If anyone really wants to understand what it will take for East Carolina to rise above the stature of a periodic upstart to a regular in the AAC title game, recent commit Traveon Freshwater in one tweet summarized well, what I have always believed to be the secret sauce for the Pirates when it comes to building its program.
Some are born to ride the wave; others to create it.
The nuts and bolts of recruiting in the ECU footprint have been well-understood for years. The reality: ECU sits in a Division I rich geography in terms of talent spanning from South Carolina to Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, also sitting within this footprint are 5 ACC, 2 SEC, and a Big 12 team. Every ECU coach from Stas to Mo knows that you gotta win and keep the eastern N.C./Tidewater, VA players home and then you got to actually sign some them to your school.
Now, there have been varied approaches from ECU coaches who wrote off players as “never gonna get ’em” to those who have offered all of them reeling in none. So, if you look at what Coach Mo is doing, it is nuanced. It is fresh – no pun intended. And it may work…although much of it relies on the recruits themselves.
ECU has made a living on the overlooked, the rejected, over-achievers, the non-measurable players and many – who have the heart of a Pirates have risen. Guys named Foreman, Blake, Jones (father and son), Galloway (go get coach), Fisher, Coleman, Overton, Griffin, Kerr, Libiano, Shannon, Robinson, Smith, Harley, Wilson, Joseph, …the list goes on and on all the way up to Carden and Hardy. They all share so much in common in terms of how they ended up at ECU.
But something different is brewing right now and I think that Freshwater’s sentiment is very meaningful and hopefully a sign of both ECU’s brand among young talented players and what this staff is doing to propagate the brand.
Pointing to high profile quarterback Holton Ahlers spurning of legitimate National Champion contender, along with kids like Damir Faison and Donovan Noel from the 2018 class to Jeremy Lewis, C.J. Johnson, Malik Fleming, Keziah Everett and now Freshwater…these are talented players, picking the Pirates over both nationally branded top programs as well as the local ACC teams that usually win pretty much every recruiting battle. It seems to be trending, too.
Perhaps this is a flash in the pan moment, but perhaps also, it may be insight into the approach that Coach Mo and his staff are taking to break through with kids. Appeal to their sense of self. For the top talented players, their recruiting road always comes to a fork: On the one hand, does he go get in line at the big brand school and work to be the next cog in the machine…you know, ride the wave; or on the other hand, does he go into a program in need of a boost and put greatness on his OWN back and lift…you know, be the creator of the machine? It is a very, very difficult choice. For some, it is the safe play to go with the former choice…the less scary prospect. But for others, the fierce desire to be the best and to be the “beast” draws them to the road less traveled…the latter choice. Few make it, but ECU seems to pulling in a crop lately.
These two classes seem to be full of talented players who not only spend a lot of time touting the program to other would-be recruits, but seem also to be driven by a common motivation – to be the makers of change and success rather than to be the benefactors of an already successful program.
These young men are taking the road less traveled and it seems to be contagious with one recruit after another falling ECU’s way now. Hopefully it will become a real trend and we will achieve a program full of self-starting, talented, creators. That, IMO, is the only path to creating something special and it is what has worked in the past at ECU. Only this time, the kids won’t be overachieving…the talent level is clearly ticked up a notch and a half.
Is this genius by Coach Mo and his staff? I don’t know.
Am I just looking for a silver lining go get through what will undoubtedly be a difficult season? Maybe, but I don’t think so.
Something is different…you can kind of feel it.
Welcome to all of the new players and to the 2019 class…stay committed. Be creators one and all so that we fans can ride the wave.