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Bearcat Insider speaks with Insider ECU Sports publisher Brian Wudkwych about Saturday's match-up between the Bearcats and Pirates.

Bearcat Insider was able to catch up with Insider ECU Sports publisher Brian Wudkwych before Saturday's big American Athletic Conference match-up between Cincinnati and East Carolina. Get some inside information on the Pirates right here.

With UC playing ECU Saturday afternoon I was able to reach out to Insider ECU Sports(Scout Network) own Brian Wudkwych. The Pirates will be fighting to become bowl eligible on Saturday so we asked him a few questions about how the season has turned out.

Bearcat Insider: With the injures early in the season do you think the Pirates did a good job staying competitive ?

Brian Wudkwych: Losing quarterback Kurt Benkert to an ACL, MCL injury just weeks before the season put a real strain on the Pirates offensively. He was the quarterback in waiting since his arrival on campus and finally had a chance to make a sizable impact. Combine the injury with the loss of second stringer Cody Keith to a transfer and the Pirates were left with JUCO players Blake Kemp and James Summers. 

Both Kemp and Summers have played admirably but turnover issues, arm strength concerns, and an inability to read defenses have been the main achilles heel at the position. They hit a three-game skid during the stretch run of the season, all of which featured Summers behind center as the starter. The position could have been handled better but overall I think the Pirates did a fairly fine job given the hand they were dealt. 

Bearcat Insider: With Saturday being for all the marbles to become bowl eligible do you think ECU will sink or swim come noon?

Brian Wudkwych: The pressure is definitely on ECU coming into this game but the win over UCF last week certainly gave it some momentum. Conversely it seems that the Bearcats may have had some weaknesses exploited last weekend against USF. Overall, I would say this game is a toss up, similar to last season. I expect it to come down to which ever team has the ball last but missing a bowl game is not something head coach Ruffin McNeill wants to answer to.

Bearcat Insider: With the emergence of Kemp at Quarterback has the offense been better with him at the helm? Or do you like the skill set Summers brings?

Brian Wudkwych: It seemed painfully clear that Blake Kemp was the prototypical quarterback to fit this offense but ECU coaches seem to think otherwise. Summers is 0-4 as a starter while Kemp owns a 5-2 record, one of which was a close loss to Florida which came down to a final-minute turnover. 

However, Summers has done a nice job in relief of Kemp, at times offering a new skill set that defenses have to account for. Teams eventually figured him out, though and learned that he was unable to get the ball into the hands of ECU's breadth of receiving weapons — which is why he will be moved to receiver next season, the position he was supposed to play before the Benkert injury.
Kemp, on the other hand, has shown the ability to hit his receivers and complete passes. His arm strength may not be too great but he has proven to be more than capable of leading the offense

Bearcat Insider: What is the temperature for head coach Ruffin McNeil being that this year was a down year for the program?

Brian Wudkwych: There is definitely some clamor from fans, and the consensus seemed to be that current Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley was the true mastermind be the Pirates last season. That idea may have been reinforced this season, but in an offense that relies so heavily on the quarterback position, losing the starting signal caller did no one any favors. 

Don't expect McNeill to feel any pressure from the AD or any higher ups this offseason but he certainly won't want a repeat of this season or things could change.

Bearcat Insider: Is there any silver lining for the program because of the injuries you guys experienced this season? (I.e. Next season or if they make a bowl this season)

Brian Wudkwych: No one is expecting a 5-6 win season next season, at least not with Benkert behind center. I don't think this year has been indicative of the depth that McNeill has built in Greenville. The question that stands is whether or not offensive coordinator Dave Nichol will flourish with his starting quarterback back. Nichol will likely make or break the team's performance next season. 

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