Although the bulk of East Carolina's 2014 recruiting class has likely taken shape, its success or lack thereof during the latter stages of the recruitment process may make or break its class.
"This is game time right now. The rest has been kind of been like practice," said ECU recruiting coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick. "We've got a lot of promises," 16 to be exact, "but until they sign that's really unofficial. There will always be changes."
Kirkpatrick and the Pirates' coaching staff have covered most of the Eastern seaboard, particularly in the Carolinas, Virginia Beach, and Maryland, and hopes for added success in one of the country's recruiting hot-beds: Florida.
Last year's acquisition of defensive coordinator Rick Smith should help in these regards considering his coaching background in the sunshine state.
"I think bringing Rick Smith back is going to help us out in Florida again, being from Tallahassee, having been in Florida so much as a high school coach and as a coach at South Florida," said Kirkpatrick.
Outside of Feb. 5, next weekend could hold the most important dates on ECU's recruiting calendar. The coaches will host over 20 potential prospects – most of them utilizing their official visits – with an opportunity to sell the university and the football program.
It's also a rare time for coaches and current players to spend extended time with the recruits while school is in session. Those chances are few in far between during both the high school and college football seasons in the fall.
"It is our biggest weekend for recruits. We'll have a huge group in and it's our banquet on Saturday," Jan. 18, Kirkpatrick told IES. "You know your players are going to be here, … the students are usually all here too and all that factors in to a place like East Carolina because we're selling a good education and we're selling the whole atmosphere as well."
Among those expected to visit is a talented trio of three stars from Georgia; consisting of East Coweta (Sharpsburg, Ga.) wide receiver/safety Markell Boston, Mundy's Mill running back Rodney Smith and Carver (Columbus, Ga.) offensive guard Quincy McKinney, who originally signed with N.C. State out of high school before going the junior college route.
ECU's lone three-star commit, New Bern safety Cody Purdie, joins Middle Creek (Apex, N.C.) wide receiver Curtis Burston as the team's early enrollees – each of which are planning to arrive on Saturday – which has Kirkpatrick feeling optimistic about the 2014 class.
"We have sixteen kids that are right now saying they are going to come to East Carolina and play football for us. We'll sign a full class," he said. "It's all verbal agreement so it's a little bit like dating. Until you say those vows, you're not really married. We always keep stressing that and that recruiting never really stops."