ECU Prepares for Life Without Hardy, Worthy

GREENVILLE, N.C. — With Justin Hardy and Cam Worthy gone, ECU turns to familiar faces to fill the void at receiver.

While Justin Hardy and Cam Worthy are preparing for the upcoming NFL Draft, the East Carolina football team is in the midst of preparing for life without the two leading receivers in terms of yardage from last year.

The inside/outside duo of Hardy and Worthy accounted for 2,510 yards last season — which made up more than half of the team’s total receiving yards — and 14 touchdowns.

But production isn’t the only gap that the Pirates are tasked with filling.

Hardy, the FBS all-time leading receiver, and Worthy were both seniors and leaders on last season’s team. However, from a leadership standpoint, sixth-year coach Ruffin McNeill isn’t too concerned about a potential drop off.

“We got guys that have been waiting their turn to reload those positions,” McNeill told said following Monday’s practice at the Cliff Moore Practice Complex. “You don’t replace a guy like Cam Worthy and Justin (Hardy) overnight, but I like the potential that we have there.”

The potential in the position is one of depth for the Pirates. Junior receiver Isaiah Jones was second on the team last season with 81 receptions and recorded 830 yards receiving to go along with five touchdown catches.

The 6-foot-1 Jones benefited from lining up across from Hardy in the slot and the big question going into the season will be how he performs as the go-to guy on the inside.

“You cant replace a guy like Justin,” the inside receiver said akin to McNeill. “All you can do is come in here and do the best that you can and just do your job. That’s all you can do.”

“Now maybe it’s (Jones) helping out some other guy,” first-year offensive coordinator Dave Nichol said. “You want to see two or three other guys step up besides him, consistently week in and week out.”

Candidates to step up alongside Jones are receivers Jimmy Williams and Bryce Williams (no relation), who have spent spring ball competing for the second slot receiver position. The Williams duo returns a combined 491 receiving yards form a season ago.

Bryce Williams, the 6-foot-6, 250-pound senior, was a go-to threat in the red zone last season as he saw action in every game and finished tied for second on the team with four touchdowns. His ability to create mismatches with small secondary defenders or slow-footed linebackers make him an end zone threat.

“Obviously we have Isaiah. Bryce Williams should be a guy that we can (rely on),” Nichol said. “Whoever steps up will be the guy that we’re looking for,”

Davon Grayson was another player that Nichol mentioned has seen time at the inside receiver position this spring, despite spending most of his two seasons with the Pirates lined up on the outside.

Before suffering a season-ending knee injury during his freshman season, Grayson recorded 18 catches for 176 yards and six touchdowns lining up on the outside opposite of Worthy.

He saw time in all 13 games a season ago, but was competing with freshman Trevon Brown for the second outside receiver spot on the outside across from Worthy.

Despite playing in five less games than Grayson, Brown notched more yards than his fellow outside receiver and boasted five touchdowns, while Grayson failed to get into the end zone.

This season, however, the two receivers could be the outside combination trying to emulate what Worthy and his big-play ability were able to do last season, averaging 18.5 yards per catch.

“I believe we all can do it, all of the receivers that we got,” Brown said of replacing Worthy. “Obviously, I’d like to go get the deep ball, that’s what Cam taught all of us.”

While other players will look to step up and potentially out-produce Worthy and Hardy, McNeill said that their impact wouldn’t soon be forgotten.

“I miss them, I miss all of those kids,” McNeill said with a smile. “They’re still here, they’re still present but nobody will wear (Hardy’s) jersey, so I’ll never see a number two on offense as long as I’m here.”


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