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Football Recruiting Report
Tuesday, January 28, 2014

By Sammy Batten

QB with pedigree gives class a boost

Shawn Stankavage brings family's legacy of athletic excellence to ECU

Recruiting Class of 2014 Thumbnail Sketches...

By Sammy Batten
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Needing a quarterback to round out its Recruiting Class of 2014, East Carolina turned to a player with impeccable lineage.

The Pirates landed a critical verbal commitment last weekend from Shawn Stankavage, who has starred the last two years at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh. Stankavage decided to join the Pirates after a whirlwind courtship that kicked into high gear with a scholarship offer about two weeks ago and his acceptance during an official visit to Greenville last weekend.

The 6-foot-3, 188-pounder chose ECU over an offer from Wyoming and recent interest from Brigham Young, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest, according to Cardinal Gibbons coach Steven Wright.

Securing the pledge from Stankavage became a priority after the Pirates lost a previously committed quarterback prospect, John Wolford from Jacksonville, FL. Wolford, who broke many of Tim Tebow's Jacksonville-area passing records, was considered a major recruiting coup when he committed to ECU in September. But the opportunity to compete for a starting job next fall at Wake Forest convinced Wolford to switch his commitment last month to the Demon Deacons.

"East Carolina had been involved recruiting Shawn on the periphery since the end of his junior season,'' Wright said. "We've talked to them a lot over the past year. Shawn was in their top three (quarterbacks). When the kid they had targeted out of Florida, who was at the top of their list, ended up committing somewhere else, they were quickly back on Shawn. It wasn't too long after that they extended an offer.''

Despite the circumstances surrounding his recruitment, Stankavage is much more than just a backup choice for the Pirates.

He's a quarterback with a natural feel for the position and who has the ability to escape trouble with his feet and make big plays with his arm. Those skills are evident in the statistics he's posted the last two seasons as the varsity starter at Cardinal Gibbons.

Stankavage completed 169 of 219 passes for 1,920 yards and 28 touchdowns as a junior, while also rushing 114 times for 616 more yards and nine scores. He significantly increased all those totals in his final season, completing 247 of 408 passes for 3,564 yards and 34 scores, and rushing 169 times for 1,058 yards and 13 touchdowns.

"I think [to] stay current with the times, he really does have a little Johnny Manziel in him,'' Wright said. "He's a guy who is able to create when things break down. But he's also able to sit in the pocket, make a throw downfield or check down into something short. He brings tremendous playmaking ability.''

It's no surprise that Stankavage has exceptional athletic talents since he has the genes of both an Olympian and an NFL player.

His mother is former University of North Carolina All-American swimmer Sue Walsh. Walsh is a 10-time NCAA champion and was a member of the 1980 United States Olympic team. She was elected to the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame in 2003 and now serves as the Director of the Legacy Program for UNC's athletic booster club.

Stankavage's father is Scott Stankavage, who was a quarterback at North Carolina from 1980-83. The elder Stankavage spent two full seasons as the Tar Heels starter, leading them to 16 victories and two bowl games during that span. Scott still ranks 11th on UNC's career list in passing yards (3,363), is sixth in touchdown passes (30) and is 10th in completions (272). After leaving Chapel Hill, Scott Stankavage spent three seasons as a backup in the NFL with the Miami Dolpins and Denver Broncos.

Wright was immediately aware of the family tradition when Stankavage joined the Cardinal Gibbons junior varsity as a freshman.

"Stankavage is a fairly unusual name around here, so we were aware of his athletic lineage,'' Wright said. "We were excited to get him. We knew he had potential early on. I think what stood out to me was just his natural feel for the position. There were things we had to work on mechanically, especially his footwork and getting to know our system. But he had that ability right from the start to recognize and make quick decisions to get the ball to the right guy at the right time.''

Stankavage started every game for the junior varsity as a freshman, then was expected to compete for the starting varsity job as a sophomore. But during the summer before his sophomore year, Stankavage suffered a stress fracture that kept him on the sidelines for the entire 2011 season.

He bounced back to claim the starting job as a junior and hasn't looked back since.

"It was fun to see that blossom throughout his career and really take off his senior year,'' Wright said. "We told him early on in our offense we were going to ask him to be a point guard who would distribute the ball to our playmakers. He's really done a tremendous job with that while also becoming a creative playmaker himself.''

Stankavage displayed that "Manziel-like'' creativity in a state 3-AA playoff loss against Southern Durham this season. Under pressure from an intense rush by Southern Durham, Stankavage lost the football, but somehow managed to scoop it up and throw a touchdown pass to teammate Dante DiMaggio to put Cardinal Gibbons ahead. Although Cardinal Gibbons ended up losing the game, videos of the play made the rounds on YouTube.

Wright pointed to another performance this season that provided a good example of Stankavage's skills.

"We managed to put up 28 points against an undefeated Orange (High) team in one half,'' Wright said. "On one play, Shawn escaped the pocket and essentially tossed a little shuttle pass to a back to pick up a first down. Two plays later he sticks a post route to a wide out for a 60-yard touchdown pass.

"He brings that kind of diversity and skill and ability that's just rare in my experience at the high school level. I think East Carolina is getting themselves an outstanding prospect.''

Wright believes Stankavage will be a perfect fit for ECU's Air Raid offense.

"We do a lot of the things that they do here,'' he said. "We spend a lot of time in the shotgun with four wide outs and one back. I think it's a system that fits his abilities extremely well.''

E-mail Sammy Batten

PAGE UPDATED 01/28/14 03:34 AM.

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