South Central High School football head coach Andy Tew coached current East Carolina players Kendall Futrell and Jeremy Lewis when they were defensive linemen for the Falcons.
Tew’s SC team was eliminated this year from the 4-A state playoffs by Scotland County, which features ECU defensive end verbal commit Jason Romero, and Tew saw similarities but also differences between Romero and his former Falcons as they are preparing to play for ECU on Saturday in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium against Tulsa.
“He’s every bit of 6-foot-3 or 6-4, whereas Jeremy was a 6-2 kid listed as 6-3 and Kendall was a 6-2 guy,” Tew said during a recent phone interview. “They were athletic and all over the place, but they had some growing and filling out to do. Kendall filled out real well at the college level. (Romero) already has what I like to call is some shoulders on him. When I saw him without his shoulders pads and he was standing there and taller than everybody else around him, that is kind of what you want to see when you have a dude who is going to play on a Division I offensive or defensive line.”
Scotland County’s roster lists Romero as 6-5 and 245 pounds.
The Fighting Scots beat South Central 56-13 and then routed Durham Jordan 62-27 to set up a third-round game versus South View.
The class ECU is slated to sign Dec. 18 is likely to be led by 6-4 quarterback Mason Garcia from Myrtle Beach, S.C. Defensive tackle Xavier McIver is an important prospect at a position of need, and he also is a South Carolina (Cheraw H.S.) native.
The Pirates’ starting D-line versus Tulsa will feature three seniors, including Futrell at end.
Keziah Everett and Traveon Freshwater, key signees for ECU last December, are among the freshmen redshirting this year.
Romero, McIver and others, including any possible defensive line additions before next season via the transfer market, will likely get a look at immediate playing time with the Pirates.
“We had to identify him, but in that game Scotland County also had a linebacker, No. 9 (Nick Callahan), who had almost more of an impact on the game that anybody else,” Tew said. “We had to find both of them. ... D.H. Conley was able to negate (Romero) a little bit and Richmond County (earlier in the season), and he still held his own, but you could tell that physically they could handle him a little better. He still got his, but it wasn’t quite as obvious.
“We had two sophomores on that side of the ball and they struggled with him mightily. We ended up kind of running away from him, and that’s usually what you do offensively when you’re going against a talent like that on the defensive side of the ball.”
ECU currently sits just outside the top 50 nationally and second-best in the American Athletic Conference, according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings, with its reported list of 22 verbal commitments.
Pirate coach Mike Houston said earlier this week that he expects some of those commitments to still be pursued by other schools, which is part of the nature of recruiting, especially during the final weeks leading up to the December early signing period. Players who do not sign in December can sign in February.
ECU’s top-three rated recruits are Garcia, cornerback Sean Tucker (Woodson/Washington, D.C.) and McIver.
Garcia went to camp at Alabama during the summer and has reported offers from Colorado State, Appalachian State, Cincinnati, Charlotte and others. McIver has been recruited by similar schools, including Coastal Carolina and Charlotte, and also Syracuse and South Carolina.
“I’ve got coaches with plane tickets already, myself included, and come Sunday, it’s full-throttle recruiting from then until signing day,” Houston said on the AAC coaches teleconference Monday. “I think all of our commits are very firm with us, though. But you know what, if other teams weren’t coming after them, then they would not be the caliber of players we thought they were. I think that just speaks to the quality of this recruiting class. ... We’re going to have about half of them here in January, so I can’t wait to get started with them.”