Big Four, ECU add to 2018 class

By: By Rodd Baxley - Sports editor

Most of the work was done, but college football teams around the nation added more pieces to their 2018 recruiting classes Wednesday on National Signing Day.

The ACC’s four in-state schools had already signed a plethora of recruits in the early period back in December, with their eyes on more targets Wednesday for the more-traditional signing period that now seems reserved for players who had not yet made up their minds previously.

In May 2017, the NCAA authorized a 72-hour window from Dec. 20 to Dec. 22 allowing high school football players in the class of 2018 to sign with college programs. The traditional signing period still runs from the first Wednesday in February through April 1.

Here’s a look at what Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State, Wake Forest and ECU added with the 2018 class.


Duke coach David Cutcliffe and his staff announced in December that 15 prospects had signed national letters of intent to join the Blue Devil football program.

They added one more to the class on Wednesday with the signing of Ken Torain, a cornerback from Tampa.

Representing eight states, the group includes three wide receivers, three offensive linemen, three defensive backs, two defensive linemen, two linebackers, one running back, one tight end and one quarterback.

Defensive lineman Tahj Rice, a four-star prospect from Louisville, Ky., headlines the class. Quarterback Gunnar Holmberg out of Heritage is one of six in-state signees.

Safety Nate Thompson comes to the Blue Devils from Southern Lee. The other in-state products are defensive tackle Elijiah Brown out of Providence Day, tight end Zamari Ellis of Southern Vance, wide receiver Jarett Garner of Hickory Ridge and offensive lineman Maurice McIntyre out of Northside.

Joining Duke from South Carolina are running back Mataeo Durant and wide receiver Dennis Smith. Durant, out of McCormick High School, was named the 2017 South Carolina Football Coaches Association Upper State Running Back of the Year.

Ellis, Holmberg, cornerback Jeremiah Lewis and offensive lineman Casey Holman enrolled at Duke in January.

East Carolina

East Carolina coach Scottie Montgomery and the Pirates, who had 19 players ink their commitments to the program in December, got their 20th signee on Wednesday in defensive lineman Dorian Hardy.

The New Jersey native, who will become part of a defensive unit that features 14 of the 20 newcomers, formally submitted his national letter of intent to become the fourth linemen in the class.

D.H. Conley quarterback Holton Ahlers was the first to make his commitment official in December. The prized Pirate signee had several SEC schools make a late push, but he stuck with his hometown school.

Ahlers finished his high school career with the second-most offensive yardage by any player in NCHSAA history. He also won the Shrine Bowl MVP this past weekend.

Ahlers was one of 13 in-state signees for the Pirates, including Hoke County standout Andre Pegues. Pegues adds another weapon on the outside for ECU’s offense.

Defensively, ECU is adding seven defensive backs, including two junior college transfers, and a quartet of linemen and linebackers each. On offense, the Pirates signed a pair of linemen, two wide receivers, one quarterback and a tight end.

In addition to junior college transfers Warren Saba and Mike Witherspoon, seven incoming freshmen enrolled early at ECU in January.

North Carolina

With seven additional signees on Wednesday, North Carolina’s class is rated the highest among in-state schools, according to 247 Sports’ composite rankings.

The Tar Heels, who come in at No. 22 in the rankings, will welcome six four-star prospects to the gridiron this year, led by a trio of wide receivers in Green Hope’s Jordyn Adams, West Mecklenburg’s Dyami Brown and Antoine Green out of Florida.

Of the 21 signees, Havelock offensive lineman Avery Jones, dual-threat quarterback Jace Ruder from Kansas and William Barnes out of Florida — who signed Wednesday — round out the four-star prospects.

In addition to Barnes and Green, the Tar Heels inked five more players on Wednesday. UNC added defensive lineman Gavin Lewis, linebacker Matthew Flint — who enrolled at UNC in January— and defensive back DeAndre Hollins to bolster its defense.

Joshua Ezeudu and Ed Montilus will join Barnes along the offensive line.

The Tar Heels received letters of intent from six in-state products, including Wallace-Rose Hill running back Javonte Williams, Wake Forest safety Javon Terry and Wake Forest running back Devon Lawrence.

Eleven of the prospects are offensive players. On the defensive side of the ball, the Tar Heels are adding a quartet of defensive backs and defensive linemen each, and two linebackers.

North Carolina State

N.C. State added four additional signees Wednesday to round out its 2018 recruiting class, including a four-star defensive back from Georgia that had previously committed to Duke.

The Wolfpack is set to welcome five four-star prospects to Raleigh, including Orange linebacker Payton Wilson, N.C. State’s top recruit, and Taiyon Palmer — a four-star cornerback out of Georgia.

Palmer, along with two defensive linemen — Derrick Eason and Val Martin — and tight end Cary Angeline, inked commitments Wednesday to join the Wolfpack.

Heritage running back Ricky Person, Sanderson defensive lineman Alim McNeill and quarterback Devin Leary out of New Jersey round out the Wolfpack’s top signees. Person was named offensive MVP of the Shrine Bowl.

Nine of the Wolfpack’s 25 signees are from the Tar Heel State, including cornerback Malik Dunlap, who helped Harding beat Scotland in the NCHSAA 4A state championship.

N.C. State also added North Davidson kicker Chris Dunn, who finished his senior season with 89 touchbacks and made a school-record 57-yard field goal.

Wake Forest

Wake Forest closed out its 22-player signing class with the addition of Marquis Alston Jr. on Wednesday morning.

Eleven players on the defense and 10 players on the offense, with one kicker in Nick Sciba out of Clover, S.C. are set to play in Winston-Salem. The class is highlighted on offense by offensive tackle DeVonte Gordon out of Maret School in Washington, D.C., and quarterback Sam Hartman out of Oceanside Collegiate Academy in Mount Pleasant, S.C.

On the defensive side, defensive tackle Kelijiha Brown and Ryan Smenda, a linebacker out of Florida, lead the way.

Cornerback Ken Dicks III was the final signing of the early period in December.

The class has players from six states and one from the District of Columbia in Gordon. Georgia led the way with seven signees, while Florida featured five players, North Carolina had four and South Carolina had three.

Three of Wake Forest’s top signees are defensive players, including Dicks III, Brown and safety Peyton Woulard.

Gordon and Hartman were the Demon Deacons’ top offensive signees, along with South View offensive lineman Mike Edwards.

By Rodd Baxley

Sports editor

Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.

Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.