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SMU, ECU leading AAC in recruiting

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East Carolina football coach Scottie Montgomery walks the practice fields during a spring workout Feb. 28.

062818-Jeremy Lewis
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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Monday, July 9, 2018

East Carolina football hit double-digits for the month of June alone in verbal commitments from recruits.

The significance of this is magnified with most of July as a recruiting dead period enforced by the NCAA, which also typically leads to coaching staff members across the country to use vacation before football activity and obligations ramp up later in July and certainly in August.

ECU was No. 1 in the American Athletic Conference in the 247Sports composite team recruiting rankings until it recently was jumped by SMU. The top-five now is SMU, ECU, Temple, Cincinnati and Houston.

Temple, SMU and Houston all had seven-win seasons in 2017. Cincinnati was 4-8, and the Pirates were 3-9 for the second straight year.

The Pirates are at 17 commits after their wave of pledges in June. Their near-full class is rooted in in-state talent, highlighted in Pitt County by South Central receiver/​defensive end Jeremy Lewis the latest to commit June 28 to join D.H. Conley receiver C.J. Johnson and Farmville Central agile 330-pound defensive lineman Keziah Everett.

They all picked the Pirates over Atlantic Coast Conference schools.

Farmville Central coach Scott Gardner said high school coaches have viewed offensive coordinator Tony Petersen as a key recruiter for East Carolina and head coach Scottie Montgomery this offseason.

“It’s nice to have a school right in your backyard that you can go to and play big-time football,” Gardner said. “The 2019 class, with Keziah and all the other ones they have recruited so far, that’s going to be a dynamic class. It’s great that coach Montgomery and coach Petersen are over there and can get them over to East Carolina to play college football.”

ECU’s highest-rated recruit, according to 247Sports.com, is 6-foot athlete Jsi Hatfield from Southern Alamance High School, where he played quarterback last season but had more rushing touchdowns than passing TDs. He also was the team’s leading rusher and is likely looking at playing receiver or another skill position in college.

Johnson is a traditional receiver who caught 31 touchdown passes for Conley as a junior in forming a great connection with now-Pirate freshman quarterback Holton Ahlers. Joining Everett and Lewis potentially on the defensive line is 6-3, 225 Hemingway, S.C., native Darius Williams, who is rated as ECU’s second-best verbal commit with scholarship offers from Marshall, UCF, Middle Tennessee State and others.

“We are going to make a big impact on ECU and we’re going to be able to turn this thing around pretty shortly,” Lewis said.

Last year was the first year for the December early signing period and it gave way to summer recruiting gaining extra importance. That proved true again this June for the Pirates and other teams.

Commitments are not binding until a recruit signs a letter of intent in December or the traditional spring period. Most of ECU’s recruits for the previous class signed in December, including Ahlers.

The Pirates secured 22 players in the Ahlers-led class that ranked eighth in the AAC and 87th nationally.

Thirteen of ECU’s 17 current verbal commits are considered three-star prospects, which has East Carolina ranked in the top-50 nationally.

No American team has received a pledge in this class from a four- or five-star prospect. SMU, which has a first-year coach in veteran Sonny Dykes, leads the conference with 14 three-star players.

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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ECU

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