Takeaways from McNeill's Towson Presser

GREENVILLE, N.C. — ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill met with the media Monday to discuss his team's upcoming matchup with Towson. Here's what stood out from the press conference.

Next man up: Blake Kemp

Similarly to Kurt Benkert being named the starting quarterback after the team’s final scrimmage, the announcement that Blake Kemp would be the new leader of the team following Benkert’s injury came as little to no surprise.

Kemp was already being penciled in as the No. 2 guy behind Benkert, in part thanks to fellow junior Cody Keith’s ankle injury that sidelined him for a significant amount of fall camp. Players and coaches also did little to hide the fact that Kemp would be the next man up immediately following the injury but head coach Ruffin McNeill gave Kemp more than just a nod of approval.

“Blake Kemp is the quarterback. I want to make that perfectly clear,” McNeill said. “He was the backup, he’s next in line. Blake has done a good job and Cody has been out.”

Kemp, the junior college transfer, redshirted last year on his way to familiarizing himself with the ECU playbook. Kemp throws left handed, something that McNeill admitted that he liked, and played well during the scrimmages.

James Summers joins squad

JUCO transfer James Summers took longer than expected to officially enroll and practice with the Pirates, but alas he has arrived and will don No. 11.

Originally tabbed as a wide receiver, the need at quarterback moved the 6-foot-3 athlete back behind center, where he spent a majority of his high school and junior college career. Summers originally committed to North Carolina out of high school but eventually chose to attend Hinds Community College instead where he excelled as a quarterback.

It’s unclear if Summers will vie for significant time behind center, but considering he spent nearly all of his reps at fall camp as a receiver, it seems unlikely. His athleticism and flexibility, however, has made an immediate impression on McNeill.

“Since committing to us, he’s worked at wide receiver and that’s all he’s thought about,” McNeill noted. “He hadn’t thought about anything else. His comment was quick when I got on the phone with him. He said, ‘Coach, I just want to help the team win.’ That was the first thing out of his mouth. That mentality, first, gets a check mark with me. The kids love him on the team. Dave Nichol is one of the best player developers I’ve been around. He understands what’s required in that quarterback room.”

Philip Nelson won’t be eligible to play

Uncertainty swirled around whether or not transfer quarterback Philip Nelson would have eligibility to play this season. The Pirates more than likely applied for him to play immediately, but no one outside of the program can say for certain.

McNeill did however clear the air and announced the Nelson won’t be eligible to play in the upcoming campaign and will instead take a redshirt, saving a year playing eligibility.

“He is redshirting on scout team and being a great teammate,” McNeill said. “He’s done everything the coaches have asked him to do, whether that’s being a quarterback, wide out or running on kickoff scout team. You name it, he’s done it.”

Some voices within the program raved about the junior’s arm, saying that if he could play this season, he very well could have pushed Benkert for the starting job.

Nelson has to sit out in accordance to the NCAA’s transfer rule, despite missing all of last year after he was dismissed from Rutger’s program following a connection with an assault. Nelson was a three-star quarterback coming out of high school and saw playing time with Minnesota, logging 1,306 yards through the air and 15 total touchdowns in 16 contests.

Trevon Brown absent from the two-deep depth chart

Whether or not Trevon Brown’s absence from the two-deep depth chart is a scare tactic remains to be seen. For now, however, Jimmy Williams and Brandon Bishop occupy the second outside receiver slot, where Brown was penciled in for the Spring Game.

Brown burst onto the scene last year as a true freshman but was sidelined for a majority of the back-end of the schedule following a foot injury. When healthy, Brown totaled 264 receiving yards, averaging 18.9 yards per catch and sitting third on the team with four receiving touchdowns.

McNeill didn’t elaborate on Brown’s current status but confirmed that it was a matter of production, not injury. For now, however, Williams appears to be the next man up and McNeill didn’t sound too concerned about filling the void.

“Jimmy has really come on,” McNeill said. “He’s gotten bigger and stronger. He’s another quiet one, but works as hard as anyone I’ve been around. If we keep him healthy, he’s a guy who can make some plays for us. He’s looking forward to it.”


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