ECU football signs 18 players during early signing period

GREENVILLE, N.C. – First-year ECU Head Football Coach Mike Houston announced Wednesday that 18 student-athletes have signed a national letter-of-intent with the Pirates.

The NCAA's early football signing period, which enables high school prospects to ink with collegiate programs in December, extends through Friday. Some notables about ECU's 2019 initial signing class:

DEFENSE, OFFENSE, SPECIAL TEAMS
Of the 18 newcomers, nine (9) are projected to play on the offensive side of the ball, while the remaining nine (9) will line up on defense (7), special teams (1) and a position to be determined (1 athlete). ECU is looking forward to bulking up its front by adding three offensive linemen and a tight end, while also addressing skill positions with a duo of quarterbacks and receivers along with one running back. On defense, the Pirates signed a trio of linemen, three secondary performers and one linebacker. ECU also inked a placekicker from a special teams standpoint and one multi-purpose athlete.

A FRESHMEN FOUNDATION
Freshmen (16) compose nearly 90 percent of ECU's early signing class. The Pirates' two junior college transfers – DT Hozey Haji-Badri (2) and OL Bailey Malovic (2) – have a combined four seasons of eligibility remaining.

GETTING AN EARLY START
In addition to Haji-Badri and Malovic, six incoming freshmen are expected to enroll early at ECU (January, 2019) and participate in spring drills with the Pirates – DB Alex Angus, QB Bryan Gagg, WR Jsi Hatfield, DB Ja'Quan McMillian, PK Patrick Nations and ATH Juan Powell.

IN-STATE VALUES, "ENC" PROUD
Houston and his staff's strong relationships with in-state high school coaches enabled ECU to maintain a notable regional flavor. A total of 11 of the 18 signees hail from prep programs in North Carolina, while Georgia (two), South Carolina (two), Florida (one), Pennsylvania (one) and Virginia (one) were also represented. Nearly half (5) of the in-state newcomers are from the "ENC" (i.e. east of the I-95 corridor).

QUOTING HOUSTON
"We are extremely pleased and excited with the quality and depth of this recruiting class. Not only is there overall balance in regards to our offensive and defensive numbers, we were also able to address some specific needs on both lines of scrimmage and in several of our skill areas. Our program will always be defined by character and integrity, and we feel this particular group certainly meets those values as well."

ON THE FIELD …. LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019
Houston, who was named ECU's 22nd head football coach on Dec. 3, inherits a program that posted 3-9 overall mark and stood fifth (1-7) in the American Athletic Conference's East Division in 2018. The Pirates are expected to return seven starters on offense and seven on defense when spring drills open March 14 before facing NC State in Raleigh on Aug. 31 to kick off the 2019 season.