East Carolina head coach Ruffin McNeill and his staff have been hot on the recruiting trail and are looking to lockdown prospects as Wednesday’s National Signing Day nears. (Photo Courtesy of ECU)

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Pirates look to lockdown prospects

Published 8:37pm Monday, February 4, 2013

GREENVILLE — It’s early February and while the rest of the world looks to a groundhog in Pennsylvania to forecast the upcoming weather, college football fans turn their eyes to Wednesday’s National Signing Day to see if the future looks bright.
Whether or not East Carolina supporters will need to stock up on sunscreen is yet to be determined, but as Signing Day nears the Pirates are hot on the recruiting trail.
According to Rivals.com’s Mark Lindsay, ECU has approximately 25 scholarships to hand out this year and has received commitments from 26 athletes.
Of course nothing is guaranteed until the moment a player signs his National Letter of Intent, but as of now, Lindsay said ECU fourth-year coach Ruffin McNeill and his staff have done a nice job of stockpiling talent.
“I would say it’s been a pretty good recruiting season for East Carolina,” Lindsay said. “I’m optimistic that on Signing Day they will have taken care of the needs that they need to take care of.”
Highlighting this year’s group of potential future Pirates is a trio of three-star recruits in QB Kurt Benkert, RB Jabo Lee, who also had offers from Virginia Tech and Tennessee, and Tristan Mumford, who is listed under the athlete designation.
“Kurt Benkert is a guy who really stands out. He’s has a three-star ranking from Rivals.com and he’s a very accurate quarterback from Cape Coral, Florida,” Lindsay said. “Jabo Lee at running back is another guy who stands out, along with Tristan Mumford, who is a six-foot, 228-pounder that they have listed as an athlete but I think can play running back or linebacker.”
According to Rivals.com, East Carolina has already signed 6-5, 310-pound three-star JUCO offensive line Marquis Wallace.
Last year the Pirates were inundated with JUCO signees but McNeill seems to have veered away from that trend this year as Wallace, LB Treshawn Council and RB Terrell Lane are the only junior college players on Lindsay’s list of committed athletes. (To see the list go to Pirateillustrated.com.)
The Pirates should be in good shape next season as they bring back a bulk of their starters and key contributors from last year’s 8-5 (7-1 Conference USA) team.
Offensively, ECU is strong at key positions with quarterback Shane Carden and all-conference WR Justin Hardy both heading into their junior years, while 1,000-yard rusher Vintavious Cooper will return for his senior season. The offensive line looks to be in good shape too as eight out of the 10 players that consisted of the 2012 two-deep will return.
Defensively, the losses of DE/NT Michael Brooks, ILB Daniel Drake and CBs Jacobi Jenkins and Leonard Paulk are painful but sustainable.
There is still some hope that last year’s much-hyped prized recruit Lucas Thompson will sign and help sure up the secondary. In the summer McNeill felt confident that Thompson would be a Pirate come January, but his fate is still a mystery.
“Lucas Thompson remains a question mark,” Lindsay said.
Thompson isn’t the only question mark. It’s still yet to be determined how much ECU missed having an extra body on the recruiting trail during the two-week stretch between the dismissal of defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell and the hiring of his replacement Rick Smith.
Smith and the Pirates have not yet definitively declared whether they will run a 3-4 defense or 4-3 scheme, which could also hamper their recruiting.
Aside from that, the Pirates could potentially lose recruits that Mitchell, who was hired by West Virginia to be the school’s cornerbacks’ coach, was working on. That appears to be the case with 6-4, 265-pound JUCO DE Dontrill Hyman who committed to ECU, but according to Lindsay made a visit to West Virginia over the weekend and has committed to the Mountaineers.

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