Donnie Kirkpatrick: Signing Day Q&A

ECU recruiting coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick discussed the Pirates' 2014 recruiting class with IES.

Were there any of the signees that you were surprised to have landed?

"I don't think there was anybody that we were shocked that we got. There were moments where we didn't think we were getting Quincy (McKinney). That did really have as much drama as everybody thinks these things have. It really did go back and forth that much. I don't know that I've seen that many grown men jump and high-five and chest bump when that scholarship paper came across the fax machine."

Describe what the room was like throughout the morning of National Signing Day.

"It's always pretty excited, but there are a lot of times when you're a kid and its Christmas morning. It's pretty wild. Then as you get to be older and you're in high school, you kind of know you're getting that sweater, you kind of know you're getting that present. You've already told your parents what you want and you pretty much already know by looking under the tree and if it's wrapped, you can tell by the shape and say ‘okay, that's what it is.'

"This year, it seemed like there was a lot more from when you were a kid. Even the ones who were committed because they were getting calls from some other people. And these weren't just the ones that everybody was talking about. Drew Turnage was getting calls. Joe Carter was getting a ton of calls and coming by his school.

"There was just so much going on this year that I think this signing day, everybody was here early. Everybody was just so fired up for whatever reason. Some of the reason was because we were getting some really good players. Some of it was just because we didn't get it and some of it was like ‘gosh, we didn't think we were getting that one.' So there was a lot of excitement this year. More than there had been in the past in maybe 9 to 10 years."

Who are some of the guys, outside of the JUCO offensive lineman, that you expect to make an immediate contribution next season?

"There are a lot of kids that can possibly turn out to be that next Isaiah Jones, Davon Grayson-type kid … that actually played like true freshman like last year's class. It's hard to even look at it and separate them. Trevon Brown and Curtis Burston are here now. (Brown) was a deal where he came a semester late. Burston's here a semester early.

"They are in the weight room now, they are running with our kids, they are learning the system (and) they'll be here for spring ball. So they are going to have a huge advantage. Not only because they are really, really talented, but also because they are big kids that are kind of full-grown already.

"Then you got Cody Purdie and Blake Norwood, who are the other two that have already enrolled. They are going to have the same advantage on the defensive side of the ball. Cody, coming from a great high school program, has been coached really well and competed against really good players. So he's going to have all of that going for him as well … Blake is a little bit like Trevon. He could have been here last year. He's had a whole semester to mature and grow and get stronger. Those are the four I think, if you were betting, have the best chance (to make an impact)."

Does not having a quarterback in this year's class increase the emphasis to land one in next year's class?

"I think that would be very fair to say that. I don't think that's a major setback for us this year. I guess we're very particular about who we sign as quarterbacks. It's hard to sign quarterbacks for everybody. It's such a difference-maker guy. You can evaluate their skill level, but what makes Shane Carden better? It's those intangibles, it's that other person that's inside and it's all those other things. So you're evaluating them so much harder.

"We'll do one of two things. We'll either sign two next year, which will be a great year to do it (because) it will be easier to sign two than it will be one, or something can still happen. There can be a kid fall through, could show up or we could even see a transfer or something after spring ball. We're in a situation where we could afford to have a guy come and sit out a year because we've got our guy and feel like we've got good back-ups for next year."

You committed several recruits down the stretch of the recruiting season. What was the difference for you and the coaching staff that lead to the success?

"We did have more things happen at the end. I think the factor was that it was such a big class. We had a lot of kids committed, but we just had a lot of spots left this year. This is the biggest class, I guess, we've had in a while.

"I think the difference was the staff. We have a really good recruiting staff that I think really enjoys the recruiting part of it. And I think we had a lot of home visits the last two weeks and I think those home visits went well.

"We've got a good closer. We get in there, we had a chance to win the game and we had our guy to come in and close the deal out in coach Ruffin McNeill. There's nothing more impressive than Ruffin McNeill and a home visit. I could do a million of them with him … because it's something to see and something to be a part of."

Where does this recruiting class stack against the other ones you've been a part of at ECU?

"I don't know how you rank it for a couple years. Last year's class had the biggest impact as freshmen in the nine years I've been here. We've never had a group of freshmen come in and make that much of an impact in year one. I'm talking about non-red-shirted kids, true freshmen going out there and participating at a high level and affecting the outcome of a game in our favor, where we won these games.

"The class that we signed here … with coach (Skip) Holtz the first year (consisted of) C.J. Wilson, Scotty Robinson, Van Eskridge, Jay Ross. All those guys come to my mind in my nine years. I can't evaluate before that … We were pretty dominant with those kids.

"This class, I will say, is the most excited I've seen the staff. I think the staff thinks this class is special for a couple reasons. One, the type of kid it is and maybe because it did fill all the right slots pretty well too. This class seemed to have been more sought after. There are more kids here that started getting calls and visits from more predominant programs than I remember.

"I don't know if that's because they were that much better players than the other kids or the other schools starting to say ‘East Carolina's having success, they are doing a good job of evaluating, maybe we should go watch that kid again.' I don't know the reason for that."

Was there any thought to sign a kicker?

"Yeah, there … will be a kicker join this class as a walk-on. We have scholarships in the specialists. We have one slotted for a kicker, one slotted for a punter and one slotted for a long-snapper. And we have the people that are already filling those deals. So we actually have some back-ups that are walk-ons that will compete with those kids."

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