ARTICLE OF THE DAY
 
Holtz Hauls in 2006 Recruiting Class

by Eric Gilmore
2/2/06


A late push helped boast ECU’s 2006 recruiting class as arguably the best since ECU joined Conference USA in 1997. Even with online recruiting services releasing recruits’ every thought, the Skip Holtz coaching staff corralled a talented group sprinkled with potential, height and character.

    
Holtz signed 27 of the 46 players that came to campus on official visits. Of the 27, nine are from North Carolina.; eight are from Florida while Georgia and South Carolina were represented with three players apiece.

 

Quarterbacks

Holtz showed his trust in redshirt freshmen Robert Kass and Brett Clay by declining to sign a true quarterback. Holtz stated publicly that he doesn’t want to waste his 85 allotted scholarships on signal callers. But by not signing a quarterback, he will now be forced to rely on Kass, Clay or sophomore Patrick Pinkney once current starting quarterback, James Pinkney graduates.

           

Verdict: The quarterback position was a dry crop inside North Carolina. Not a single quarterback that signed on Wednesday was ranked with more than two stars. Last year, four quarterbacks signed with clubs such as Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia. But this year, the lack of quality players helped ECU feel good about passing.

 

Running Backs

Holtz went into the recruiting process hoping to sign only one running back. Because former verbal commitment Kennard Reeves opted for Vanderbilt late in the game, the door was opened for the enigmatic Norman Whitley. The Richmond Co. back turned down BCS offers early in the recruiting process only to have them pulled later on.

“That’s the kind of kid that we want here,” said running backs coach Junior Smith referring to the Shine Bowl MVP. “To have the confidence, to have a chip on their shoulder believing they’re the best back in the country.”

Fullback was an immediate concern that Holtz addressed in the form of Kevin Gidrey since Jermarcus Veal and Jason Pender both graduated. According to Holtz, Gidrey the 252 pound bruiser is a “big thick, athletic son of a gun” who will compete for playing time as a freshman.

           

Verdict: Holtz’s spread offense is based on finesse and speed in stretching the field rather than punishing the run up the middle. The philosophy caused failed attempts at converting 3rd-and-3 plays. A 220-pound back would have done the trick.

 

Wide Recievers

Recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach Donnie Kirkpatrick couldn’t stop bragging about how talented Javon Brumsey and late additions Dwayne Harris and DeMorio Waymon are.

“Those guys are being signed so in two years, we won’t have to rebuild,” said Kirkpatrick. “We’ll be reloading.”

Brumsey has height necessary to climb the proverbial ladder to complete fade routes accompanied with blazing speed.

“His strength is his speed (4.43), his height, which you can’t coach and his hands,” said Northeastern High School coach Antonio Moore about Brumsey who chose the Pirates over N.C. State and Virginia. “I could make a whole list about his strengths. I couldn’t finish without saying that Javon is a great kid and a great personality.”

 

Verdict: Holtz improved the team by adding players with both height and speed. But N.C. State nabbed instate receivers Owen Spencer, LaMarcus Bond while UNC inked Hakeem Nicks. The Pirates still lack the speedy receiver, which allows for the offense to stretch the defense.    

 

Offensive Linemen

Steve Shankweiler added some hogs to his offensive linemen troop in bringing along five newcomers. After graduating three starters, Holtz needed some immediate help while still securing the future. Willie Barton, a 320 pound JUCO transfer from Georgia Military should compete for a starting slot. Andrew Farr, a prep school transfer is rehabbing a knee injury, but will participate in spring practice.

D.J. Scott, Sean Allen and Cory Dowless participated in ECU’s summer camp. Scott, the highly regarded of the three was the first verbal commitment and never wavered from his decision. Doug Polochak hails from Nease High School, one of the premier schools in Florida.   

 

Verdict: Holtz brought in five quality players, but only one potential 2006 starter. Some of the younger players already on campus will fill the vacancies created by graduation. But by signing five, all with room to grow, run blocking shouldn’t be as much of a problem.

 

Defensive Linemen

Ask any high school coach which the hardest position to recruit is and he will immediately answer with the defensive line. Luckily for the Pirates, defensive line coach Donnie Thompson is one of the best recruiters in the state. Thompson personally plucked defensive ends from the region in 6’7” Travis Melvin and 6’6” Willie Smith.

The Pirates also inked a couple of unknowns in Joe Council and Davion Holman.

“[Davion’s] got tremendous range,” said Dr. Phillips High School Head Coach Kevin Pettis about Davion Holman who turned down Nebraska. “His wing span is unbelievable. He’s just a tall, rangy type of kid who gets after it real well.”

 

Grade: "A minus" --  Reason Why: Holtz signed plenty of potential, but no kids that are likely to compete immediately.

 

Linebackers

The seven linebackers will make Pirate fans forget about the four that recently graduated. With a slew of young talent already in the program, Holtz added veteran JUCO’s in Orlando Farrow, Fred Wilson and Daniel Muhewzi. All three have legitimate height and size lacking in the younger players.

Holtz inked four freshman players, all of which will take time to develop. Relative unknown Chris Atkins and Atlanta product Lorenzo Osborne will have to gain weight.

“I think before it’s all said and over with, they’re going to put down as a defensive end where he’s a natural,” said West Gadsden Head Coach Robert Jackson about Atkins. “He’s one of those high school players you only get once or twice in your career.”

Middle linebacker prospects Nick and A.J. Johnson (no relation) will have to develop their lateral speed.

“[ECU] is getting a good kid, a good individual and a great football player,” said East Mecklenburg Head Coach Greg Hill about Nick Johnson. “You’re getting a steal because I think he could have gone anywhere in the country

 

Verdict: Holtz filled the vacancies created by the four seniors who graduated. By bringing on seven linebackers, including three talented JUCO’s, where does it leave some of the players already on the team. Competition will reign between the newcomers and those of Pierre Bell, Durwin Lamb, Zack Slate and Jarrett Wiggins.

 

Secondary

Holtz signed tall, rangy corners while still maintaining hard hitting safeties. Convincing Melvin Patterson to play with his cousin Kasey Ross in the secondary was a huge coup. Patterson chose ECU on Tuesday over N.C. State, but will need to rehab an ACL injury he suffered during the first game of his senior season.

“Trying to find a weakness, I don’t see a lot of them there,” said Santa Fe Head Coach Scott Pritchett about Patterson. “He’s not perfect, but he’s got a lot of strengths. I can’t see a lot of negatives.”

Corners Darryl Reynolds and Dekota Marshall, both over six feet and from the region both have the opportunity to play in 2006. Marshall, who bench presses 370 pounds despite his 185 pound frame runs a 4.4 40-yard dash.

“[Dekota’s] potential is unlimited,” said 23-year Southwest Onslow Head Coach Phil Padgett. “It wouldn’t shock me if he is playing on Sundays in four or five years.”

Travis Simmons, a late addition and Dan Wideman, a possible academic casualty, are both considered projects.

“I don’t think there’s a limit as to how good [Wideman] can be,” said Emerald High School Head Coach Mac Bryan. “He’s the fastest 100 meter (clocked at 10.7) guy in this part of South Carolina.”

 

Verdict: Secondary is the position that received the biggest boost on Wednesday. Marshall could be penciled as an immediate starter, but will likely fill in as a nickel corner. Reynolds needs to make sure that he qualifies academically. With five new players, where does that leave redshirt freshmen Chris Mattocks and Van Eskridge?  

 

House Cleaning

Holtz announced the five players have left the program citing playing time as their main concern. Cornerback Erode Jean, wide receiver Brian Howard, offensive linemen Zach Davis and Mike Williams and defensive lineman Mike Horner will move on to I-AA schools.

           

Tillman suspended

Starting H-back Robert Tillman has been suspended from the team for the spring semester. Holtz did not give a specific reason for the rising senior’s suspension. Tillman caught 16 balls for 186 yards and one touchdown in six games before suffering a season-ending hamstring injury.

 

MacDonaugh ends career

Mike MacDonagh, a former walk-on transfer from Wayne St. will no longer don football pads. MacDonagh finished with 11 tackles, including two for loss while starting five games in each of the last two seasons. The defensive end suffered a neck injury during the final game of the season causing a narrowing in his spine.


Eric Gilmore
ejg1102@mail.ecu.edu