Summer Journal: Five Players To Watch

GREENVILLE, N.C. — Inside ECU Sports highlights the top five most important players for ECU this season that are not named Shane Carden, Justin Hardy or Zeek Bigger.

Whenever one player is singled out and given the bulk of the spotlight, there are usually several others that also played key roles, but are often times overlooked.

In no sport is this any truer than football. Whenever anybody discusses East Carolina, it usually doesn’t take long for the names of quarterback Shane Carden, wide receiver Justin Hardy or even (for the closer followers of the Pirates) inside linebacker Zeek Bigger to come up. And for good reason.

However, there are obviously several other players that are key in the Pirates' success, but don’t receive much of the spotlight. Some of these players will continue to play essential roles this fall, while others will be stepping into key positions for the first time.

Here is our list of the five most important players to watch for in 2014:

5. Ike Harris, junior left tackle

In terms of importance, you could almost insert any offensive lineman in this spot —especially since the Pirates graduated three offensive linemen from last season — but Ike Harris stands out. Listed at 6-foot-7, 308 pounds, Harris is the largest projected starter on the offensive line after he excelled in his first season as a starter, protecting Shane Carden’s blindside. The only concern with the Irmo, S.C. native is whether or not he can gel with the new-look front-line before ECU begins its season Aug 30. Back in February, Harris was in the same car accident that caused defensive tackle Terrell Stanley to miss the 2014 season and although his injuries were mostly minor, Head Coach Ruffin McNeill and his coaching staff decided to shut him down for spring practice due to a right shoulder injury.

4. Terry Williams, senior defensive tackle

Senior defensive tackle Terry Williams.
(Photo by Rob Goldberg/ECU Media Relations)
Terry Williams is one of ECU’s two defensive starters returning from last year’s season opener against Old Dominion and was one of the unit’s most effective players when he was on the field. Unfortunately for the Pirates, that wasn’t often since — for the second consecutive season — Williams was suspended for off-the-field problems. Shortly before his eight-game suspension, Virginia Tech associate coach Shane Beamer called Williams one of the best defensive linemen his team would face all season just two weeks after it lined up against Alabama. Williams must show a greater sense of leadership this fall considering how inexperienced the Pirates defensive line is.

3. Maurice Falls, senior (WILL) outside linebacker

Maurice Falls has yet to start a game for ECU, yet has received praise as one of college football’s most freakish athletes and was named to the Butkus Award Watch List this summer. There is no denying that his numbers are absurd: 4.47-second 40 yard dash, 425-pound bench press, 36-inch vertical leap and a back squat of 625 pounds. Oh, and did I mention he was 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds? However, his workout numbers are not what landed him on this list. Instead, it is who he will be asked to replace at WILL outside linebacker this season. Derrell Johnson had to be accounted for on every play by offensive coordinators, whether he was on the defensive line or dropping into coverage. That responsibility will now be passed on to Falls.

2. Detric Allen and Josh Hawkins, cornerback

It was difficult to single out just one of these players. During last fall camp, Josh Hawkins barely beat out Detric Allen to become the Pirates’ starting boundary cornerback. Then Hawkins suffered a concussion against Virginia Tech, which allowed Allen to step in and he never looked back, starting the rest of the year. With the losses of three starters in the secondary, Allen and Hawkins own the most experience in the defensive backfield. Hawkins is likely to move over to field cornerback — a position previously owned by Adonis Armstrong — while Allen stays at boundary corner. It is also crucial that they stay healthy because there are no reliable options behind them in the depth chart. Defensive coordinator Rick Smith, 66, even joked in the spring that he might have to jump in and play should one of his corners gets hurt.

Senior running back Breon Allen.
(Kat Jessick/InsideECUSports.com)
1. Breon Allen, senior running back

In order for ECU to run its offense as efficiently as it has the last two seasons, it must get some sort of production on the ground. Vintavious Cooper, who coupled back-to-back 1,000 yard rushing seasons, is no longer in the fold, which means most of the carries will likely be given to senior Breon Allen. Utilized primarily as a scat back, Allen struggled to produce until the final third of last season. The 5-foot-8, 190 pound JUCO transfer rushed for 92 yards against UAB, found the end-zone at N.C. State the following week and scored another touchdown in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl. Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley and McNeill established in the spring that Allen would be looked on to be a leader in the backfield, but it will be interesting to see how much Allen’s involvement will increase. After all, there are several tailbacks that will be vying for playing time this season. A short list of those players include junior Chris Hairston, highly-recruited red-shirt freshman Marquez Grayson, promising freshman Anthony Scott and last year’s surprise walk-on contributor Cory Hunter.


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