“One of the more talented quarterbacks to sign to the Group of Five in recent memory.” That is how 247Sports.com national writer Charles Power described ECU freshman quarterback Mason Garcia in his high school scouting report.

A four-star prospect according to Rivals.com, Garcia represents one the highest rated prospects to ever commit to play football for the Pirates. Early in preseason workouts, head football coach Mike Houston validated that rating by saying the rising freshman looked the part of a big-time quarterback. As workouts progressed into padded practices and eventually a scrimmage in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday, the Pirates’ coaching staff received its first look at Garcia in live game action donning the purple and gold.

While there were plenty of flashes of why ECU spent so much time recruiting Garcia, his head coach also said he displayed many freshman moments that are to be expected of a young quarterback.

“Every single day you go out there and watch him, you see the God-given ability,” Houston said on Saturday. “He can throw a football as good as any kid I’ve ever seen. He can put some zip on it, he can get the ball in tight places quickly. He has the God-given ability, it’s on display every single day. I think what you saw today was, all of a sudden, you jump out there and you’ve got bullets flying everywhere, it can rattle you.

“I thought that there were moments today where he was uncomfortable, which that’s good. He’s got to go through that, every freshman quarterback has been through that. I thought that there were some times today where he looked very comfortable. Every snap he gets, he’s going to improve. Everyday he’s out there, he’s going to get more comfortable.”

Garcia took his turn in the parade of six scholarship quarterbacks that saw action on Saturday, as all of them got multiple series to showcase their abilities.

Of course, looking at Garcia on tape or evaluating him in-person, the first thing that jumps off the page is his size. As a freshman, Garcia already possesses the frame of a NFL-level signal caller at 6’5”, 238 pounds. With a cannon as a right arm and the accuracy necessary to fit a ball into even the tightest spaces, it is no wonder how Garcia put up the prep numbers he did.

In his senior campaign alone, one that earned him an appearance in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas and nearly won his team a state title, Garcia amassed over 2,100 yards through the air while accounting for 33 total touchdowns.

The fifth-best overall recruit in the state of South Carolina according to Rivals.com, Garcia will step into a situation at ECU where he has time to learn from an experienced quarterback in Holton Ahlers instead of having to be an impact player immediately.

“He’s a freshman in his first fall camp seeing live action,” Houston said. “It’s a growing process. Fortunately we’ve got other guys in that room, we’ve got a veteran quarterback in Holton to where he’s not going to be thrown out there before he’s ready. We just got to bring him along and grow him up like the rest of them (the other recruits).”

Before Garcia could even begin learning from and watching Ahlers from the sideline on game days, the South Carolina product had to navigate some eligibility issues with the NCAA. Just last week, however, those problems were resolved as his waiver was approved, granting him full eligibility for the season and lifting a heavy weight on his mind.

“He’s excited about the fact that he’s got the eligibility stuff behind him, though,” Houston said. “He’s excited about the fact that he can go out there and play football and doesn’t have to worry about that stuff.”

With that hiccup worked out, Garcia can begin taking his place among a large recruiting class that is attempting to change the trajectory of ECU football. Twenty-five recruits were signed during the early signing period last December, while numerous other prep players and transfers have been brought in as well.

Thus far in preseason practice, one of the biggest points of emphasis has been getting those young players reps to get some experience under their belts and begin the process of growing them up.

“At least when we take the field, we have size and we have athleticism and that’s been the thing that’s been the most apparent so far in this preseason camp,” Houston said. “They may not know which way to go, we got to take care of that stuff, but at least they get there quicker and we look the part. We got to grow them up, that’s the big thing. Every single day, we’re going to improve. Today (Saturday) was very evident of that.”

Photo Credit – Stephen Igoe of Hoist The Colours/247Sports.com.

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