Early-enrolling football players get head start on careers at state schools

The early arrivals are eligible to begin weight and conditioning workouts immediately and are allowed to participate in spring practice, giving them a better chance of making an immediate contribution to their teams

Eamon Queeney—The North State Journal
East Carolina Pirates head coach Scottie Montgomery

The start of the new year means the beginning of a new semester at colleges all around the state. It also means the arrival of football recruits enrolling early to get a head start on their careers both academically and athletically. Because the early arrivals are eligible to begin weight and conditioning workouts immediately and are allowed to participate in spring practice, they stand a better chance of making an immediate contribution to their teams. That’s a big deal, especially for a rebuilding program such as East Carolina — which has welcomed a school-record 11 mid-year additions from coach Scottie Montgomery’s first full recruiting class. North Carolina announced eight newcomers and NC State seven, while Duke and Wake Forest added three and one respectively. Here is the list of players that are already on campus at their respective schools:EAST CAROLINA*Taijh Alston, DE, 6-4, 220 (Cameron): A three-star pass rusher, Alston amassed 11.5 sacks and averaged 6.5 tackles per game during his career at Union Pines High.Jayden Borders, WR, 5-11, 170 (Shelby): Borders played on four consecutive state championship teams at Shelby High, with better than 1,500 receiving yards in each of his junior and senior seasons. He is a three-star prospect who earned All-State honors in 2016.Cannon Gibbs, LB, 6-2, 225 (Ellisville, Miss.): An appropriately named defender who lowered the boom to record 68 tackles and six sacks in nine games last season for Jones County Junior College in Mississippi. He will have three seasons of remaining eligibility.Leroy Henley, WR, 5-11, 186 (Deerfield Beach, Fla.): Playing in his first season at Deerfield Beach High, the three-star prospect caught 64 passes for 968 yards and seven touchdowns while helping his team to a 10-3 record and a spot in the florida 8A state semifinals last season.Marcus Holton, CB, 6-1, 170 (Tallahassee, Fla.): Holton had four interceptions, 11 pass breakups, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and a blocked punt as a senior at Godby High in 2015 before playing last season at Georgia Military, where he had a pair of interceptions — including one for a touchdown. He will have three years of remaining eligibility.Kingsley Ifedi, QB, 6-3, 215 (Charlotte): A dual-threat quarterback who threw for 3,213 yards and 30 touchdowns while rushing for 800 yards and 14 scores for Vance High last season. The three-star prospect could potentially challenge for the starting job as a true freshman with a strong performance in spring practice.Matt Morgan, OL, 6-5, 275 (Wendell): The son of a former Pirate football player, Morgan is an athletic big man who also played lacrosse at Corinth Holders High. Though recruited as an offensive lineman, he contributed seven sacks on defense last season.Ben Norris, LB, 6-3, 230 (Charlotte): A Shrine Bowl selection, Norris helped Myers Park to an 11-2 record this season. As a junior, he was credited with 62 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions.Tyree Owens, DE, 6-5, 275 (Oviedo, Fla.): A JUCO transfer from Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Owens led his team to a 7-2 record last season. He started his college career at West Virginia, where he was dismissed from the team following an altercation in which he suffered stab wounds. He also committed to Texas A&M before flipping to the Pirates.Dqmarcus Shaw, OT, 6-4, 320 (Batesville, Miss.): A transfer from Itawamba Community College in Mississippi who will have two years of eligibility remaining, Shaw is being counted on to contribute immediately on ECU’s offensive line.Eric Weber, TE, 6-3, 220 (Blythewood, SC): Weber transfers to ECU from Southwest Mississippi Community College, the same JUCO that produced Pirates quarterback Gardner Minshew. He had 36 catches for 458 yards and five touchdowns at Blythewood High, where he played his final two seasons after playing his sophomore year at Jack Britt High in Fayetteville.DUKEChris Katernick, QB, 6-3, 205 (Algonquin, Ill): Katernick earned first-team All-State honors in Illinois last season after completing 143 of 280 passes for 2,223 yards and 26 touchdowns while leading his team to the Class 7A state quarterfinals.Evan Lisle, OL, 6-7, 310 (Centerville, Ohio): A fifth-year graduate transfer from Ohio State, Lisle figures to be a major contributor for the Blue Devils next season after playing 26 games for the Buckeyes over the past two seasons. Marquis Waters, DB, 6-1, 190 (Delray Beach, Fla.): Waters is a three-star prospect who intercepted four passes, broke up nine and caused