‘Big Four’, ECU add depth on Signing Day

By: By Rodd Baxley - rbaxley@civitasmedia.com

Wednesday signaled the beginning of college football’s national signing period. Here’s a look at what North Carolina’s big four ACC schools, and ECU, added with the 2017 class.


The Blue Devils should be more physical this fall on both sides of the ball with the addition of four offensive linemen and five defensive linemen.

Four-star defensive end Drew Jordan leads the group, along with defensive tackle Victor Dimukeje, a pass rushing specialist from Baltimore.

Jacob Rimmer and Patrick Leitten, a pair of 6-foot-7 offensive linemen from Tennessee, are expected to anchor the offensive line for Duke in the future.

In addition to beefing up the trenches, the Blue Devils also added depth at the skill positions, signing one of the top tight ends in the nation in Jake Marwede. The 6-foot-5, 240-pounder had offers from Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State. The Blue Devils also held off a late push by Auburn and Ohio State to snag wideout Damond Johnson, a 6-foot-1 receiver out of West Florida Tech.

East Carolina

The Pirates addressed two areas of need with the addition of some JUCO transfers on the defensive side of the ball and some bruising running backs. ECU added a pair of physical, underrated backs in Trace Christian and Western Alamance’s Darius Pinnix.

Both running backs come in at over 215 pounds as true freshman, with Christian at 220 and Pinnix at 225. ECU also added three offensive linemen, Charlotte Vance dual-threat quarterback Kingsley Ifedi and wide receiver Jayden Borders, a four-time state champion at Shelby, to boost the offense.

Blake Proehl, son of former NFL wideout Ricky Proehl, gives the Pirates more depth at receiver.

Linebacker Cannon Gibbs, cornerback Marcus Holton, and defensive linemen Tyree Owens and Brandon Henderson could challenge for starting jobs.

Kennan Solomon provided the Pirates with a late boost by flipping his commitment frrom Central Michigan. The 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive end from Roxboro is a long and athletic option for ECU in the trenches.

North Carolina

North Carolina’s class was rated the highest among in-state schools, according to the major recruting networks, with five, four-star prospects set to join the Tar Heels.

Jonah Melton, an offensive guard out of Eastern Alamance, leads the group as UNC’s top signee, but with the departures of Elijah Hood and T.J. Logan, the Tar Heels needed to add running back depth for the 2017 season.

The class fills the void with signees Michael Carter and Antwuan Branch. Both are expected to see the field and split carries with sophomore running back Jordon Brown and grad transfer Stanton Truitt. Carter is a quick, speedy back and Branch is more of a downhill bruiser.

On the defensive side of the ball, UNC added a pair of defensive tackles that look the part. Jordon Riley (6-6, 292) and Wake Forest standout Xach Gill (6-5, 270) have the length to cause problems in the trenches.

Jake Lawler, a 6-3, 225-pound, defensive end can develop into a pass rush threat. Lawler brings much needed speed and quickness to UNC’s pass rush.

The Tar Heels also added cornerbacks Dazz Newsome and Tre Shaw. A 5-10, 165-pound cornerback from Hampton Va., Newsome was previously committed to Maryland. He committed and signed to play for UNC on Wednesday.

North Carolina State

The Wolfpack added defensive depth and playmakers at the skill positions with its class. Defensive tackle Grant Gibson out of Mallard Creek headlines the group as a player who can make an immediate impact.

Deep-threat wide receiver Emeka Emezie, a 6-foot-3 wide receiver from Waxhaw, should help stretch the field for the Wolfpack, along with Antoine Thompson out of Florida.

The Wolfpack lost Wake Forest linebacker Darius Hodge, the 2016 Associated Press defensive player of the year for North Carolina, to Marshall but got a surprise late in the afternoon with the signing of East Bladen alum Larrell Murchison. Murchison, who was previously at Louisburg, was expected to choose between Georgia and Ole Miss but signed with the Wolfpack late Wednesday afternoon. The defensive tackle brings depth to a group returning a pletora of talent in the defensive trenches.

Wake Forest

The Demon Deacons added three of the best players North Carolina had to offer in linebacker Chase Monroe (Davidson Day), and wide receivers Sage Surratt (Lincolnton) and Jaquarii Roberson (Murfreesboro).

Surratt, the 2016 Associated Press offensive player of the year for North Carolina, should help Wake Forest right away with his ability to stretch the field.

But Wake Forest’s top recruit is on the defensive side of the ball. At 6-foot-6, 245 pounds, four-star defensive end Mike Allen out of Georgia should make an immediate impact. He turned down offers from Tennessee and Southern Cal.


By Rodd Baxley


Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.

Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.