ECU’s new football coach Mike Houston beefs up the team on National Signing Day

East Carolina coach Mike Houston added three players to his first recruiting class on Wednesday to go with 18 signatures gained in the early December signing period. But that’s not all.

Houston said Branden Pena, who started four games at right guard before a season-ending leg injury, has been granted a fifth-year waiver from the NCAA.

The Pirates also hope Nate Harvey, the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, receives a favorable ruling. ECU appealed to the NCAA that Harvey’s 2015 year at Georgia Military College should be considered a redshirt.

“We did get a request for additional information, which I think is positive,” Houston said. “We hope to have a decision on Nate by the beginning of spring practice.”

Spring football is tentatively set for mid-March, but with the dates to be announced. Eight recruits enrolled early to take part.

The three new signatures were junior college transfer tight end Zech Byrd (6-7, 265) of Garden City (Kan.) Community College, and two high school defensive linemen, Rick D’Abreu (6-2, 240) of Chester, Va., and Immanuel Hickman (6-3, 260) of Chesterfield, Va.

Byrd was an ESPN 4-star high school prospect committed to Florida, but he never signed after he suffered a broken ankle. He has three years eligibility remaining after 2017 as a redshirt at Garden City and playing in 2018.

“He won’t need them,” said Fontel Mines, the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator. “I told him we weren’t bringing him here to sit.”


Zech Byrd (6-7, 265), TE, Garden City (Kan.) Community College

Rick D’Abreu (6-2, 240), DL, Chester, Va., Dale High

Immanuel Hickman (6-3, 260), DL, Chesterfield, Va, Matoaca High


Alex Angus (6-2, 190), DB, Browns Summit, Page High

Keziah Everett (6-1, 325), DL, Farmville, NC, Central High

Malik Fleming (5-9, 180), DB, Fairburn, Ga., Hapeville Charter Academy

Alex Flinn (6-1, 210), QB, Fletcher, Reynolds High

Traveon Freshwater (6-1, 230), Elizabeth City, Northeastern High

Bryan Gagg (6-3, 200), Bradenton, Fla., Braden River

Hozey Haji-Badri (6-3, 270), DL, Asa College

Jsi Hatfield (5-9, 175), WR, Graham, Southern Alamance

Trent Holler (6-2, 185), OL, Latrobe, Pa., Greater Latrobe High

C.J. Johnson (6-2, 220), WR, Greenville Conley High

Jeremy Lewis (6-3, 215), TE, Greenville South Central

Bailey Malovic (6-6, 260), OL, Highland Community College

Demetrius Mauney (6-0, 195), RB, Forest City, East Rutherford High

Ja’Quan McMillian (5-9, 165), DB, Winston-Salem, West Forsythe High

Patrick Nations (6-0, 190), PK, Tamassee (S.C.), Walhalla High

Juan Powell (5-11, 170), Athlete, Atlanta Frederick Douglass High

Chad Stephens (6-0, 225), LB, Greensboro, Southeast Guilford High

Nishad Strother (6-3, 290), OL, Havelock High


On Thursday, the American Athletic Conference announced its schedule to fill out the dates along with ECU’s previously announced 2019 non-conference contests.

The seven home games include an ESPN Thursday night national TV date on Oct. 3 against Temple. The AAC opener is Sept. 14 at Navy.

“We’re going to get East Carolina back to where it belongs, playing for AAC championships and bowl games,” Houston said.


Aug. 31, at N.C. State
Sept. 7, Gardner-Webb
Sept. 14, at Navy*
Sept. 21, William & Mary
Sept. 28, at Old Dominion
Oct. 3 (Thursday), Temple*
Oct. 5, open
Oct. 12, open
Oct. 19, at UCF*
Oct. 26, UCF*
No. 2, Cincinnati*
Nov. 9, at SMU*
Nov. 16, open
Nov. 23, at Connecticut*
Nov. 30, Tulsa*

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