1. Boundary Cornerback
Without much debate, ECU's secondary is the team's largest concern going into camp. After the unit's dismal 2012 season and the loss of two of its most productive players, – Jacobi Jenkins and Leonard Paulk – it's up to defensive coordinator Rick Smith to fill some holes.
At field cornerback, senior Adonis Armstrong returns with the most experience at the position and will likely be the starter when the Pirates face Old Dominion on August 31.
On the other side of the field, the situation at boundary corner is a lot more fluid. During the spring, sophomore Josh Hawkins played with the first-team, but was quickly overtaken by junior Detric Allen.
Due to multiple injuries at the position, Hawkins was forced to start three games as a redshirt freshman last season and made some plays, despite lacking experience and size. He only stands at 5-foot-10.
As for Allen, it has been a longer journey for him to get on the field. After spending his first two seasons on the scout team and only appearing in four games in 2012, Allen caught Smith's eye in the spring.
In an exclusive interview with Inside ECU Sports earlier this month, Smith highlighted how he would line up if the season started today.
"Right now, if I had to say who was going to start, I'd start Detric Allen and Adonis Armstrong and I would likely play Josh Hawkins as the third guy and let him back up on both sides (at corner)."
Staying in the secondary, Smith said both safety positions are up for grabs, despite seniors Damon Magazu and Chip Thompson returning for their senior years. This may lead some to believe that there is still some concern in Magazu's back injury that caused him to miss the entire spring session.
In Magazu's absence, sophomore Dominique Lennon impressed. In each of ECU's final two scrimmages – including the annual Purple-Gold game on April 20 – Lennon compiled six tackles and showcased great agility and field-vision.
Michael Dobson, who made the switch from running back to free safety in the spring, will also be given an opportunity to compete at free safety during fall camp. Though, Smith hasn't dismissed the idea of moving him to strong safety if needed.
Speaking of strong safety, senior Thompson started 12 of the 13 games at the position in 2012 and is the favorite to be the starter yet again. His top competitor will be junior Lamar Ivey, who played in all 13 games last season and even collected an interception against Appalachian State.
"Those five guys, Dobson, Lennon, Magazu, Thompson and Ivery are all dazzling and the verdict is still out on who the starters will be," said Smith.
3. Outside Wide Receiver
Since Justin Hardy and Danny Webster have all but cemented themselves as the starters at the inside receiver positions, our focus on offense shifts to the outside. When looking at the position in depth, it becomes very clear that there is no front-runner for the job.
Last season, Reese Wiggins was expected to be the guy after coming on strong late in the 2011 campaign. That didn't happen. Wiggins collected just 25 catches and one touchdown, which are both fewer than the totals he posted as a sophomore in those categories. Now a senior, Wiggins will have to compete to earn his spot in the starting lineup with numerous competitors.
In regards to lofty expectations, Justin Jones can relate. Entering his senior season, Jones is still mostly remembered for a single play he made in his first game as a freshman. He hauled in Dominique Davis' last second "Hail Mary" to beat Tulsa, but since then, has struggled with consistency.
Standing at 6-foot-8 and weighing in at 277 pounds, Jones should be a matchup nightmare for defenses. Instead, he has disappeared in games and above all, hasn't been a reliable target for Shane Carden. Despite that, Jones will be given every opportunity to contribute with his size.
Unlike Wiggins and Jones, Jabril Solomon flew under the radar as a freshman and turned out to be one the Pirates' most dangerous deep threats. Even though Solomon only notched 17 receptions, he made the most of his catches – leading the team in yards per catch (24.1).
Two players that shouldn't be overlooked in the conversation are redshirt junior John Worthy and senior Lance Ray. Sure, Worthy has yet to play a game for the Pirates after transferring from Yuba Community College (Calif.) and Ray's only highlight was a kickoff return in last season's opener, but each provide great athleticism and the ability to make game-changing plays with their speed.