2009 East Carolina Pirates Football Preview
2008 Record: (9-5, 6-2)
2008 Bowl: Liberty Bowl vs. Kentucky (L 19-23)
Coach: Skip Holtz (29-22 at East Carolina, 63-45 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Todd Fitch and Steve Shankweiler
Defensive Coordinator: Greg Hudson
Rushing: Jonathan Williams, RB, 380 yards
Passing: Patrick Pinkney, QB, 2,675 yards
Receiving: Dwayne Harris, WR, 654 yards
Tackles: Nick Johnson, LB, 102
Sacks: C.J. Wilson, DE, 10.5
Interceptions: Emanuel Davis, CB, 4; Van Eskridge, S, 4
Other Key Returnees: C Sean Allen, OT Terence Campbell, LB Jeremy Chambliss, G Cory Dowless, DT Linval Joseph, CB Dekota Marshall, DT Jay Ross, OT D.J. Scott, CB Travis Simmons, WR Alex Taylor
Key Losses: LB Pierre Bell, S Leon Best, OT Stanley Bryant, LB Quentin Cotton, TE Davon Drew, DE Marcus Hands, CB Jerek Hewett WR T.J. Lee, S J.J. Milbrook, DT Khalif Mitchell, RB Brandon Simmons, DE Zach Slate, RB Norman Whitley
East Carolina was the darling of college football in early September. The team knocked off Virginia Tech and West Virginia, both of whom were ranked in the top 15 at the time. But things got a little more tumultuous after that. After starting 3-0, the Pirates lost their next three games. They recovered from that little slide quite nicely and managed to win the C-USA Championship, but for a while ECU had big dreams.
East Carolina's Strengths:
Those dreams will not end as long as Coach Skip Holtz is on the sidelines. Coach Holtz has led the Pirates to three straight winning seasons and number four is on the way thanks to a dominating defense. Defensive end C.J. Wilson is a monster and tallied 10.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles-for-loss last season. With the return of tackles Linval Joseph and Jay Ross, both of whom are capable of tallying a sack or two, nobody is going to have much time to do anything in the backfield. The linebacker corps will miss Pierre Bell, but Jeremy Chambliss and Nick Johnson are back. Johnson is the leader of the defense from his middle linebacker position and if somebody gets past the front four, Johnson will make sure they do not make it much further. The secondary is just as talented as the rest of the defense, led by safety Van Eskridge.
East Carolina's Weaknesses:
The offense returns quite a few players as well, most notably quarterback Patrick Pinkney, who was granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA. Having his steadying presence in the pocket should help out an offense that was consistently inconsistent in 2008. Without 6-4 receiver Davon Drew, Pinkney lost one of his favorite targets, but Dwayne Harris is back and Alex Taylor is ready to emerge as a consistent receiver. The offensive line returns just about everybody, but they need to do a better job protecting Pinkney and making holes for the ground game. As bad as the offense was last year, there is plenty of potential this year.
The Bottom Line for the Pirates:
The key will be finding a running back. Brandon Simmons and Norman Whitley are gone and Jonathan Williams, who played in just seven games in 2008, is the team’s top returning rusher. However, Brandon Jackson, Dominique Lindsay and J.R. Rogers are the top candidates to take over the job. Jackson has the most potential and Lindsay is a bigger back, but Rogers is a versatile playmaker who can do the most damage. The coaching staff may use all three of them, or even more, but it would be beneficial if somebody could emerge as their go-to-guy.
By Joel Welser
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