The folks at ECU and Southeastern might not realize it, but their rivalry just got a little bit hotter.

Ada High offensive lineman Justin Nail signed Wednesday to play for ECU, and at the same ceremony Cougar defensive back Ty Gower inked a national letter of intent with Southeastern. Gower, one of the emotional leaders of last year’s Ada squad, said the trash talk between the two has already started.

“Justin and I have been talking smack to each other,” Gower said. “He says he’ll be looking for me on the field. Hopefully I’ll be quick enough to get around him.”

Nail and Gower agreed, however, that their on-the-field showdown will probably have to wait a year. New ECU head coach Kurt Nichols told Nail during the recruiting process that the 6-2, 265-pounder is in the Tigers’ immediate plans, while Gower said he will probably sit out his first year in Durant.

“I’ll probably redshirt my first year,” Gower said. “They’re returning a couple of all-conference guys who are seniors. I’m hoping I can start as a redshirt freshman.”

Nail, meanwhile, is expected to be an impact player as a freshman on a unit that was one of ECU’s strengths during last season’s 3-7 campaign.

“Coach Nichols said I probably wouldn’t be redshirted and he expects me to come in and contribute right away,” Nail said. “That made it more exciting.”

While Gower had been recruited by the Savages early in his senior year, Nail said he was unsure about his future at ECU after Tim McCarty resigned as head coach in December to become an assistant at Kansas State. Nail added, however, that Nichols — who called Nail “the steal of the state of Oklahoma” — erased all his doubts when they met in person.

“ECU is close to home, and I like the way Coach Nichols is going to handle things,” Nail noted. “Coach McCarty had expressed interest in me, so I didn’t know what would happen when he left.

“Coach Nichols said he’s going to bring in the Texas Tech (spread) offense and run the no-huddle,” Nail added. “It sounds like it’s going to be fun. The coaching staff is young, and I liked how fired-up they were.”

Ada coach Steve Dean said he expects both Nail and Gower to be solid college players.

“Justin is going to give them everything he’s got in the weight room, in the classroom and on the field,” Dean said. “ECU is getting a great young man who works extremely hard, and, because he works that hard, good things are going to happen for him.

“Ty grew up in a coaching family, and he knows the ins and outs of football,” Dean added. “Southeastern is getting a guy who has played quarterback, so when he gets back there in the secondary he’s pretty good at reading a quarterback’s eyes.”

Ada All-American Chad Roark, who is already enrolled at the University of Oklahoma, was also at the Cougar Activity Center for Wednesday’s signing ceremony. Roark is currently the only healthy center on the OU depth chart, and he said he is excited about his opportunity to play right away for the Sooners.

“I’ve been running, lifting and going to class,” Roark said. “It was a little tougher than I thought it would be at first, but I’m adjusting to it. It’s a lot of fun but it’s also a lot of work.

“We only have one senior offensive lineman,” he added. “The others are all juniors and sophomores, and I’m the only freshman there right now.”

Dean said Roark’s head start, coupled with the absence of competition, could give the 280-pounder every chance to make an impression when spring drills begin on March 20.

“It’s an advantage for him to get up there and learn the system and go through their workouts and learn what it’s all about,” Dean said. “A lot of the guys who signed today are still in high school, so it’s definitely an advantage for him to get a head start on the guys he’ll be going against.

“I’m very excited for all three of them,” Dean added. “I know all three of them will go and represent Ada High School football very well. “They’re all classy young men and I’m very proud of all three of them.”

Joy Barrick, an all-around athlete who has been a starter on the Ada basketball team and a star on the soccer field for the Lady Cougars, also signed Wednesday to play soccer at ECU.

“I wanted to stay close to home,” Barrick said of her decision to play for the Lady Tigers. “It (playing college soccer) is going to be a hard adjustment. It’s a big step.”

Ada soccer coach Donna Cox said, however, that she expects Barrick — a center midfielder who was an all-district performer as both a sophomore and junior — to make the transition from high school to Division II player without any problem.

“She can handle it,” Cox said. “She’s a competitor.”

Barrick is the first Ada High player to play at ECU in Heather Beam’s nine seasons at the school, and Beam said she was most excited about Barrick’s intangibles on the soccer field.

“I love Joy’s intensity, her strength and her willingness to go through a brick wall to get the ball,” Beam said. “You can’t teach that tenacity and love of the game.

“This is my first recruit from Ada, and I’m excited,” she added. “She’s definitely going to come in and contribute to our program.”

COUGAR NOTES: Steve Dean left Wednesday’s signing ceremony and drove to Oklahoma City, where he attended a rules conference. He said the most important new rule concerns spring practice for Oklahoma high school football players.

“We’re going to be allowed to have 10 days of one-hour padded practice between May 15 and May 30,” Dean said. “It will affect Camp Paradise. I’m just not sure how.

“Before, all we could have was a camp during the spring,” he added. “They’ve added 10 days of practice in addition to the camp. All of the states around us have spring football...Oklahoma is just now catching up.”

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