ECU’s catching recruits; NCSU’s Irving catching people’s eyes

Published 11:41 pm Friday, September 19, 2008

By Staff
Pirates benefiting from their 3-0 start
By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
East Carolina is starting to reap the benefits of its early season success on the recruiting trail.
In the week immediately following the Pirates’ 24-3 trouncing of No. 8 West Virginia, ECU got commitments from three highly touted players.
Mike Naples, a 6’4”, 220-pound tight end from New Jersey chose the Pirates over offers from Cincinnati, Purdue and Vanderbilt. Zico Pasut, a speedy tight end out of Charlotte spurned offers from Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Duke to come to ECU.
And Matt Milner, a 6’4” 240-pound defensive end from Raleigh, was receiving interest from North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest at the time of his verbal commitment to the Pirates.
All three said that the Pirates’ surprising start played a role in their verbal commitment to ECU.
East Carolina has already logged 16 commitments early in the recruiting season. Last year, they had just 21 recruits in the entire 2008 class.
Of the 16 commitments, three are rated three stars by The most three star commitments the Pirates have ever had under Holtz is four. With more than four months remaining until February’s National Signing Day, the Pirates are likely to eclipse that mark with their 2009 signing class.
This weekend, East Carolina coach Skip Holtz believes the Pirates will have a chance to attract even more recruits. Over the years, N.C. State has been one of the arch-nemesis of Holtz and his crew from a recruiting standpoint.
Holtz can recall losing countless recruits to the Wolfpack.
Pirates well aware of Wolfpack’s No. 56
By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — In the Wolfpack’s 34-20 win over East Carolina last season, linebacker Nate Irving was a wide-eyed, redshirt freshman trying to catch the coach’s eye.
Heading into Saturday’s rematch with the Pirates, Irving not only has N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien’s attention, but is starting to grab the nation’s.
The emerging star has gotten off to phenomenal start in 2008, as his three interceptions in three games has him tied for second in the country, while his 28 tackles rank him 36th.
After Irving’s five tackles in 23 snaps against the Pirates last year, he was thrust into the starting lineup where he would stay the next four out of N.C. State’s last five games.
Last Saturday against No. 23 Clemson, Irving managed to out-score his offense as he picked off Tigers’ quarterback Cullen Harper on the first play from scrimmage for a 33-yard touchdown. It would be the only time the Wolfpack (1-2) crossed the goal line in its 27-9 loss.
As a high school standout at Wallace-Rose Hill High School, Holtz was well aware of who 56 was, as he was one of the ECU coach’s recruits who got lured away to the Wolfpack.
Irving, a New York Giants’ fan, said the number 56 is an ode to Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor.
Like so many of the opposing QBs that faced LT, Holtz said that ECU quarterback Patrick Pinkney will definitely take note of where NCSU’s 56 lines up.
While Irving is quick to dish out pain to opposing offenses, he is also quick to hand out the accolades to his defensive line.
Irving said his fast start also has a direct correlation with playing in the second year of O’Brien’s defense.
Last season Irving had the tough task of being a redshirt freshman trying to learn and adjust to a new coach and complicated schemes.
This year, the weakside linebacker not only has a season under his belt, but said that O’Brien simplified his defense.
Another adjustment Irving made this season was dedicating himself to fundamentals by working under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Mike Archer, who was a linebackers coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1996-2002.
Though he is an hour-and-a-half west of Greenville, the 6-1, 225-pound linebacker said he has taken notice of what the Pirates have done this season, and has been impressed with what he has seen on film.
While he could not specify on the Wolfpack’s game plan, he did say that keeping Pinkney in check is a must.
Irving will once again garner the nation’s eye on Saturday as the Wolfpack-Pirates’ game will be televised live from Carter-Finley Stadium on ESPN at noon.