Dunn is big part of EKU's plans

February 05, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

Because Eastern Kentucky has just one returning running back next season, coach Danny Hope knew he had to emphasize that position in recruiting.

Hope believes he took a big step toward filling Eastern's need by adding Harrodsburg's Mark Dunn Wednesday.

"We felt he was the best running back in the state that would be a (academic) qualifier," said Hope. "We feel we got the top running back prospect in Kentucky. He was plagued with injuries in high school, but we got to see him full speed several times and he's a special talent. He's a quality player at a position where we really needed help.

"He was a big recruit because once he committed, we didn't have to be in a panic to make sure we got just any running back. After getting him, we could hone in on quality players."

Dunn was one of 17 players to sign with the Colonels Wednesday, the first day of the national signing period.


Also signing with Eastern were Boyle County's Ian Young and Danville's Charles Penix.

"We are getting guys from two of the premier programs not only in Kentucky, but in the nation," Hope said. "They both have had great coaching and know what it means to win state championships."

Penix could play either linebacker or running back. Hope said Penix will make the initial call on where he'll play.

"He was a can't-miss guy because be could be a big help at either spot," Hope said. "He's aggressive and just likes to play football. He can be an upgrade on defense, or he has the potential to help us at running back. We need help on both sides of the ball, so there's no way he's not going to make a big impact."

Hope saw Penix at last year's combine at Centre College and liked his combination of size, speed and power then. That's also when the Eastern coach knew he wanted Young, who could play either linebacker or defensive end.

"Getting to see Ian at the combine was a huge plus," Hope said. "I got to personally see him move around and it let me know what he could do."

Hope had coached former Boyle standout Travis Leffew at Louisville before taking the head job at Eastern after the 2002 season and also knew how well Bobby Leffew had played at Louisville.

"I like those Boyle County guys," Hope said. "He'll bring the same things to Eastern that they brought to Louisville.

"We're going to try him at both linebacker and defensive end. He'll be a front seven player for us on defense. I really like his motor. He has great natural strength."

Hope added five in-state recruits in his second signing class. He insists he'll continue to emphasize in-state recruiting, too.

"Dunn, Penix and Young all liked Eastern Kentucky from the beginning, which was important because we want to get the best in-state kids to come here," Hope said. "This year I had an opportunity to go to the combines across the state and see players personally. High school coaches did a good job of getting their players to come to our Senior Day where we could evaluate them.

"We are going to treat the whole state like it is close to Richmond because we want the best in-state players to know that we have a place for them here."

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