So, the young men have made their choices…how did Ruff & Crew do?

I have always been in the Steve Logan camp about recruiting – especially for a school like ours. We have very few advantages when it comes to recruiting so it comes down to hard, hard work, selling the positives in a way that 18-year olds can get, and then some luck to get the type of athletes who can elevate the program. Our coaches – the ones who have won here at ECU – have made a living off of finding hidden gems, shaking the trees to find post NSD leftovers, coming the JUCO ranks for potential instant impact, and counting on a few wayward stars somehow drifting in unexpected. It is not a very predictable model, but one we have seen work – sometimes better than others. Still, Coach Logan really did sum it up when he said to ask him in four or five years if this was a good recruiting class.

Now, I never have felt that a true freshman was going to really help a team…beyond maybe some depth and I do not believe we have ever seen one here that truly was dominant, so I do not expect to get any immediate help from this year’s class, sans the JUCOs. Sorry to all the Lucas Thompson-is-going-to-save-the-world crowd. Just don’t see it…big jump from prep to top level college ball. NOW…having said that, if anyone in the class can have an Emmanuel Davis or Jeremy Grove-like redshirt frosh year, I would be willing to put the chips on Thompson, so no insult intended. To me, if one of these freshman is a starter this year, it is more a reflection of failed recruiting 3-4 years ago than it is a huge recruiting win this year. Looks good on paper, but we all no that there are many slips twixt cup and lip and I pray to God that our starting DBs this year have been on the roster for 2-3 years already.

But, there is some nice talent in this class, IMO. Sure we lost out on Dontrill Hyman and Jabo Lee – the latter of which I have no real feeling about. Can’t lose what you never had, right. I wish Hyman had signed, if for no other reason than what a great story that would have been. He was really in love with our program, but when a top profile program comes waltzing in, it is damn tough on a kid to fight through that woo. I also feel bad for him, some. If he doesn’t make it to the NFL, he will probably always wonder what if had he gone to ECU (which seems a fine place for NFL defensive lineman…hmmmm). Oh well…his loss.

The staff puts in the effort, chases big and small talent and sells the things ECU has going for it. I would guess that there are more kids who say no who regret that decision later than those that said yes and regret it.

So we went out and got 13 defensive guys, addressing the DLine and Secondary especially and took a heavy does of WRs and a few OLs on offense. I think the class focus made sense given what is on the roster. Would have liked to see maybe one more OL, but a good job there. They look athletic as group but would like to have seen more speed across the board. Defensively, this group looks to be a very physical group, which I like.

Looking at what we do have coming in (scholarship and invited WOs), I – like you all I am sure – have my favs, so I am going to share, with a little one or two liner on each guy:

  • Randall Anderson, DE: Big body equals ability to put on weight and he appears to be strong on initial contact. Perhaps a run-stopping defensive end in the odd fronts and maybe a DT in even looks. Technique will spell his future and he will get a large dose of it in the spring, since he is enrolled already.
  • Malcolm Ashley, OL: Aggressive defensive linemen often make great OLs. He is quick which will help him. Perhaps a Robert Jones type with more time to adapt. Nice project. And if he doesn’t work out on the OL, switch him back to DL…could be a biggun’.
  • Demage Bailey, DL: Can’t coach size, right? Definitely appears to be quick and have good technique, particularly on first contact. Obviously, it will be about Camp Connors for him. Nice get, IMO.
  • Kurt Benkert, QB: On this, in Lincoln I trust…good looking quarterback here. Pocket presence, nice touch, and smart…if I were Cody…I would already be looking over my shoulder. Excited that we get to see him in the spring. Consider this one of the jewels in this class. Like him better than Coker.
  • Dashawn Benton, DB: Another player that I think has big potential…very glad we landed him. He is very athletic, nose for the ball, and seems sound in techinique. Good size, too. Maybe a guy who sees the field sooner rather than later…but not this year.
  • Trevon Brown, WR: When you hear 6-3 in the same sentence as Wide Receiver…that is a very good thing. Brown also appears to be able to navigate open space which makes him an even better get. With his range and open-field knack, he could be a guy who sees the field as a RS frosh or sophomore.
  • Devaris Brunson, LB: As a running back…meh…but a bruising linebacker with RB instincts and agility…that is a nice get and probably one of the better gets in this class. Best part is, we don’t need to rush him either, so he can come in and get in Camp Connors, learn the system, and contribute right away on scout. Nice get.
  • AJ Coplon, DB: Rangy, long-armed, with some athleticism. He will take some time, but Jimbob Bryant doesn’t send players to ECU who can’t play.
  • Kirk Donaldson, LB: OK…this is one of the guys I am most excited about. Big, strong, quick, and LOVES to knock the snot out of people. At 6-3, 250 with some good nose-for-the-ballcarrier speed…he may get some early action. Not sure why he wasn’t more widely recruited…looks like a stud to me.
  • Darren Dowdell, TE: We recruit TEs now? Hmmm…I know this was a package deal, but…just kidding. As TEs go, he looks pretty good. Runs well, gets after the pass. Not sure if he will stay there. We have a bonafide stud there now who doesn’t get nearly the number of looks he should, but hey, maybe the TE is going to take on a bigger role down the road. That size can be worked with, so good get.
  • Trey Eason, ATH: First, gotta give a shout out to Trey’s pop – my former Rugby-mate Bob, who was also Trey’s coach at Northside. Trey is a coach’s kid who knows the game and plays in a very physical style. Northside produces winners and Trey brings that with him.
  • Dayvon Grayson, WR: One of the better pick-ups in this class. Long-armed leaper with an ability to get around in traffic. No afraid to go over the middle and has the wiggle…looks like he has another gear when he needs it too.
  • Patrick Green, LB: Physical, good size to work with and looks like he has the attitude needed to be a difference maker is a few years.
  • Isaiah Jones, WR: Blood lines make a real difference and to get a legacy player from the likes of Robert Jones is a thrill. With that, you know that for one thing, Isaiah will be very well-versed in football in general. He has size and looks to have great body control, be a good route runner, and have game speed. Important get if only for the legacy coming home perspective.
  • Terrell Lane, RB: The JUCO ranks have been good to ECU lately at RB with Bullock and now Cooooop. Lane looks good…obviously knows how to follow blockers and get North-South in a hurry. Like his skills compared to the kid we lost to Tennessee and with Hairston coming up,  a JUCO pick-up was probably a better route anyway.
  • Christian Matau, OL: This is a guy I am excited about. He is huge and moves well enough to play at guard if needed. How he does that is amazing given that he is not the typical 6-7 guy that our coaches have been getting. I think – barring injury – that this guy might be one of the gems of this class in a couple years.
  • Demitri McGill, DT: Strong….that is what stands out to me on this late pick-up recruit. He gets off the ball and is punches very well at this point in his career. If his weightroom ethic is strong, Coach Connors will love this guy as his technique looks pretty good already. Could see earlier time depending on defensive alignments employed by new DC Smith.
  • Tristan Mumford, LB: Call me nuts, but I am stoked about this kid…and he will be in spring camp as an early enrollee…he seems to me to be one part Pierre Bell and another part Nick Johnson. Yes, not as tall as Bell but seems to be fluid in pass coverage and an angle master. Like Johnson, Mumford appears to be a fast read on play development and has the same finishing blow…squared up, not arms tackler type. One of my favs in this class.
  • Mike Myers, DT: At 6-0, 290 pounds…can you say…”give him whatever you gave Terry Williams and stand back.” What a load this guys is and he appears to know how to use it. Needs some technique work and more first step explosion, but man he can move and when he brings it, you remember it. He will fit in the interior defensive line quite nicely down the road.
  • Travis Phillips, CB: Appears to have the fluidity you want in the hips, but not sure he is a corner. Obviously very athletic, though. If Coach Smith signed off on him, then I am excited. The man knows how to develop DBs and God knows we need them here. A down-the-road contributor.
  • David Lee Robinson, ATH: Looks like a good athlete with toughness. Nothing jumps out enough to indicate if he will be a linebacker here or not. Time will tell on this one.
  • Travon Simmons, CB: Looks the part and appears to have solid wheels. Long arms help. Would be nice if he truly develops as a cover corner.
  • Brandon Smith, OL: Big and strong and tall…fits the mold of what Coach Riley wants up front. Very happy he is enrolled because he needs a dose of Camp Connors…and technique. Doesn’t appear to be a consistent finisher on the block but hey, when you are that big and can move, we can use you.
  • Xavier Smith, S: Appears to be physical and at 6-1 he is right where you want a safety. Can’t get a real read on his speed from video, but he looks like a potential down the road player.
  • Marquis Wallace, OL: This guy looks like he will help immediately. He is a finisher on the block, flexible enough to play inside or out and moves well. Hopefully his strength numbers are where they should be for a JUCO. Excited about this guy who could be a real difference maker up front where depth is critical.
  • Larry Williams, OT: Looks to be ahead of the curve in pass protection but will need a good dose of Camp Connors…my nephew played him straight up this past year and pushed him around, so getting his muscle to match his size will be big for this big boy. Like that he can go at guard as well…a down-the-road prospect.
  • Lucas Thompson, DB: No doubt from a physical perspective, he is the class of the class…that he has struggled to get here to date is worth a big red flag and he needs to keep his nose clean as a Pirate. All those things clicking, I expect he will be in the lineup sooner rather than later.

So, I am abstaining from comment on those not yet officially signed, but this class looks solid as it can be, but is by no means lights out. That said, one thing I do admire about Ruff and crew is that they will go after any player they want and are not afraid to at least ask the big blue chippers to come take a look. They have to keep doing that because sooner or later, when you get a couple of them with the right attitude in the doors, a landslide happens and I think Ruff will land some of the big boys soon…it is in his makeup.

Well there it is, my off the cuff, non-scientific look at the class we just landed.

Would love to hear who you believe will be the difference makers (queue up the blues music for Coach Logan) four or five years from now.

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “So, the young men have made their choices…how did Ruff & Crew do?

  1. No Quarter

    Got to see alot of Trevon Brown on highlight shows because he was in my area. He was a man amongst boys at the 4A level in NC. I think he will be playing sooner than later. He also did well as a kick and punt returner.

    • Thanks NQ…I feel that he is one that can get out there earlier than most…particularly watching how effective Jabril Solomon was a year ago…Always good to have a group of WRs to push one another…big plays abound!

      Go Pirates, Go!

  2. Blackbeard's Ghost

    Great breakdown RC! I do like the “heavy hitters” that we signed as Do you.
    Coach Smith said it simply that you have to be tough and willing to lay some lumber in order to play on the field. And you mentioned a couple of guys here that fit the bill. We need to put guys in defense that can rattle teeth again. Nothing spells intimidation like a freight train barreling down on you. Time will tell if this class will help bring back that hard nosed football swagger we have been missing the past few years. Cheers!

  3. ultraviolet

    Well, I thought we needed a sizable freshman class that can redshirt since we have a large group of seniors graduating. This class has a few of the type kid we need that can run. We have lacked speed the past couple of years and it’s really glaring on defense where our poor scheming couldn’t be overcome with speed. Where we had speed we didn’t us it well. Deshaun Amos is a coming off a redshirt year is one of our corners of the future. I hope the other is either on the roster or in this class. We’ll see. I think throwing in large numbers at a position is a good way to find a gem.

    • Thanks for stopping by UV…always look forward to your analysis. Great point on the woes of last season’s D. I had forgotten about Amos. God I would love to see a lockdown corner emerge. Someone with wheels and tenaciousness.

      Hopefully Coach Smith has salve that can heal what ails our defense.

      • ultraviolet

        I always subscribe to the old adage “An army of sheep led by a lion is to be feared more than an army of lions led by a sheep.” I’m certain Rick Smith will make a noticeable difference in the defense without even adding new personnel.

      • UV…i love that philosophy…agree on Coach Smith’s impact this year.

  4. DC Pirate 28

    Ron: Nice job as always. I must confess I spent the 2 weeks prior to NSD worried about what was going to happen and was hanging on what little information was creeping out but I do have some observations.

    I dont know why so much emphasis is placed on getting a verbal a year out before NSD as they are all but worthless. I was on the verge of loosing sleep over Hyman because I think the DLine is the most important and toughest position to fill. The idea we held this kids hand for several years only to have him walk in the last week tells me something is very wrong with the system. The same is true with Lee who signed in April only to go on a roadie at UT and walk away at the end. How are programs like ECU expected to compete. This IMO is not right and the NCAA should step in and do something. We are at a huge disadvatage being from a non AQ league and most importantally very limited budget. The idea that the Big Boys can sit back then come in a week before and steal these kids after the hours and cash spent is wrong.

    IMHO the time has come to make the the MD, DC, and NVA market a place to focus our recruiting efforts and there are several reasons why. First 8 of the 11 richest counties in the country are located in this market so not only do kids have better access to coaching and facilities but more help is available to allow them to make the scores necessary to get into college. I must say I was stunned how many of our recruits cant make grades therefore in all likelyhood never set foot in DFS.

    Second less competition to sign players. NC is loaded with colleges from the 4 in the ACC, UNCC, App State, and now ODU, and VT is rather close to the NC line. Here we have Maryland, UVA, to some small extent WVU and PSU and Virginia Tech. While people might think Tech is strong here its only 15 miles closer than Greenville. So you are really talking about Maryland and having lived here most kids are encouraged to leave the state.

    NC is a far bigger state and takes far more time to cover while here the talent is concentrated in no more than a 2 hour radius. You might think NC is producing a fair amount of college talent which they do. There is however a far greater concentration of AQ players here than in NC. While NC had 83 kids getting free rides to play D1 football 32 of those kids were signed to play at non AQ schools. If you combine MD & DC kids they had the same number of players sign with AQ programs and that did not include the talent in NOVA. In the end there remains less competition for more players in a concentrated location. You can look at kids that came from here now on our roster with Jeremy Grove and Derrel Johnson both came from very average high school programs and they did pretty well just think what could happen if we got our foot in the door at some of the better schools.

    I just think with the demands for talent growing we need to think outside of the box and understand the benefits of being here including the academic side.

    In the end we will have to see great teams are built with great line play cover corners and a QB. With our system and the fact that there are roughly 125 chances to play QB our system the position should recruit itself. We we need help is across both lines that allows you to hang with the big boys. If you can apply pressure with your front 4 and stop the run with the front 7 you can play with anyone. No better example than when Skip was here and we were 6-4 298 on the DL and won B2B championships, beat or held our own against the AQ’s. You can see the difference once that crowd left thats why I think loosing Hyman will hurt.

    • Hi DCP28…great post! I will dig deeper into it a little later, but one thing I think will help drive the Pirate coaches to your area (which is overdue as it is) is the Big East inclusion. That name means even more in the VA/DC/MD are than it does in NC so, IMO, the brand will compel ECU to further concentrate recruiting efforts.

      Your point about the academics makes too much sense…and alone merits some reconsideration of where ECU spends its limited recruiting budget.

      May borrow pieces of your post as basis of a new one here. I totally agree (see my previous post) that ECU’s staff MUST think out of the box in recruiting…we have to reinforce our brand in the areas we want to recruit.

      Thanks again for the thought-provoking post DCP.

      Cheers!

  5. rc

    i maybe wrong but i don’t think this head coach will ever win big. he tries and everybody wants him to succeed but he will most likely stay around too long winning too few.
    this is not what this program needs now. what this program needs is a coach that you can see immediate improvement from the very beginning. a coach that will not be satisfied with losing no matter who the opponent is. also he needs to sell the recruit on joining a program that is going to win no matter who we are playing.
    ECU is 19-19 after three years…this past year we did not beat one team with a winning record and we were blown out in the bowl game by a team from a conference that is not supposed to be as good as conference USA.
    we have given coach Ruff an opportunity that no other school would, so he should be thankful.
    there should be an ultimatum this year, nine wins or we will have to part ways.
    as for the recruiting this year…not a lot of difference from the two previous years… even with a step up to the big east.

    • Hard to argue your points rc…

      Not sure how to do it, but if Ruff is not the answer (in real terms), then we need to find a guy like the guy at Boise…a guy whose got a chip and prefers to be the guy who rises up and wins despite the lack of resources. Then, when that guy earns his chops, then we all need to pay him like a big-time coach so he stays. Petersen at Boise has stayed despite being a highly sought after coach. I know that was in part what was hoped for here by hiring a Pirate but surely there are other former Pirates who are young, highly-motivated, and ready to get in the muck to elevate the program and then stay with it.

      I want Ruff to succeed here and prove every naysayer wrong, but to-date, as you have pointed out, 19-19 with no real significant wins in the bag and lack of competitiveness in many of our losses is not the stuff that propels a program forward. I have said for some time now that this season should be the stress-test for this staff’s future…a veteran offense/defense returning, 8 wins previous season, a horribly weak CUSA…this should be a season where we are the “BCS busters.” In my mind 8 wins this season answers no questions on the future where a drop off underscores everything anyone who is concerned about the program has said.

      The currents of college football are pushing hard for teams like ECU to bag it and play what was once IAA football…if we don’t pull ourselves out by our own hand then the BCS cartel will continue to shape an environment to force us there. NOW is a time that programs like ECU must scratch and claw against the odds. CUSA has become an amped up IAA league and the Big East is now the next league to forced to mediocrity by the powerbrokers. IMO, all we did was jump off the sinking ship to one that is listing.

      Sorry for the rant and not sure how they all connect, but I felt like I had a point somewhere in there.

      Cheers!

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