East Carolina head coach Ruffin McNeill addresses the media during Wednesday's National Signing Day press conference. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

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Pirates tackle needs with class 2013

Published 9:04pm Wednesday, February 6, 2013

GREENVILLE — East Carolina head coach Ruffin McNeill attacked team needs in his fourth recruiting class with the Pirates as 10 of the 24 players inked on Wednesday’s National Signing Day where either defensive backs or defensive linemen.
The Pirates, who went 8-5 (7-1 C-USA) last year, finished the season with the 107th-ranked pass defense, allowing 275 yards per game. That number does not rest solely on the defensive backs though, as ECU’s pass rush was often inconsistent or ineffective.
On Wednesday, McNeill inked five DBs and five defensive linemen with the hopes that they can resurrect the Pirates’ defense.
“This class fits what we were looking for and what we needed,” McNeill said. “We felt we had to add depth at the back end (of the defense), especially at the corner position to give us more speed, range and length and we did that with these guys.”
Noticeably absent from the list of signees was last year’s top recruit DB Lucas Thompson. Thompson failed to become eligible at the start of the 2012 season and proceeded to enroll in a prep school in his home state of Florida.
On Wednesday, McNeill maintained that Thompson will be a Pirate.
“Right now he’s in class and we hope to have him here for the first session of summer school. That’s a go. I talked to him today,” McNeill said. “Our goal is to get him here by that first session and get him ready to go for the fall. He’s doing well and excited about it.”
The Pirates inconsistent defense led to the release of defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell and left ECU without an extra body on the recruiting trail for two weeks in January until they hired Rick Smith to replace him. However, McNeill said that transition period did not damage the recruiting process.
“It really didn’t affect the recruiting. I was able to get into the homes and hit each one,” McNeill said. “Then when Rick was hired we put him immediately into every defensive home. We lost one guy (Dontrill Hyman to West Virginia where Mitchell is the secondary coach), but we held on to everybody else.”
Highlighting the 24-player class is QB Kurt Benkert (6-3, 205), LB Devaris Brunson (6-1, 210), TE Darren Dowdell (6-4, 225), DT Demetri McGill (6-1, 300), LB Tristan Mumford (6-1, 225) and JUCO OL Marquis Wallace (6-5, 305), all of which were labeled three-star prospects by Rivals.com.
Overall, Rivals.com ranked ECU’s recruits 93rd in the FBS, one spot below C-USA rival Rice and right ahead of Troy.
This year’s group has a lot of local flavor as 11 players are from North Carolina, including Havelock’s Malcolm Ashley (DL) and Kirk Donaldson (LB), along with New Bern’s Christian Matau (OL).
The Pirates seemed to back away from the trend of signing junior college players as Wallace and RB Terrell Lane were the only two upperclassman in the group. McNeill said he and his staff did not make a conscious effort to avoid JUCO players.
“It was not a goal of ours to not recruit junior college players,” McNeill said. “We just wanted to get the best kids we possibly could.”
The class of 2013 features some good size as ECU was able to sign 6-8, 330-pound OL Brandon Smith, 6-1, 300-pound DT McGill and 6-3, 190-pound WR Trevon Brown to name a few.
McGill flirted with several other schools but McNeill was able to haul him in at the last second.
The Pirates weren’t able to get everybody though, as prized three-star RB Jabo Lee rescinded his commitment to ECU and signed with Tennessee.

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