strong linebacker class in February, but will graduate two inside linebackers following the 2013 season in Kyle Tudor and Ty Holmes. All-star inside linebacker Jeremy Grove will complete his eligibility after the 2014 season.

Although Carter has played outside linebacker for Ponte Vedra, he's expected to shift to inside linebacker at ECU.

"Joe can play both,'' Loyd said. "He's physical enough now at 220 pounds. I think East Carolina is getting a phenomenal athlete who is only going to get better and better. He was impressed with what they're doing there at East Carolina. They were one of the first couple of schools to show an interest in him and let him know he'd have a chance to play early. He was impressed with the coaching staff and how honest they were with him. I think they've gotten themselves a real steal in Joe.''

Florida, as it has with many programs because of the wealth of high school talent there, has become a fertile recruiting ground for the Pirates. Four players on the current roster hail from the Sunshine State in freshman quarterback Kurt Benkert (Cape Coral), senior offensive lineman Jordan Davis (Fort Walton Beach), junior offensive lineman Drew Gentry (Tallahassee) and senior receiver Lance Ray (Quincy).

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07/11/2013 11:04 PM