Aileen Devlin/The Daily Reflector (Photographer)
East Carolina’s head football coach Ruffin McNeill talks about the upcoming season during ECU’s signing day event held at the Harvey Hall at the Murphy Center on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013. (Aileen Devlin/The Daily Reflector)
By Nathan Summers
Thursday, February 7, 2013
In a sense, college football coaches all want the same thing on National Signing Day, and that’s a little bit of everything.
Although they targeted a couple of specific areas, the East Carolina Pirates got just that on Wednesday, as 24 high school and junior college recruits pledged their futures to ECU.
Head coach Ruffin McNeill oversaw the signings of 14 defensive players and 10 on offense to finalize his fourth recruiting class with the team.
“To see that fax come through the fax machine, and to see 15 to 19 grown men looking for a fax from an 18-year-old is pretty weird,” McNeill said, describing the scene that unfolds each year at schools across the country on signing day. “For 28 years I’ve had a chance and a privilege to be a coach on the college level, and it’s always exciting to me.
“A lot of these guys we found a year ago or two years ago through evaluation, film and referrals.”
Geographically, the Pirates’ new crop reflects a similar focus to previous years. The 24-man class features 11 North Carolina natives, four players from Virginia, three from Georgia, two from South Carolina and one each from Florida, Delaware, Texas and Kansas.
“We stretched our tentacles again within the state of North Carolina, with 11 young men coming from this state,” McNeill said, noting that eight of his signees previously attended ECU camps. “We made sure we hit the state hard.”
McNeill said adding depth on both sides of the ball — especially the lines — was a major focus in this signing class, and to that end the Pirates brought in five defensive line recruits and four on the offensive line.
Joining the Pirates’ offensive line were Larry Williams (Wilmington/Laney), Brandon Smith (Kernersville/East Forsyth), Christian Matau (New Bern/New Bern) and Marquis Wallace (Henrico, Va./Lackawanna Community College), one of just two JUCO players in the class.
Understandably, McNeill expects both Wallace and junior running back Terrell Lane (Norton, Kan./Hutchinson C.C.) to make immediate impacts.
“I think Marquis Wallace will be a guy that can come in and compete right away,” McNeill said. “We expect that out of Marquis and so does he.”
The Pirates beefed up their receiving corps with three traditional pass-catchers — Trevon Brown (Wilmington/New Hanover), Davon Grayson (Suffolk, Va./Kings Fork) and Isaiah Jones (Austin, Texas/Austin) — and one tight end in Darren Dowdell (Atlanta/Grady).
The lone quarterback signee, Kurt Benkert (Cape Coral, Fla./Island Coast), has been on board since last summer and fended off interest from the likes of Florida State.
The defensive half of the class is led by the linemen — Randall Anderson (Newcastle, Del./Fork Union Military Academy), Demage Bailey (Clayton/Clayton), Demetri McGill (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes), Mike Myers (Goose Creek, S.C./Goose Creek) and Malcolm Ashley (Havelock/Havelock).
Also now under the tutelage of recently-hired defensive coordinator Rick Smith are four new linebackers: Devarius Brunson (Lake City, S.C./Lake City), Kirk Donaldson (Charlotte/Vance), Patrick Green (Winston-Salem/North Forsyth) and Tristan Mumford (Statesville/Statesville).
There are five defensive backs on the Pirates’ list of newcomers, including DaShawn Benton (Atlanta/Grady), Travis Phillips (Montpelier, Va./Patrick Henry), A.J. Coplon (Havelock/Havelock), Travon Simmons (Powder Springs, Ga./Hillgrove) and Xavier Smith (Raleigh/Wakefield), but also back in the mix is 2012 signee Lucas Thompson (Winter Garden, Fla./West Orange).
“We felt like we had to add depth and productivity on the back end, especially at the corner position, to give us strength, more speed, range, length, and we did it with these guys,” McNeill said.
Thompson did not qualify academically last year and is not listed as a member of this year’s class but did sign a new letter of intent on Wednesday. He chose to stay at home for the year instead of attending a junior college, and the Pirates are confident Thompson will be enrolled by the first summer session.
“That’s our goal, to get him here by the first session,” McNeill said, noting that he and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley visited Thompson while on the recruiting trail. “He’s doing well.”
Four of the signees — Benkert, Mumford, Anderson and Brandon Smith — graduated high school early and are already in class. It’s a trend that gives players some obvious advantages.
“It really is a big leg up,” McNeill said of the early arrivals. “They’ve all had a chance now to get their feet on the ground and work out with (strength) coach (Jeff) Connors and his group. They seem to be adjusting well.”
Contact Nathan Summers at email@example.com or 252-329-9595.
via The Daily Reflector.