ECU welcomes 22-man 2017 signing class

Published 5:42 pm Wednesday, February 1, 2017

GREENVILLE — East Carolina head football coach Scottie Montgomery welcomed in his second recruiting class after 22 players signed on the dotted line Wednesday. It marked the first group that Montgomery, the Pirates’ second-year coach, and his staff had recruited itself.

The class addresses ECU’s needs on the offensive and defensive lines. Part of the team’s struggles in its 3-9 (1-7 American Athletic Conference) 2016 season was being outmanned in the trenches. That was a focus of Montgomery’s with this recruiting class.

While the Pirates got many pieces that will build the future of its offensive and defensive lines, they also got some immediate help. Junior-college recruits like defensive lineman Brandon Henderson will be able to step in and make an impact immediately. He’s one of three expected to get work on the lines sooner rather than later.

“We wanted to address our front, whether it be the defensive line or our linebackers,” Montgomery said. Five linemen and three linebackers will join the Pirate ranks. “We brought in eight kids, and we think five have immediate pass-rush help.”

One of the top-rated rookie additions to the defensive line was Kennan Solomon. The 6-foot-5, 275-pound Person product was a late addition to the class.

“Now you’ve heard kind of a change to a 6-foot-5, 6-foot-4 kind of frame that will give us a chance to not only rush the passer, but be a little bit better batting balls and also stopping the run with length,” Montgomery said of the prototypical defensive lineman he recruited in this class. “Our entire defense, we wanted to address our front and also address our defensive backfield.”

On the backend of its defense, ECU also landed an elite prospect in defensive back Devondre Robinson. He was, at points in his recruitment, the top-ranked safety in all South Carolina.

Attacking the state of North Carolina was a priority for Montgomery. Of the 22 to sign, 10 came from in-state programs. Many of them are expected to add to the already-impressive lineage of ECU skill players.

“For the second-consecutive year, we’ve done a great job in state because of the relationships we have,” Montgomery said. “We had a big year, once again, signing the most players in North Carolina. We’ll continue to do that.”

Among the most notable is quarterback Kingsley Ifedi. As a senior, he wracked up 5,144 total yards and 64 touchdowns. He was named the Charlotte Observer’s player of the year.

“Big, athletic, dual-threat quarterback,” Montgomery said. “It feels really good to say we got the No. 1 quarterback in the state, too. … Our best winners in the state are good enough to beat anybody, so we’re going to continue to take them.”

Wide receiver Jayden Borders will don the purple and gold as a potential future target for Ifedi. Throughout his four-year prep career, Borders caught 262 passes for 4,653 yards and 58 touchdowns. He helped lead Shelby to four-straight state champions, which was indicative of an intangible that piqued Montgomery’s interest.

“Especially at positions where they are communicators,” Montgomery said. “I like cornerbacks that go deep into the playoffs. I like linebackers. I like safeties. I like receivers. I like the communication. The guys that are heavy communicators on the field, I think that has a lot to do with you being successful because there’s a reason they’re in state championships. They don’t just always have the best teams. They have high football IQs, and I think that has a lot to do with it.”

Borders and Ifedi are two of 10 signees that are early enrollees and will be on hand for spring drills. Throughout the rest of the offense, ECU added three other receivers, three linemen, two running backs and a tight end.