Navy's Jahmaal Daniels runs past an East Carolina defender on the way to the end zone for a touchdown during the second half of Saturday's game at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville. The Pirates lost 66-31 to drop to 3-8 ahead of their regular-season finale at Temple. AP
By Stephen Igoe
Special to the Times
The regular season isn’t quite over yet for East Carolina, but the Pirates won’t hesitate in turning their attention completely to the future of the program after this Saturday.
ECU, currently sitting at 3-8 and coming off a 66-31 shellacking against Navy, faces one of its toughest challenges of the year at Temple, which needs a win on Saturday to clinch the American Athletic Conference East Division.
But after the Pirates are done in Philadelphia, the attention will immediately turn to the future, and that means one thing for head coach Scottie Montgomery: Recruiting.
The NCAA recruiting contact period runs from Nov. 27-Dec. 11 before the dead period kicks back in until January. Coaches can evaluate prospects first-hand during the contact period, and the December stretch is an important time for junior college and high school prospects hoping to enroll in their respective colleges early, beginning classes a semester early in January.
“What I will do Monday following the Temple game is recruit in three states in one day,” Montomery said. “It will be all recruiting that day. We only have about 10 or 11 days to recruit.
“What we have to do is recruit great people. We have to have guys that will compete at a high level. Once we jump past that, we have to concentrate on our fronts and getting better there. We will get better. I want to add a couple more playmakers, but a lot of concentration will be on the fronts.”
Montgomery and his staff will then spend the rest of December breaking down film of the season in-depth before coming up with a plan for spring practice, and then hitting the road again for recruiting in January leading up to National Signing Day on Feb. 1.
“I’ll take some time for myself undisturbed to go through every single position group, both sides of the ball and special teams to evaluate our progress,” Montgomery said. “That is the biggest question right now. I will then sit down with every coach and talk about issues, concerns, things we did well, things we didn’t do well and then move forward from there. I don’t want to look past December because that is a very important month for our program.”
PIRATES LOSE TWO COMMITS, GAIN BACK ONE
East Carolina has had an interesting week on the recruiting trail, dropping two commits and gaining one.
Three-star running back commit Jerry Howard, one of the prized offensive recruits of the 2017 cycle, flipped his verbal pledge to Georgia Tech on Monday. Howard, a native of Rock Hill, S.C., was joined on the de-commitment train by cornerback Latheron Rogers-Anderson, who officially parted ways mutually with East Carolina last week.
The Columbia, S.C., native and Ridge View High School prospect had yet to qualify for school due to a low test score, and with spots running low, the Pirates decided to move on.
In response, the Pirates added a verbal commitment from Charlotte, N.C., native and Myers Park product Ben Norris on Monday.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound linebacker was offered by ECU in April and chose the Pirates over three FCS offers and interest from West Virginia. Norris will enroll in January.
“That’s huge just to get used to the college life and not be in high school anymore,” Norris said of enrolling early. “To get accumulated to the team and the university, and how to balance your time management skills, I think that will be a big help to letting me big successful in college.”
Norris was recruited by area recruiter and offensive coordinator Tony Petersen. The Pirates expect him to play outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme.
“I really liked Coach Petersen and Coach Montgomery,” Norris said. “They talked to my dad, and then I talked with him and he left the decision up to me. I’m an early enrollee, so I’m going to graduate early and go there, so they love that. They love the fact I want to be a Pirate, so I’m all in.”
With the addition of Norris and last week’s pledge of junior college defensive end and former South Carolina player Blake McClain, the Pirates are now up to 20 total commitments for the 2017 class.
Perhaps more importantly, at least eight of the prospects are expected to join the program officially in January, including prized quarterback commit Kingsley Ifedi and top JUCO outside linebacker Marques Ford.
JONES NAMED BILETNIKOFF FINALIST
Zay Jones is heading to Atlanta.
The Pirates’ record-breaking receiver was named one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award earlier this week. The award is given to the best receiver in college football for a season.
Oklahoma’s Dede Westbrook and Northwestern’s Austin Carr will join Jones – who broke the NCAA FBS career receptions record in the loss to Navy – in Atlanta for the College Football Awards Show on Dec. 8 on ESPN.
Jones has one more catch (151) this season than Westbrook (70) and Carr (80) combined, though Westbrook and Carr each have more touchdowns.
The Pirates’ standout receiver leads the NCAA with 151 grabs and 1,685 receiving yards.
Heading into the season finale, Jones stands just five catches away from breaking the single-season FBS record of receptions in a season. Bowling Green’s Freddie Barnes caught 155 passes during the 2009 season.
Stephen Igoe is the publisher of the East Carolina 247Sports website Hoist The Colours. Check out more of his work at eastcarolina.247sports.com.