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Pirates could add a few to recruiting class

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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, January 5, 2017

East Carolina football’s poor showing in the first season under head coach Scottie Montgomery did not dampen the recruiting trail.

In fact, the Pirates have emerged from a disastrous 3-9 campaign with a victory in terms of their expected haul on the Feb. 1 National Signing Day. With 27 days remaining until prospective Pirates can send in their national letters of intent to join the team, 21 spots are filled with either verbal commitments or mid-year junior college signees who are on campus.

The problems were many for the 2016 Pirates. On offense, ECU turned the ball over frequently, stalled inside the red zone and failed to sustain a consistent run game all season. On defense, the team lacked continuity and at times talent up front and remained vulnerable to big plays at the back end.

On top of that, many of the players Montgomery leaned on the most last season have been lost to graduation. Help is on the way, however, in the form of five JUCO finds and 16 high school recruits all expected to jump on board with ECU next month.

The list could grow by a few over the next four weeks as per Montgomery’s comments at the end of the season that indicated he hoped for a full 25-man signing class.

At the moment, he has 12 offensive players and nine defenders on his list. Nine of the 21 are native North Carolinians with five more coming from the recruiting hotbed of Mississippi. Three are from Florida, two are Georgians and one each is a Texan and an Ohioan.

Offense

At the top of the new crop is a much-needed pair of quarterback commits, led by the versatile and dazzling Charlotte Vance High School passer, Kingsley Ifedi, who fielded offers from, among others, Pittsburgh, Colorado State, Harvard and Yale. With 2016 starter Philip Nelson gone after his lone season in Greenville along with former starter-turned-running back James Summers, Ifedi could be poised to join the race for the ‘17 job along with rising junior Gardner Minshew, redshirt freshman Reid Herring and fellow expected incoming signee Mic Roof (Buford, Ga./Buford H.S.).

A vital boost to the ECU run game, which mostly unsuccessfully employed three main rushers last season, is coming in the form of Trace Christian (Altamonte Springs, Fla./Lake Brantley) and Darius Pinnix (Elon/Western Alamance). Also expected to give the run a future push and do a better job of pass protection are a trio of linemen: tackle Matthew Morgan (Wendell/Corinth Holders), center John Spellacy (Cleveland/Saint Ignatius) and JUCO guard Dqmarcus Shaw (Batesville, Miss./Itawamba C.C.), who could play immediately.

Wide receivers Jayden Borders (Shelby/Shelby), Leroy Henley (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Cardinal Gibbons) and Blake Proehl (Charlotte/Providence) will add a new layer of depth to the play-making corps, and 2016 tight end signee Eric Weber (Blythewood, S.C.) is back after a stint at Southwest Mississippi Community College and is in class at ECU.

Defense

The front seven should receive a big boost from a class that features two JUCO additions and thus far expects to add a total of three defensive ends and one interior lineman along with three linebackers.

End Tyree Owens (Oviedo, Fla../Copiah-Lincoln C.C.) is in school, and should be joined by new position mates in Taijh Alston (Cameron/Union Pines) and Blake McClain (Booneville, Miss./NE Mississippi Junior College), along with defensive tackle Ja-Quane Nelson (High Point/High Point Central).

Behind them, JUCO inside linebacker Cannon Gibbs (Brandon, Miss./Jones County Junior College) is set to be joined by fellow ILB Bruce Bivens (Houston/Davis-Aldine) and OLB Ben Norris (Charlotte/Myers Park).

In the secondary, JUCO cornerback Marcus Holton Jr. (Tallahassee, Fla./Georgia Military) is in school and could see immediate playing time, and he will be joined by safety recruit Delvontae Harris (Newnan, Ga./Newnan).

Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com, 252-329-9595 or follow @NateSumm99 on Twitter.

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