Offense Steps Up in Scrimmage No. 2

GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina's offense made large strides with its solid performance during the team's second scrimmage of fall-camp at the Cliff Moore Practice facility Saturday.

One week removed from a dismal outing that only saw the ECU offense score one touchdown, the Pirates rebounded with three touchdowns and a balanced attack. True freshmen inside receivers Isaiah Jones and Jimmy Williams each caught a touchdown, but the story of the afternoon was running back Cory Hunter's performance.

For the second consecutive week, Hunter impressed in a notoriously crowded backfield. In addition to scoring a two-yard touchdown, the stocky 5-foot-10, 201 pounder from Fuquay-Varina, N.C., rushed for team-best 35 yards on five carries.

"When you have a talented backfield like we have, where everyone can make plays, it's good and you know all of your reps have to count, and you have to know what you're doing and perform," said Hunter.

Due to Vintavious Cooper's suspension and Chris Hairston's shoulder injury, Hunter got the lion share of the carries during the spring session. But despite both Cooper and Hairston returning and the arrivals of Breon Allen and Marquez Grayson, Hunter has continued to earn his a spot on the field and has left a lasting impression on the coaching staff and his quarterback, Shane Carden.

"I thought he had a great spring and nobody was really talking about him then, and I was like ‘why not?" said Carden, who was 9-for-12 passing for 106 yards. "I knew what we had and it was awesome to, again, see him do his thing today and let people know he's a good running back."

As for the true freshmen who have made their mark, last weekend it was Davon Grayson who turned heads and on Saturday, Jones and Williams emerged.

Jones, the son of ECU-great and Super Bowl champion linebacker Robert Jones, has come in, competed at the inside receiver position and all but eliminated any thoughts of handing him a redshirt. In the latter stages of the scrimmage, Carden found Jones in the back of the endzone for a score.

Williams, a lesser-known inside receiver from nearby Washington High School, threw his name in the conversation when he caught a slant from fellow freshman Kurt Benkert for touchdown on the last play from scrimmage.

Needless to say, there are going to be some diffcult decisions made by head coach Ruffin McNeill and his staff, but McNeill has made it clear he isn't afraid to be play true freshman when the Pirates host Old Dominion on Aug. 31.

"If he wants a ‘red shirt' he can wear it to class. That's my thing on redshirting. I'm playing to win and playing to win right now," said McNeill.

Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley added, "We always ask ourselves two questions; ‘A: Is he physically and mentally ready to help us?' and ‘B: do we need the help?' If the answer to both is yes, we play them, and if the answer is no to either one of them or both of them, then we don't."

Saturday's scrimmage was previously going to be held on the grass-field inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, but due to wet conditions, it was instead moved to the turf field at the Cliff Moore Practice Facility.

The less-than-ideal weather circumstances did make the scrimmage sloppy at times and directly resulted in an inflated amount of turnovers and penalties.

"We don't get officials here every day and it's not quite as live," said Riley of the offense's four penalties Saturday. "You can say on film that you are holding, but when the flag is actually thrown and everybody sees it, it just has a way of having a little bit more of an impact."

-- Complete Statistics --

RUSHING: Cory Hunter (5-35, 1 TD), Marquez Grayson (3-18), Chris Hairston (2-10), Vintavious Cooper (2-5), John Barnes-Smith (1-5), Kurt Benkert (1-<-2>), Quataye Smyre (1-<-6>). Totals -- 15-65 (4.3 ypr), 1 TD.

PASSING: Shane Carden (12-9-0, 106 yards, 1 TD), Kurt Benkert (5-4-0, 62 yards, 1 TD), Cody Keith (9-6-0, 37 yards). Totals -- 26-19-1, 205 yards, 2 TD (73.1%).

RECEIVING: Bryce Williams (4-43, Isaiah Jones (3-30, 1 TD), Jimmy Williams (2-24, 1 TD), Reese Wiggins (2-22), DaQuan Barnes (1-30), Cam Worthy (1-17), Quataye Smyre (1-12), Justin Hardy (1-10), Zico Pasut (1-8), John Barnes-Smith (1-8), Davon Grayson (1-6), Chris Hairston (1-<-5>). Totals -- 19-205, 2 TD

TACKLES: Jeremy Grove 4, Cameron White 4, Damon Magazu 3 (FR), Christian Simmons 3, Reese Speight 3 (sack/-2 yards, TFL/-2 yards), Chip Thompson 3, Kyle Tudor 3 (FF), Devaris Brunson 2, Montese Overton 2, Lee Pegues 2 (TFL/-2 yards), Frederick Presley 2 (TFL/-6 yards), Detric Allen 1, DaShaun Amos 1, Michael Dobson 1, Maurice Falls 1 (TFL/-5 yards), Jake Geary 1, Lamar Ivey 1, Nate Mays 1, Travis Phillips 1, Dayon Pratt 1, Johnathon White 1, Brandon Williams 1 (PB), Terry Williams 1, Gabe Woullard 1, Mike Myers (PB), TEAM (TFL/-6 yards - errant snap).

TOTAL OFFENSE/TOTAL DEFENSE: 41-270 (6.6 ypp)

FUMBLES/LOST: 2/1

INTERCEPTIONS: 0

THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS: 2-7 (28.6%) - Shane Carden (2-2), Cody Keith (0-3), Kurt Benkert (0-2)

FOURTH DOWN CONVERSIONS (when attempted): 0-0

PENALTIES: 7 (4/OFFENSE - 2 holding, 2 false start; 3/DEFENSE - 2 offside, 1 holding)

QUARTERBACK FIRST DOWN/SCORING CHART (DRIVES)

Shane Carden - 9 first downs, 2 TD (TD, TD)

Kurt Benkert - 6 first downs, 1 TD (downs, TD)

Cody Keith - 2 first downs (downs, downs, fumble)

SCORING:

TDs - 3 (PATs 3-3)

Cory Hunter 2-yard run (Warren Harvey PAT)

Isaiah Jones 15-yard pass from Shane Carden (Warren Harvey PAT)

Jimmy Williams 14-yard pass from Kurt Benkert (Davis Plowman PAT)


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