GREENVILLE, N.C. - The stars have aligned pretty well for East Carolina in their football recruiting efforts for the class of 2012 to be announced on Wednesday.
ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill will announce his signees officially at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
This year's crop promisses to be one of the better recruiting hauls in recent ECU history with a heavy emphasis on defense and an ample dose of offensive firepower. The Pirates are expected to sign 20-25 players in this year's class.
Three big time recruits will make their final decision Wednesday morning, including linebacker Jamal Marcus of Hillside High School in Durham who took his third visit to East Carolina the weekend of January 14-15.
Marcus, a high three-star ranked recruit with Rivals.com told PirateIllustrated that he has found ECU to be a "great school". "I'm impressed with the coaching staff, campus, and the weight facilities. The weight room is better than many I've seen."
Marcus is down to East Carolina and Ohio State. Marcus also sports offers from Auburn, Clemson, Duke, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, South Carolina, University of Southern California, Vanderbilt, and Wake Forest. He has been getting interest from Arkansas, Florida State, Michigan, Oregon, and South Florida.
Marcus' teammate and tight end Josh McNeil has already committed for 2013. The 6'5", 235 Hillside star has 4.7 speed.
Jela Duncan, a running back out of Charlotte's Mallard Creek High School is set to announce his decision between ECU, Wake Forest and Purdue Wednesday morning. PI has been told that he likely will not be headed to Greenville according to sources close to the situation. But you never know. Duncan posted on Twitter that his top three were ECU, Wake Forest and Purdue late Tuesday night.
Running back is a big need for the future for the Pirates and they have long hoped to land the 5-10, 190 pound back who shined in the Shrine Bowl. His offer sheet also includes Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Purdue, and Western Michigan.
We could very well see another running back announced for National Signing Day Wednesday if ECU can land one who can bring immediate help in the backfield. If not, they will hold off until the next cycle at both running back and quarterback where ECU returns four solid signal callers.
One possibility is Huntington Beach, California Golden West Community College all-purpose running back Michael Pierre although he did make a verbal commitment to South Florida on Sunday. The 5'11", 200 pounder sports 4.4 speed and a 3.2 grade point average. He was down to ECU and USF as his final choices coming into last weekend.
Outside linebacker Keilin Rayner is another possibility for the Pirates who will make his decision known on Wednesday.
The Leland, North Carolina, North Brunswick product stands 6'3" and 220 pounds. He Rayner has good speed for a linebacker at 4.63 and benches 330 pounds. Rayner has listed offers to Clemson, ECU, UNC, N.C. State, Duke and South Carolina.
None of the above named players have made a known verbal commitment to any school during this cycle. Should the Pirates land two of the three, it would represent a real coup for ECU.
High school verbal commitments are nonbinding. East Carolina hopes to land all of those who have already committed on Wednesday when student-athletes can officially sign with prospective schools.
Two prospects at offensive line will not be coming for various reasons include Brunswick, Georgia standout Dominique Stallworth who committed in mid June and Grand Rapids Community College offensive tackle DeShawn Byrd who committed less than two weeks ago on a recruiting visit.
Among those who have verbally committed to ECU with the most fanfare is Lucas Thompson from Winter Garden Florida who comes to Greenville out of West Orange High School. The Rivals.com 3-Star recruit is the 58th ranked player in Florida overall and 17th ranked safety in the country. PI has learned that he will sign with the Pirates on Wednesday.
Thompson committed to the Pirates over 13 BCS schools and a bevy of others. He made his announcement during the Under Armour All-American game on ESPN back in January when he donned an ECU hat before a national television audience. Lincoln Riley handled his recruitment for the Pirates.
Jabril Solomon is a hard hitting defensive back and a quality wide receiver from Hemingway, South Carolina. The Rivals.com 3-star is a top 9 player in the state and number 27 nationally at his position. He chose ECU over Clemson, Nebraska, N.C. State and Wake Forest.
"I committed to ECU because they led the nation in passing yardage and they are putting me where I want to play," he said. "I also expect to start." The ECU offense has picked up a fast receiver who can run the 40 in 4.4-seconds. He describes his style of play as "aggressive".
Inside Linebacker Gabe Woullard a solid inside linebacker out of Woodland Hills, California and Pierce Community College is a Rivals 3-star who packs a punch. Woullard chose ECU over New Mexico State and Florida Atlantic. "I like the coaching staff. We really clicked and I like their football program," told PirateIllustrated.com.
"I've known about East Carolina and watched them over the years. I also know that (Tennessee Titan running back) Chris Johnson came from there." When asked about his visit to the school, Woullard said, "I was impressed by the campus and the facilities are top notched. The stadium wowed me and they have my major -- sociology."
Woullard, who is 6-feet, 1-1/2-inches and weighs 220 pounds, performed well for Pierce during the 2011 football season. He recorded a total of 55 tackles -- 32 solo and 23 assists. He also had 1 sack and 2 quarterback hurries. Dwayne Price was his lead recruiter.
Drayvon Fairley comes to ECU from Red Springs, North Carolina. The 6'3", 207 pound sleeper in recruting runs a 4.6 forty and is a very smart, quick defender that ECU is extremely excited about. John Wiley handled Fairley's recruitment for the Pirates.
One of the big needs for the Pirates in this class is at defensive back. The Pirates plan to sign several including hard hitting safety Godfrey Thompson out of Raymond, Mississippi's Hinds Community College.
The 6'0", 205 pound Rivals.com 3- star recruit is one who Coach Gene Murphy at Hinds raves about along with his teammate, cornerback Adonis Armstrong. Both are already enrolled at ECU. Defensive Coordinator Brian Mitchell was the lead recruiter for both.
"Godfrey Thompson is a local guy who attended Forest Hill High School in Jackson, Mississippi. He attended the University of Mississippi for one year but did not play football. He joined us at Hinds in 2010," said Murphy.
"He really came on particularly this past season. We had him at outside linebacker and strong safety his freshman year. His sophomore year he played one of the safety positions. He had an outstanding year and was instrumental in turning around our defense. He's a physical player who can run, important skills for our defensive scheme where we depend on the outside backer to do a lot of coverage."
Adonis Armstrong had some disappointing performances in some big games his freshman year," continued Murphy. "However he made a real commitment to bring his game up. He was on a mission and worked extremely hard in the off season, through the summer and then during the season he kept getting better and better. He had a tremendous season and led the state in interceptions. He was really a spark plug for us throughout the year. I can't say enough about him."
"He faced a lot of Division 1 receivers on our level and some of those guys went on to play in the League. Armstrong held his own with all of them," said Murphy.
"To be a good corner guy you need to have good footwork, make good decisions, know when to break on the ball and have good depth. Armstrong has those particular traits. He lined up against guys throughout the year who were great receivers and who were much taller than him and he did a really good job against them. He not only plays with physical abilities, he plays with mental abilities, too," Murphy concluded.
Another player who ECU is very excited about is Dre Scarborough out of Beulaville, North Carolina. The East Duplin star is a 6'2" 224 pound Rivals 3-star defensive end/linebacker. According to his coach Battle Holley, he will be playing outside linebacker for ECU. Schools other than ECU who showed interest locally in Scarborough were Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Wake Forest. "I will work hard and not let anyone out work me, said Scarborough, "I'll be prepared." Lincoln Riley was his lead recruiter.
Colby Brown is another quality sleeper defensive back from Highland, Kansas'Highland Community College. The 5'10" 180 pound defender can fly with 4.4 speed. Brown is a Rivals.com 3 star recruit who committed during a recruiting visit back in December. "I know that ECU is where I want to be so I pulled the trigger this morning (Sunday) at 8 o'clock. "I will be returning punts and kickoffs for ECU. I have already talked to the coaches about it," added Brown. "I have run a 4.3 40 and I think that I am now consistent at 4.3." Brian Mitchell is Brown's lead recruiter.
He refers to himself as a "shut down" corner who likes to play man-to-man. This past season he had 2 interceptions with 1 returned for a score, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery and 40 tackles. He also played safety in one game against a team that used an option offense. In that game he had 8 tackles and 1 interception. "I'm not afraid to come up and support against the run," he said.
Brown led his conference in pass breakups with 14 and he was selected All Conference Honorable Mention. In his junior year he had 3 interceptions. "I am a man press corner. I like to compete with receivers and play up on the line. I also play off the receiver. I use my speed to play with receivers a little and to disguise coverages. I like to confuse the QB." Brown played football and ran track in high school. He has been timed at 10.4 in the 100 meter and he also competed in the 4x100.
Quataye Smyre played his high school football in Statesville, North Carolina for South Iredell. The 5'10", 165 pound performer can play a multitude of skill positions on offense including strong skills as a return man. His 4.4 speed will put Smyre amongst the fastest players on the team.
Smyre is a Rivals.com 3-star ranked recruit who the Pirates will put probably put some weight on when he gets into the ECU strength program. Smyre received attention from Clemson, Auburn, N.C. State, North Carolina and Duke. He committed to the Pirates in March of 2011 and was one of ECU's earliest commitments. Dwayne Price was his lead recruiter.
Reece Speight comes to ECU from Wilson, Beddingfield. The 6'2" 220 pound defensive end can also play outside linebacker in Brian Mitchell's 3-4 defensive scheme. He has been impressed with ECU since his first visit there.
"I loved it. I love the campus, I love the atmosphere and the people there. I like how they support their team. I love the coaching staff, team chemistry and the facilities. I loved it all," he said. "I know that in the last couple of years ECU has been an up and coming program. I want to contributed to it." Linebackers Coach John Wiley handled his recruitment for the Pirates.
Linebacker Coach John Wiley liked what he saw from Speight in camp last summer.
"They liked my speed, quickness, and low center of gravity so I can get around the bigger guys," said Speight. Speight joins cousin, Jacobi Jenkins, who plays corner for the Pirates.
Dayon Pratt of Calvin Coolidge High School in Washington, D.C. is excited about his commitment to East Carolina University. The 6-foot, 4-inch 193 pounder has played wide receiver, defensive end, outside linebacker and tight end. He will play outside linebacker at ECU.
"I decided on ECU because the coaching staff is so family oriented," said Pratt. "The coaches care about the players more than they care about winning games. The coach who recruited me (Defensive End Coach Marc Yellock) went to my track meets and basketball games. He showed that he was interested in me and I felt real comfortable. I thought that if I feel comfortable with the coach, then I would really feel comfortable with the team."
Pratt took an unofficial visit to ECU. "Me, my mom and two friends from the Calvin Coolidge football team went to ECU to see a game. Because of traffic, by the time we got there the game was over. But we were able to hang out with the coaches and team," said Pratt. During that visit Pratt was impressed with the football facilities. "The weight room facility is huge," he said. Mark Yellock is Pratt's lead recruiter.
Deshaun Amos is a very fast athlete from Midlothian(Va) Manchester who sports good size and range and will be one of the fastest players on the roster. The 6'1", 170 Rivals 2 star. Defensive End coach Marc Yellock and defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell recruited Amos who should get better and better as his strength increases in Jeff Connors' weight room.
"Coach Yellock and Mitchell told me that I will play cornerback on the field side. The field corner plays the pass first and the run second. So I will be a man-on-man corner on wide receivers." Amos is 6-feet, 1-inch, weighs 170 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.4-seconds. He was recruited as an "Athlete."
"On defense I used to play safety, but I feel corner is a better position for me. Coach Yellock and Mitchell said I have good height, good speed and I can change directions well. They said they see a lot of potential." Although he won't be used as a wide receiver for now, he hopes that the coaches will ask him to play receiver later.
Tom Hall is the head football coach at Manchester High School. He responded that Amos' commitment to ECU "is a match made in heaven. I think it is a perfect fit for Deshaun and East Carolina. He's a kid who can play multiple positions."
When PirateIllustrated asked Hall about Amos' strengths, he replied, "His strength is his speed. He returned 5 kicks for touchdowns this past season. He had 2 others called back due to penalties. He's a tall, lanky kid with a fantastic work ethic. He is also a high character kid. He comes from a great family. He is what we call a 'program' kid. As he gets older and grows into the East Carolina program, they are going to want to show him around among the recruits to help sell their program. As a player, he's explosive," continued Hall. "He has great hands. He played wide receiver for us. He was one of only a few kids who played both ways in our program."
Wide receiver Lance Ray from Senatobia, Mississippi's Northwest Mississippi Community College. The 6'3" 205 pound 3 star Rivals.com prospect was recruited by Offensive Coordinator Lincoln Riley.
Linebacker is always a big need at ECU in their 3-4 defense. Quandarious Crump is a big hitter who hails from Lexington, North Carolina. The Rivals.com 3-star stands 6'3", 210 pounds and chose ECU over N.C. State and also received interest from Wake Forest. Defensive Coordinator Brian Mitchell was Crump's recruiting coach.
Jonathan McLaughlin from Mauldin High in South Carolina highlights the offensive line group for the Pirates. The 6'4", 288 pound 3-star prospect is one of the biggest catches in this year's crop. McLaughlin sports a 3.5 grade point average and chose ECU over Wake Forest and Marshal and Florida International. McLaughlin was voted the best blocker at the NC/SC Shrine Bowl by Rivals.com.
McLaughlin is one who Brandon Jones is excited about and McLaughlin talked about his trip to Greenville and his commitment to ECU.
"I loved it. I loved everything. I had a great time there. I saw all the facilities, the whole school, hung out with some of the players and talked to (Head) Coach (Ruffin) McNeill. He was with us the whole time to make sure everything was okay with us," said McLaughlin when asked about his visit.
"I decided on ECU because they have been recruiting me since about last February," he continued. "I decided during the visit that it was a perfect place for me. I wanted to meet the players and I got to do that during the visit. That's what I wanted to do. The coaches and the players are what really impressed me the most."
Doug Shaw, head football coach at Mauldin High School says McLaughlin's transition to college play will be smooth. "The type of offense that East Carolina runs is comparable to what we run -- we run a spread offense. It's not like he's coming from a school that runs a two tight end wishbone offense. The ECU scheme suits him. I think he'll do well. And if they move him from left tackle to right tackle he will be able to handle it. He moved from left tackle to right tackle in the Shrine Bowl this year. It took him a day or two to get his footwork underneath him, but he adapted. and did very well."
When asked to describe McLaughlin's strengths, Coach Shaw said, "He's got really long arms, which obviously helps. He also has really good feet. He moves very well. I think being able to run a zone offense like we do he'll be a little bit ahead of the game."
Offensive Lineman James Boyd is from Fort Mill, South Carolina's Nation Ford High School. Boyd stands 6-4, 275 pounds. He has quick feet, actually runs a 4.9 forty and is a 4.0 student in the classroom.
While Boyd is a bit of a sleeper, ECU sees something in him that they can cultivate at the center position. Boyd is a fast learner and talked to PI about coming to ECU.
"They expressed how much they wanted me over and over and they made me feel like I was a part of their family already before I was even committed," said Boyd. "I really like (Offensive Line) Coach (Brandon) Jones, (Offensive Coordinator) Coach (Lincoln) Riley, (Head) Coach (Ruffin) McNeill and (Inside Receivers) Coach (Donnie) Kirkpatrick, who recruited me."
Boyd had visited ECU and also attended a camp there. "The thing that impressed me about the school is the gameday atmosphere, the fans are true fans, and everyone there on the team is willing to compete," he added. "To prepare I will be hitting the weight room and football field hard. I will be doing my best to increase my speed and getting stronger. I will be trying to make myself a more complete football player," he said. Why was ECU so interested in him? "The coaches said they really liked my pass blocking ability and my toughness."
A late entry for the Pirates at offensive line is Keifer Neal Huntington Beach, California Golden West Community College. The 6'5",310 pounder chose ECU over Idaho State, Western Illinois and Indiana State. Neal committed on January 26th.
Neal is ranked 2-stars by Rivals.com and hopes to exceed expectations in Greenville for the Pirates. New Pirate assistant, Kirk Doll is already paying dividends as Neal's lead recruiter.
Ryan Revia from Roanoke, Virginia's Patrick Henry High School is a tall 6'7", 285 pound 2 stars who the Pirates hope to develop along the offensive line.
Revia sports a 3.85 GPA. Academic are very important to Revia and the Pirates beat out Harvard, Princeton, Penn and Cornell for his services. Mark Yellock and Brandon Jones handled his recruitment for the Pirates.
"I went to camp at ECU and liked the entire coaching staff. (Offensive line coach) Brandon Jones is a cool guy. I like him a lot and he definitely knows his stuff. The (Defensive end coach)Marc Yellock is also a real good coach on the defensive line. ECU has everything I want academically. It has a great business school, which is what I am looking to go into. It's a good school all around," said Revia.
The 6-foot, 7-inch 285 pounder bench presses 295 pounds, reps 185 pounds 21 times or 225 pounds 13 times and he squats 425 pounds. "I hit the weight room a lot," he said.
Stay tuned to PirateIllustrated.com for the latest from Greenville as National Signing Day progresses on Wednesday. PI will also have video coverage of Coach McNeill's press conference from Ward Building on the campus of East Carolina University.
Stay up to date on East Carolina football, basketball, Pirate recruiting and more here on PirateIllustrated.com.