Jeremy Grove faced a lot of questions entering his sophomore season after becoming the face of the defense and its new look 3-4 scheme. With an All-American selection and 122 tackles to his name as a freshman, many fans were wondering if Grove could maintain that level of production and prove that it wasn't mere chance. But above the skepticism, Grove also had to prove that he was fully healthy following an offseason shoulder surgery and rehabilitation process.
With nine tackles and two forced fumbles against the Mountaineers, Grove not only showed his productivity and play making ability, but also that he is healthy and ready to lead the defense in 2012.
New faces show up big in the secondary
One of the positions that went through the biggest overhaul this offseason was the secondary. ECU graduated three of the four starting defensive backs from 2011 and opened 2012 with some players waiting to show fans their worth. And they did just that, play after play.
Safety Chip Thompson, who started alongside Damon Magazu, stole the show with his fumble return for a touchdown in the first quarter. Fellow safety Lamar Ivey stepped in and intercepted a pass. Cornerback Adonis Armstrong quietly recorded six tackles and looked impressive in coverage. I think this secondary unit could create some big plays down the stretch, which the team lacked in 2011.
Special teams has improved, but kicking a concern
All in all, ECU's special teams looked good. There was the kick off return for a touchdown by Ray, and the big punt return from Justin Hardy to excite the fans, but also the special teams did a great job of limiting App State's return ability all game long. Special teams coordinator Kirk Doll had his unit ready to play.
But placekicker Warren Harvey struggled in his first live situations of his career. Harvey missed both of his field goal attempts (51 and 35 yards) when the game was still far from decided. He will need to play better when the Pirates travel to Columbia to face South Carolina.
Offense finds its balance
While predominantly thought of as a passing team, ECU looked very good running the ball against App State. The Pirates running backs rushed 35 times for 148 yards (4.2 yards per carry) to help ease quarterback Rio Johnson into his new starting role.
Michael Dobson (19 carries, 78 yards) looked explosive. Reggie Bullock (8 carries, 31 yards) ran well up the middle. The Pirates rushing attack seems much improved from the unit that finished 107th in the FBS last year in total yards per game.