Local football players to keep an eye on among the college ranks

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As the college football season kicked off Thursday night, four hours westward at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte there are several players with Wilmington ties eager to prove themselves among various programs across the southeast. Below is a list of local players expected to take the field this season.

Brown looks to make impact for East Carolina

Coming off a standout freshman season, Trevon Brown (New Hanover) is battling for a starting job at wideout for the East Carolina Pirates.

Trevon Brown. Photo courtesy John Crouch
Trevon Brown. Photo courtesy John Crouch

According to his bio on the East Carolina Athletics webpage, Brown is touted as an exciting and physical playmaker who could develop into an honors candidate on the conference level as a receiver and perhaps nationally as a kickoff return specialist . He will begin sophomore year in a heated battle with classmate Terrell Green for starting honors at the “X” outside receiving position.

He had one reception for five yards during the first spring scrimmage and followed up with another catch, grabbing a 12-yard touchdown strike from Kurt Benkert during the second outing on April 11.

The former New Hanover standout played in eight games as a true freshman and experienced action in the first six contests before missing the next five games because of a left knee injury. In his college debut, he caught 14 passes for 264 yards and stood sixth on the squad with 539 all-purpose yards (264/receiving, 17/punt return, 258/kickoff return). In all, Brown returned 11 kickoffs for 258 yards and a pair of punts for 17 total yards.

Barnes working his way back from injury in Greenville

The New Hanover Wildcats have another alum looking to work into Coach Ruffin McNeill’s system as DaQuan Barnes returns from a season ending back injury. The injury forced him out of action during the entire 2014 season before slowly making a comeback, with limited work during the spring. He originally earned roster position as a walk-on in the fall of 2012, experienced action in 13 games as a member of the outside receiving corps and special teams unit as a red-shirt freshman, according to the official site for East Carolina Athletics.

Barnes made two catches for 11 yards in the Pirates’ final scrimmage on Saturday.

While both Brown and Barnes fight for playing time this season, East Carolina will be without starting quarterback Kurt Benkert, who will be sidelined for the entire 2015 season because of a right knee injury.

Laney grad makes position change at N.C. State

Coult Culler looks like a new man heading into the 2015 season as the former Laney standout is getting used to his new digs as defensive lineman.

Coult Culler. Photo courtesy- N.C State Athletics
Coult Culler. Photo courtesy- N.C State Athletics

After he was redshirted in 2014 at linebacker, Culler gained 30 pounds during his first six months with the program and was moved to defensive end for 2015. Coaches at N.C. State then changed their minds during offseason workouts and moved him to defensive tackle.

N.C. State Head Coach Dave Doeren addressed the position change during ACC Media Day in August: “Coult Culler, we’ve moved from linebacker, is doing really well. He’s getting better and better. I like our depth [at defensive tackle] a lot. It’s better than last year. What went into it was a lot of food. I just said we need to let nature run its course.

“He was excited about it. He told me when I recruited him that he’d play ‘anywhere you wanted me to play’. He’s done a lot of good things right now in fall camp. In the spring he was thinking a lot.”

Culler was a four-year starter at middle linebacker for coach Greg Ditz at Laney. He was listed as No. 47 middle linebacker nationally by scout.com coming out of high school, No. 46 outside linebacker nationally and No. 25 player in North Carolina by ESPN.com.

Terry Caldwell joins the Ole Miss Rebels for junior season

After spending his freshman year at UNC-Charlotte, Terry Caldwell transferred to Northwest Community College in Mississippi and led the league with 122 tackles last season (fourth in the nation), to go along with 12.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, five breakups, five quarterback hurries, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble.

Playing just minutes from Ole Miss, the former Hoggard High School standout was an early enrollee at the University of Mississippi and spent most of the off season learning the ins and outs of a new defensive system.

Before committing to Ole Miss, Caldwell entertained offers from Texas Christian (TCU), Texas A&M, East Carolina and North Texas. The speedy linebacker enrolled  in January 2015  and led the red team with five tackles in the Grove Bowl.

Other football players from Wilmington competing among the college ranks

New Hanover

  • Jon Hardy, UNC-Charlotte
  • Caleb Fuller, Appalachian State

Ashley

  • Frank Keller, Presbyterian

Hoggard

  • Julius Reynolds, North Carolina A&T
  • Keevin Thompson, North Carolina A&T
  • Sylvester Smith, North Carolina A&T
  • Clay David, Presbyterian
  • Harrison Smith, Randolph Macon
Laney
  • Grant Bowman, N.C. State
  • Mike Sheehan, Catawba
  • Marcel Burns, North Carolina Central
  • Ian Bergman, Wingate
  • Neyemiah Miller, North Carolina Central
  • Tariq Lane, Elon
  • R.J. Pearsall, Elon
  • Jacob Stough, Louisburg College
  • Larry Williams, Hutchinson Community College