East Carolina Pirates
2006 Record: (7-6, 5-3)
Coach: Skip Holtz (12-12 at East Carolina, 46-35 overall)
Starters Returning: 13 (5 offense, 8 defense, 0 specialists)
Offensive Starters Lost: QB James Pinkney, RB Brandon Fractious, FB Kort Shankweiler, WR Aundrae Allison, WR Bobby Good, OL Eric Graham
Offensive Starters Returning: TE Davon Drew, OL Matt Butler, OL Terence Campbell, OL Josh Coffman, OL Cory Dowless
Defensive Starters Lost: CB Kasey Ross, S Kyle Chase, S Jamar Fournoy
Defensive Starters Returning: DT Mark Robinson, DT Brandon Setzer, DE Marcus Hands, DE Scotty Robinson, LB Pierre Bell, LB Quentin Cotton, LB Fred Wilson, CB Travis Williams
Starting Specialists Lost: K Robert Lee, P Ryan Dougherty
Starting Specialists Returning: none
With the loss of just about every skill player on offense and a brutal schedule, East Carolina will struggle to repeat the success of last year. In the third year under Coach Skip Holtz, the Pirates are depending on his recruits and continue to build towards the future. Seven wins and a bowl game was a huge step for the program and, while the record may not look as good this year, ECU is headed in the right direction.
The splendid passing combination of James Pinkney to Aundrae Allison is gone. Pinkney threw for 2,783 yards and 12 touchdowns during his senior campaign. With his fourth quarter experience in the Papajohns.com Bowl, sophomore Rob Kass is his most likely replacement. Even with the absence of Allison, Kass will have plenty of quality targets to throw to, although none the quality of Allison who was chosen in the fifth round of the NFL draft. Phillip Henry, Steven Rogers and tight end Davon Drew form a trio of receivers that will be difficult for the opposition to stop.
The running game, on the other hand, has been pretty easy to stop. Brandon Fractious led the squad with 660 rushing yards during his senior season and East Carolina hopes Chris Johnson and Dominique Lindsay can carry the load. Johnson, who is a dangerous kick returner and pass catcher out of the backfield, led the team with 972 all-purpose yards. However, he will need to do more as a running back to keep the Pirates offense moving. With the return of four starting linemen, that should be an obtainable goal. Brandon Setzer, who started at defensive tackle last year, will bring more experience to the ECU offensive line.
Besides Setzer, the front seven returns all their starters. Ends Marcus Hands and Scotty Robinson are back, but for a team that recorded only 18 sacks on the season, the duo needs to get into the backfield a little more. Tackle Mark Robinson has developed into a consistent big man in the middle of the line. Pierre Bell, Quentin Cotton and Fred Wilson lead the experienced linebacker corps. Cotton can get into the backfield and led the team with eight tackles-for-loss last year.
The secondary performed amazingly well considering the lack of a pass rush in 2006. However, with the pass rush remaining a concern and just one starter returning to the secondary, the Pirates may not be so fortunate in 2007. Travis Williams returns to one corner, while freshman Dakota Marshall or juniors Leon Best and Jerek Hewitt are expected to man the other side. The experience concerns do not get any better at safety. Sophomore Van Eskridge, who played linebacker last year, is moving to free safety and freshman Melvin Patterson could work his way into the starting strong safety spot.
The Bottom Line:
This team is not lacking in talent, it is the lack of experience at quarterback and in the secondary that should have Pirate fans concerned. Kass can develop into a quality quarterback, but seeing Brett Clay or Patrick Pinkney under center is not out of the question if things do not go well early on in the season.