Heading into the 2014 football season, East Carolina has some big question marks in the secondary. Heading into the spring, defensive coordinator Rick Smith had to make some changes and move some players around after the squad lost three safeties.
ECU’s coaching staff has to be keeping that in mind as they hit the recruiting trail. Of course, a class of 2015 recruit in the secondary isn’t going to make an impact for a few years, but the goal should be to improve depth over the course of the coming seasons.
Let’s break down who the Pirates are targeting in the secondary.
Colby Gore is ECU’s lone safety commit in his class. If the Pirates had to pick just one player to have committed already, he isn’t a bad choice.
Gore is a player that is good—as head coach Ruffin McNeill likes to put it—“on all three sides of the ball.” He’s a versatile athlete that, at the high school level, primarily plays safety, but can also be called upon as a receiver and a kick returner on special teams.
Last season, the 2015 Little River (S.C.) North Myrtle safety finished with 48 tackles. What was more impressive was returning three of his eight interceptions for touchdowns. On offense, he had 25 catches for 350 yards and pulled in a pair of touchdowns. He also scored on a punt and a kick return.
At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Hammond’s size is appealing. What stands out even more for the safety role is his hitting power, which he prides himself in. He saw his recruitment pick up some steam after his team finished 14-2 and came in second in the state. Virginia Tech was the first school to offer him, which, in and of itself, speaks highly of his defensive prowess.
In the meantime, the 2015 Tappahannock (Va.) Essex safety is working on putting on some more weight and becoming quicker. He already covers a lot of ground, so becoming faster will make him a valuable tool in any program’s secondary.
Of all the players ECU has been scouting for its secondary, Mike Hughes stands out as one of the best pure athletes. He participated in the Shrine Bowl Combine and impressed everyone with his strength and speed. He lifted 185 pounds 25 times, had 40-yard dash times of 4.34 and 4.37. He had 10-foot, 3-inch broad jump, too.
ECU has a lot of competition for the New Bern native, though. In the state, North Carolina and North Carolina State have been paying him plenty of attention. Outside the state, he also holds offers from the likes of Clemson, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, Louisville, Auburn and Ohio State.
Another cornerback ECU has its eye on is T.J. Griffin. He’s also a two-way player that plays wide receiver, as well. When Inside ECU Sports asked him back in March to describe his playing style, he said "I play very aggressive and play each play like it's my last."
His versatility translates greatly to the way he plays defense. Not only can he read the quarterback well and close in on an airborne ball well, but he’s also very good at defending the run.
Griffin has yet to declare a top school as he is focusing his efforts on his grades and becoming a better player. The 5-foot-9, 175-pounder is currently up to 11 offers. In the state of North Carolina, Duke, UNC Charlotte and Wake Forest are schools pursuing his services, too.