ECU Hopes to Slow Offensive Onslaught

East Carolina defensive line coach Art Kaufmann knows his unit has a big challenge in attempting to slow down the West Virginia offense, but the second-year Pirate assistant believes that his squad is looking forward to the task.

"West Virginia was picked to win the conference and ranked high, and it all starts with the quarterback," Kaufmann said of senior Rasheed Marshall. "He does a great job, it's their fourth year in the system, and they are all doing a great job, especially with the veterans they have coming back."

While Kaufmann first mentioned Marshall, he's not overlooking the Mountaineers' offensive front, which has ripped the Pirates for more than 900 yards on the ground in the teams' two most recent meetings.

"We've had problems in the running game. The first year was a different system," Kaufmann said as he attempted to distance himself from the 2002 coaching regime. "And then last year we had so many inexperienced guys. It was early, and we were trying to learn who fit in our system. They are spread out where they run all around you, and then they go inside with the quick hitters and the QB running."

Although his ECU defense has a year of experience in the John Thompson defensive system under its belt, Kaufmann also knows that the Mountaineer offensive line has done some growing of its own. Kaufmann was impressed with the WVU unit a year ago, and realizes that unit has another full year's worth of experience since the last time it faced the Pirates.

"Last year, [their offensive line] was young and had some new starters, and I thought they did a great job as a unit. With their blocking scheme, it's important they play as a unit, and they did that well. I thought they played as well, as a unit, as anyone we faced. Coach Rick Trickett does a great job with those guys."

Despite a few glitches in the Mountaineer running attack during fall camp, Kaufmann isn't getting caught up in who starts or which back gets the bulk of the carries. Like any coach in a rebuilding program, he's more concerned with the performance of his troops.

"No," was Kaufmann's succinct answer when asked if he was concerned about who would start at WVU's superback position. "Both of them are quality players. We have to be able to defend their system and adjust as you go into the game. Our thing is to line up and be able to defend the offense regardless of who is in the game for them."

Kaufmann didn't ignore the WVU passing game either, singling out Chris Henry as a potential difference-maker.

"Henry is quite a player. He's their go to guy. Last year he hit a couple of big plays on us. You can double cover him and he still can make the play. He's a big physical guy who does a great job and had a great day against us last year."

Kaufmann isn't furling the flag, however. He is impressed with the speed with which the team has taken to the scheme installed by former Florida Gator quarterback Noah Brindise, who has taken over as offensive coordinator at the Greenville, S.C. school.

"I've been impressed with James Pinckney and the quarterbacks in Brindise's system. The have done a good job buying into it and picking up the system. It has let us get ball to guys that can make some plays. The last couple of scrimmages they have done a really good job of executing the plan, and are making fewer and fewer mistakes."

That's something the Pirates will have to do in order to have the chance of springing an upset, but Kaufmann, like any coach, knows that anything can happen in an opener.

"We're looking forward to going up there."


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