December 1, 2011

Coach: Marchez Coates will rise to occasion

Three-star NC State cornerback commit Marchez Coates transferred from Waldorf (Md.) North Point High to McDonough High in Pomfret, Md. last spring before his senior season began. Although head coach Luke Ethington, a former walk-on fullback at Central Michigan who eventually earned a scholarship, knew he was getting a quality player - the two schools compete in the same conference - he was amazed at the type of leader his team also received.

"At first, he was quiet and just kind of led by example; but he really emerged as a leader," Ethington remembered. "One thing that really impressed me was the way that he worked with a lot of the freshmen. He showed them proper technique, how to work harder and how to get the most from themselves. When I saw he was willing to do that, I knew that he had the ingredients to be a leader in other aspects of our program.

"Over the course of time, he just kind of won people over. I think our guys didn't know what to make of him at first, I don't know if it gelled at first - there's always that uncomfortable transition when a player of his caliber comes into your program, but he just won people over with the way he did things. Then, he became more vocal and that just came out of nowhere. He became a vocal guy and inspired a lot of people around him, which made him one of the better leaders we've had here."

Although his new team was the defending state champions, Coates provided the team with a much-needed versatile athlete capable of contributing anywhere on the field. Ethington said the 5-foot-11, 172-pound senior was a crucial part of the team reaching a 7-3 record this season, even though he didn't log much time at his best position, cornerback, which is also the position he projects to at the next level.

"We're the type of program that is going to utilize the best players to the best we can, so we just found ourselves playing him at various spots - he played tight end, he played running back, he played safety, he played corner, he would go play on the defensive line if we asked him to," the coach said. "He'll do just about anything to compete. He did everything we asked him to do and he actually played out of position for us this year. We wanted to play him at corner a little bit more, but we had a need at safety and he unselfishly said he would play that; he never said two words about it. We know he's a team player."

Despite bouncing around on both sides of the ball, Coates finished with 86 tackles (36 solo), 12 tackles for loss, three interceptions, four pass breakups and two sacks on defense. He also rushed nine times for 30 yards and hauled in 12 passes for 269 yards and a score.

Ethington said the one question mark he kept hearing from college coaches before the season was about Coates' ability to make tackles and play aggressive defense. However, one look at his senior film dispels that notion.

"We laugh about that all the time because that was the one question mark he had hanging over his head," the coach remembered. "When I talked to a lot of schools, they said, 'well, his film just doesn't show him hitting.' They were right, the film that he brought to us didn't show any of that, it didn't show how physical he could be. As the season went on, we would just giggle about it because of the way he can come up and put the pads on people. He has addressed that issue and it's been nice to see him change his mindset. We're glad he's had the opportunity to display that."

Coates originally committed to Pittsburgh before re-opening his recruitment. The No. 16 senior in Maryland pledged to the Wolfpack on Oct. 31 and he was most recently on campus for the Pack's season-finale win over Maryland. The youngster has noted that he has family in the Raleigh area, which helped to initially peak his interest in State.

"I trusted him to make the right decision and it was a family decision that was made," Ethington said. "I'm sure he's going to stand by it. Absolutely, I think he's solid [to NC State]. He's been down there a couple of times now and every time he comes back, he said the experience is better and better. I think he just wants to get there, put the whole recruiting process behind him, sign his name on the dotted line and then start focusing on his college future.

"I think NC State has a great young man coming to them. I think it's going to be a really good fit for both the NC State program and Marchez. I'm excited to see what he can do in the future; I know he is going to get a challenge on and off the field like he has never had before, but I know he is going to rise to the occasion."

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