ADA — East Central University finished the 2005 football season with almost no depth at quarterback. The Tigers won’t start 2006 that way.

Coalgate’s Daniel Stingley, No. 2 in passing yardage in Oklahoma (all classes) last season, is one of three promising high school quarterbacks on the list of 37 junior college and prep players in the first recruiting class of new ECU coach Kurt Nichols. In addition, the Tigers signed two other prep quarterbacks (both from 5A programs in Texas) today, and Robert Treadwill — an honorable mention all-conference selection at NEO last fall despite starting only the final six games of the season — is already in school and will open spring drills in March as the back-up to senior signal-caller Akeem Leviston.

Treadwill, a 6-2, 195-pounder, is one of 11 juco transfers enrolled at ECU for the spring semester, and the Tigers’ 26 high school recruits are due to sign national letters of intent today. Stingley was scheduled to sign his letter of intent at 11:45 a.m. at Coalgate.

“Daniel is a good kid, a good athlete and a good fit for our program,” ECU second-year offensive coordinator Chuck Hepola said of Stingley, a 6-1, 165-pounder who threw for almost 2,700 yards and 31 touchdowns last season.

“Stingley (who is also averaging 25 points per game for the Wildcat basketball team this season) has been spread all over the place in high school,” Nichols said. “When he gets here, he can concentrate on just one sport. He also comes from a high school program that wanted to establish the run first, and he’ll be a straight drop-back passer for us.”

In addition to Stingley, ECU also signed quarterbacks Josh Phillips (6-2, 185) from Sachse and Matt Percle (6-2, 225) from Irving MacArthur.

“Percle is a drop-back quarterback coming from a successful high school program,” said Nichols, who was hired by ECU in late December to replace McCarty (who left to become the assistant head coach at Kansas State) after six years as football coach and athletic director at Cisco (Texas) Junior College. “Phillips is a lot like Stingley. He’s elusive, but he can throw.”

Stingley, who also visited Southeastern before committing to ECU, said the Tigers were simply a better fit for him.

“Offensively, they like to throw the ball around,” he explained. “The coaches are young, and I really like them.

“Southeastern wouldn’t really offer me anything, and they have a freshman quarterback,” Stingley added. “The East Central coaches said I would have a chance to start pretty quick.”

Joe McCulley, who returned as Coalgate’s head coach this season and who has been part of the Wildcat program throughout Stingley’s high school career, said he expects the rifle-armed signal-caller to be a successful college quarterback.

“He has the best arm in the state, and he can run a 4.6 (in the 40-yard dash),” McCulley said. “He has a tremendous upside. He’s a real steal.

“He should have a chance to start as a sophomore, and he could develop into the best quarterback in the Lone Star Conference if they get him in the weight room.”

ECU also nabbed the area’s other top Division II prospect in Ada offensive lineman Justin Nail, a 6-2, 265-pounder Nichols called “the steal of the state of Oklahoma”.

“Justin Nail has a Division I body, and I think he will end up being all-conference and All-American at ECU before he graduates,” Nichols predicted.

Stingley and Nail are part of a recruiting class that is much larger than McCarty’s last group, and Nichols said he was pleased with the results of his first talent search.

“We had to compress six weeks of recruiting into about two and a half weeks,” he noted. “Our evaluation (of players) had to come quicker. We didn’t cover as big an area as we would have liked, but I think we’ve been thorough.

“I went with my coaches’ evaluations, because they had already done the research on a lot of these kids,” Nichols added. “We answered some of our immediate needs with the junior college players, and we’re hoping the high school kids will fill some holes.”

Only nine of ECU’s 26 high school recruits are from Oklahoma (three from Class 6A runner-up Mustang, two from Tuttle, and one each from Purcell and Newcastle, in addition to Stingley and Nail), but Nichols said he felt he wasn’t at as big a disadvantage in Texas as he would have been in Oklahoma because of his late start.

“Recruiting kids from 5A schools in Texas was just more efficient,” he explained. “We concentrated on North Texas, because if we concentrated on Oklahoma we would have been behind every other Division II school in the state.

“I feel very good about this recruiting class,” Nichols added. “The coaches did a great job with very little direction before I got here.”

Other than improving depth at quarterback, ECU’s two biggest priorities for 2006 were finding replacements for all-conference running back King Bennett — who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2005 — and for linebackers James Callins and Keith Edwards, who joined with Andrew O’Neil to form the heart of the of the Tiger defense and arguably the best group of linebackers in the LSC last season.

“King is one of those people who will be hard to replace,” Hepola said of Bennett, who was a dual threat as a runner and pass receiver last season. “He did a lot of good things for us.

“There are still a few running backs out there,” he added. “Sometimes you get a guy late and he turns out to be better than you expected.”

While Hepola lost only three starters — Bennett, two-time all-conference center Matt Storm (an ECU assistant this season) and all-conference tight end Derrick Hargrove — from last year’s starting offense, ECU defensive coordinator Todd Fugett will be trying to replace five starters — including four from his front seven — this fall.

Linebacker Colby Williams and defensive end Demarcus Young from Cisco, tackle Corey Roberts from Tyler (Texas) Junior College, tackle Derrick Tucker from Coffeyville (Kansas) Junior College and defensive back Carlos Moody and tackle Brandon Hopstein from Jones (Mississippi) Community College will all be in camp this spring, and Fugett said he expects most or all of them to contribute immediately.

“I’m very happy with the guys we brought in at mid-year,” said Fugett, who is entering his 14th season at ECU. “At linebacker, we have a number of kids coming back (including Jeb Rollins, Steven Marshall, Robert Douglas and Leon Ames) who are going to get an opportunity to play this fall, and on the line we have guys like Kiley Porter (honorable mention at defensive tackle as a redshirt freshman last season and expected to move to defensive end this fall), Charles Cohee, Cedric Cofer, Kevin Roach and Carl Crawford who all have a chance to be a lot better.

“We have some guys who have to step in and develop, but we also have a lot of guys who understand the system,” he added. “I think they will step up, and I expect all the juco players to come in and play a role.”

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