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East Carolina Looks To The Prep Ranks For Running Backs Coach

The addition of Antonio King to the ECU coaching staff has as much to do with recruiting as it did with his coaching ability.

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Hidden among the other hires made for the 2016 East Carolina Pirates coaching staff was the promotion of Antonio King from the high school ranks. The former head coach of Hillside High School in Durham, North Carolina was brought in on January 8 to become the new running backs coach for the Pirates.

King was a quarterback at two universities after a stellar high school career with HIllside. He began his college career at Howard before transferring to North Carolina Central to finish his career.

The coach quickly joined Hillside, his alma mater, after graduating with a bachelor's degree in parks and recreation management from North Carolina Central in 2005. He was promoted to head coach in 2009 and led the program for seven seasons, accumulating a 72-20 record during his time with the program. He was named PAC-6 Coach of the Year in every season except for his first as head coach.

The newly minted running backs coach has the ability to be a very nice addition to the program as an up and coming coach, but why is he so important?

One word: Recruiting.

For those that are not familiar, Hillside High School is located in Durham, North Carolina. Durham is the fourth most populated city in the state, trailing only Charlotte, Raleigh, and Greensboro. The school of over 1,200 students is right in the wheelhouse of a talent rich area of the state. Duke's location, a drive of less than five miles to Hillside, has given head coach Scottie Montgomery a chance to see and hear on a daily basis just how talented King's program has been.

While the head coach at Hillside, King sent 20 players to the college ranks to play football, including two to Duke. He has at least four more that are expected to sign with programs on national signing day.

Among the players that King has coached, eight have gone on to play for ACC programs. 2016 recruit Daeshawn Stephens is currently committed to North Carolina State. Of the 20 players that earned scholarships under King, 14 have been to FBS programs. That is a very impressive rate for any North Carolina public school.

We can actually narrow down the focus even more considering King's arrival: Recruiting in 2018.

A long shot for East Carolina to land any, HIllside is sending at least four players to college in the current recruiting class. In addition to Stephens, three-star defensive back Ridge Ford and North Carolina Central commit Dontae Edwards are days away from signing with a college program. Ford is currently uncommitted.

The jewel of the 2016 Hillside class is four-star running back and Oklahoma commit Abdul Adams. The stud running back is the type of player that King should have at least a chance of pulling in for East Carolina. I am not saying that King's hire will automatically give ECU a four-star recruit from in-state, but they will at least begin to be in the running.

Those players are longshots to flip to the Pirates this year, but hiring King will be immediately worth it if they could steal Stephens or Adams.

I have to believe that bringing King in was an attempt to continue to entice running back Jamal Elliott to come to Greenville.

Elliott is already ranked as a four-star recruit after his sophomore season in 2015. The #3 ranked running back in the 2018 class has offers from Boston College, Charlotte, Duke, Tennessee, Vandy, Wake Forest, and West Virginia. Montgomery has been recruiting the star running back hard and had Duke as a heavy favorite until recently.

East Carolina is now in the mix. It would only stand to reason that the addition of his high school coach would give Elliott even more reason to give ECU his commitment. He would be one of the highest rated recruits to come straight to ECU out of high school.

With King's strong ties to North Carolina high school football and his very close ties with Hillside High School, the Pirates should be able to clean up with several big time in-state recruits. Not only are the Pirates getting a coach that will help in-state recruiting, but they are getting an assistant coach that could be one of the hottest commodities in the next few years.