In this series we will look at the Mids football opponents for the 2016 season. Today the school we are looking at is East Caolina.
Date/time/location/TV: October 13, 7:30pm EST, Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greenville, NC., ESPN.
2015 Record: 5-7 (3-5 The American).
Head Coach: Scottie Montgomery. First year at East Carolina (0-0).
Series History: Navy leads the series 4-1.
Last Meeting: Keenan Reynolds ran for five touchdowns and 142 yards as the Mids rolled to 2-0 last season with a 45-21 blow out of the Pirates.
Top Returners: WR Isaiah 'Zay' Jones (Sr.) 1,093 yards receiving and 5 TDs in 2015. NT Demetri McGill (Sr.) 28.5 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, and 2.5 sacks. ILB Jordan Williams (Jr.), 63.5 tackles, 6 TFLs, and 2 sacks.
Key Losses: QB Blake Kemp, 2,658 yards and 16 TDs in 2015. RB Chris Hairston, 754 yards and 8 rushing TDs in 2015.. LT Ike Harris, 37 career starts. ILB Zeek Bigger, 75.5 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, and 1.5 sacks. OLB Montese Overton, 55 tackles, 10 TFLs, and 7.5 sacks.
What You Need To Know: Ditching an established coach after a 5-7 season is always a big risk. ECU won 26 games from 2012-4 under Ruffin McNeill, before slipping to that 5-7 mark after losing a host of play-makers and All-Conference performers. The ECU brass though is as ambitious as any school in the AAC and they have taken a swing for the fences with the hire of former Duke receiver Scottie Montgomery.
The first job for Montgomery this fall will be finding a quarterback. The Pirates had three of them with starting experience near the end of the 2015 season, but a couple of transfers out of the program and a position change left the position awfully thin. The man for 2016 will be controversial former Minnesota and Rutgers transfer Philip Nelson. Nelson is a potential star who looked outstanding over the summer and who will be an ideal one year stop gap if he can stay out of trouble.
The player to watch on offense is slot man stat machine Zay Jones. The Pirates actually return all seven top wide receivers from 2015, but this was a system based much more on efficiency than explosiveness. Jones generated a 60-percent success rate from the slot, but Montgomery will need to find some downfield weapons and a running game to make his offense work.
Defensively the Pirates will be hoping a coaching change leads to more disruption upfront. ECU ranked 101st in adjusted sack rate and 126th in stuff rate last season. In addition the only dynamic play-maker in the front seven, Montrese Overton, is out of eligibility. Don't be shocked to see the defense built around the unique skill set of 315 pound nose tackle Demetri McGill.
If the front seven holds up and can force more pressure on opposing passing attacks, then the secondary will be fine, as long as the starters remain healthy. The core group of DaShaun Amos, Corey Sargent, Travon Simmons, and DaShawn Benton are exciting athletes that will only be better in 2016. The depth behind them though is pretty much non-existent.
2015 Stats That Matter: Offensive points per game, 76th; Defensive points per game, 54th.
Fun Fact: East Carolina University was established in 1907 as East Carolina Teacher Training School.
Famous Alumni: Vince McMahon (WWE Chairman and CEO), Sandra Bullock (Actress), Rick Atkinson (Pulitzer Winner).