Five Players to Watch: SMU vs. East Carolina

Demo breaks down five East Carolina players to watch on Saturday against SMU.

QB Blake Kemp

6-1, 207 | 1,011 Passing yards, 7 TDs, 3 INT

ECU released a depth chart earlier this week that had Kemp as the starters against SMU. Still, despite his success through four games, the coaching staff hasn’t eliminated James Summers from the conversation. It isn’t as if Kemp isn’t performing because he is. It may be Summers ability to make things happen on the run. For now the Pirates are taking a week to week approach to the position. This week Kemp gets the nod again. Which is good news for SMU as Kemp isn’t a particularly good runner- he’s averaging -1.8 yards per run. The Mustangs have had issues with mobile quarterbacks this season, so not having to worry about that will help out the suspect defense immensely.

WR Isaiah Jones

6-1, 197 | 32 catches, 397 yards, 2 TDs

Kemp’s primary target will undoubtedly be Jones. His 12.4 yards per catch is the best on the team among receivers with 16 or more receptions. He is averaging 99.2 yards a game. Jones has some size for an inside receiver that makes him hard to defend and his speed allows him to pick up extra yards after the catch. He hasn’t burned anyone this season though and his longest catch was a 36 yarder. Another plus for SMU, as they’ve given up several deep passes over their first four games.

LB Jordan Williams

6-0, 230 | 34 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 INT

Jordan Williams is a drive killer. He has the size to step up and plug holes, but more often than not uses his speed to shoot the gaps and make plays in the backfield. He leads the team in sacks and tackles for loss and is tied for the team lead in tackles. His ability to affect the passing game and discourage the run game makes him this team’s most important defender.

LB Zeek Bigger

6-2, 216 | 34 tackles, 1 TFL, 3 QB hurries

Bigger is tied with Williams for the team lead in tackles and leads the team with his three quarterback hurries. That the Pirates two inside linebackers are leading the team in tackles and are putting the most pressure on the quarterback is a telling sign of what opponents have been trying to do to ECU and what they are doing defensively. ECU is giving up 230 rushing yards a game, 4.6 a rush. Teams have run the football almost twice as many times as they have passed against ECU. The average of 4.6 means backs are getting past the line but not getting to the safeties. In attempt to counteract this trend, ECU must be blitzing up the middle with Bigger and Williams—leading to pressure on QBs (when they do pass) and the occasional TFL.

DB Travon Simmons

5-10, 185 | 16 tackles, four pass breakups

Simmons is the only non-linebacker in the top five tacklers on this ECU defense—again in larger part because most of the action has been happening in the trenches. This might be because teams know they can almost pick up a first down by running the ball twice, or they are running the ball because they know they won’t have great success throwing against this ECU secondary. Simmons, a sophomore, isn’t very big but is the most dialed in right now. As the free safety he’s been involved in helping to stop the run and he’ll likely be just as involved against SMU. With only 100 passes against them this season, this ECU secondary hasn’t really been tested yet. It will be interested to see how SMU decides to play them—either testing this defense with some deep passes or playing the averages and relying heavily on the run.

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