CAROLINA & CONFERENCE USA
View from the East
Thursday, September 6, 2012
By Al Myatt
Shaw's status unsure
All rights reserved.
View the Mobile Alpha version of this page.
South Carolina coach
Steve Spurrier may not make a decision on his starting quarterback
until shortly before a 12:21 p.m. kickoff on Saturday with visiting
East Carolina. Connor Shaw sustained a bruised shoulder last
Thursday night in a 17-13 win at Vanderbilt and his playing status
has been a source of widespread speculation for this week's matchup.
Shaw missed practice early
in the week. Two factors will influence Spurrier's choice between Shaw
and sophomore Dylan Thompson, those being how well Shaw can throw and
the risk of further injury. Thompson completed two passes in four games
last season. He rushed five times for 16 yards with a score.
Running back Marcus
Lattimore had 110 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 23 carries at
Shaw started last year
against the Pirates in the season opener in Charlotte but it was backup
Jeff Garcia who came off the sideline to provide the winning impetus in
a 56-37 Gamecocks win after ECU
had jumped out to a 17-0 lead. Garcia and five Pirates turnovers defused
Who starts at quarterback
Saturday is a non-issue as far as ECU coach Ruffin McNeill is concerned.
"I've seen three
(quarterbacks) on film and they do the same things that Connor does,"
McNeill said. "I expect Connor to play. He's a tough nut, a tough
hombre. ... I expect him to be back and, if not, I expect the offense
will be the same — throw the football, which coach Spurrier has always
done. The quarterback is a dual threat, which they have designed running
plays and zone read plays for him. It won't change with whatever
quarterback is playing.
" ... All those guys can
run and throw the football. It's just like last year's game with Garcia
and Connors in that game, too. ... The philosophy for Coach Spurrier
The Pirates have had their
own personnel issues to deal with.
McNeill said Wednesday
that nose guard
Michael Brooks would not play
Saturday at South Carolina. Brooks sustained a knee injury last week in
a 35-13 win over Appalachian State and will be out one to two weeks.
The nose guard rotation
this week will include Terrell Stanley,
Lee Pegues and Leroy Vick.
Terry Williams, another
nose guard, is scheduled to return next week at Southern Miss after
drawing a two-game suspension stemming from his arrest earlier this
summer. McNeill said charges in that case had been reduced.
Back from one-game
suspensions are receivers
Dayon Arrington, Danny Webster
and Antonio Cannon, who all missed the season opener.
"That will help the
rotation," McNeill said. "It gives us depth at all three receiver
positions at outside with Dayon, on the other side with Antonio and
Danny Webster, at inside receiver."
A right knee ailment kept
cornerback Leonard Paulk from playing against Appalachian State but he
returned to practice on Sunday and is expected to be available this
"We've just got to knock
the rust off of him," McNeill said. "We're hoping he's ready to go. He
practiced good on Monday. He got work Sunday and Monday so I'm expecting
Leonard to be ready to go."
Another hot one
The forecast for Columbia,
SC, on Saturday is calling for a high of 89 degrees with a 30 percent
chance of rain. Winds will be south-southwest and the humidity is
projected to be 77 percent. The UV index is nine, which is very high.
"We played at 12 (noon)
here in Greenville and Greenville is as hot as any place in the
country," McNeill said, referring to
the Pirates' win over Appalachian State
last Saturday in oppressive conditions. "It was smoking here and humid.
I think we had that test last week."
The stands had thinned
considerably from the paid attendance of 49,023 due to the temperature
with the issue still in doubt in the second half.
"I was surprised to see
it, too," McNeill said. "It was hot on the field. I think it was hotter
on the field than it was in the stands. It might have been over 100 on
the field. ... I hope the fans will hydrate and take care of themselves
Article continues below
the following photo
near-capacity crowd at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium last Saturday
had thinned in deference to the heat by the time Appalachian
State quarterback Jamal Jackson (12) dropped back to pass in
the third quarter. (Bonesville photo / W.A. Myatt)
News sources reported that
about 300 people were treated for heat-related symptoms at Dowdy-Ficklen
Stadium last week.
"Any of the fans who had a
setback because of the heat, I hope they're doing OK," McNeill said.
Ruff's been there
Williams-Brice Stadium is
one of many venues in college football that McNeill has become familiar
with during the course of his career as a college player and coach, a
span which dates back to 1976.
"Columbia is a tough place
to play," he said. "I've played in it as a player in that stadium. It
was all (synthetic) turf at that time. I've coached in that stadium."
As a player, McNeill was a
sophomore strong safety for Pirates coach Pat Dye when ECU took a 19-16
loss to the Gamecocks in Columbia in 1977. As a graduate assistant at
Clemson in 1985, McNeill was on the winning side in a 24-17 Tigers
victory at South Carolina. McNeill was defensive line coach at ECU in
1992 when the Pirates, with Coach Steve Logan at the helm, topped host
South Carolina, 20-18, in a rainstorm.
"It'll be a great
atmosphere," said the third-year Pirates coach. "It's an SEC opponent,
well-coached. Coach Spurrier is one of the top coaches in the game and
has been for a long time. They have a very talented football team on all
three sides of the ball. We know we have our hands full ... but we're
looking forward to it."
Coaches used to say that
the biggest improvement occurred from the first week to the second week.
The timing of that bump would be good for the Pirates as they face a
team that is tied for ninth nationally in the Associated Press poll.
techniques are the areas where McNeill is looking for ECU to take a step
"Playing with better
footwork and hand placement and lower pad level," said the Pirates
skipper. "Playing 11-man football, which means executing our offense,
defense and special teams, where everybody is on the same page
Tignor booms punts
Trent Tignor's debut as
punter for the Pirates showed promise. His attempts to pooch a pair
early in the game resulted in touchbacks but he showed the ability to be
a positive factor in field position as he averaged 44.5 yards on four
efforts with a longest of 58 yards. Tignor boomed some high spirals
against the Mountaineers.
"He's a defensive player,
really, because he changes field position," McNeill said. "He did a very
good job of hang time and distance. We tried to pin 'em on some pooch
kicks, one that we couldn't get and the second one that I thought we
should have gotten with better 11-man football on special teams."
Confidence is a valuable
commodity when playing in an 80,250-seat SEC arena against a
"I think they believe in
themselves and each other," McNeill said. "That's always going to be a
continual process there. They believed during the game last week even
though things were not as smooth as you might hope. They stayed poised
and confident in themselves and their teammates. They know they've all
invested a lot of energy and time and sacrifice. When everybody has
invested, then everybody has that mutual respect and that's what this
The focus required for
success on the road has been a point of emphasis since the Pirates
opened preseason practice.
"We've talked about
travelling from the first day of fall camp," McNeill said. "I don't look
ahead but I thought I had to prepare our team for three games on the
road that we're about to face. So it was presented in fall camp on three
occasions. I brought it up again just to let them know about the stadium
and how many it seats, the turf that they'll be playing on, the locker
room that we'll be dressing in, the environment. It will be a live
crowd. I've played in it and coached in it. I could give them actual
feedback on that.
"Again, it's just making
sure we worry about ourselves, making routine plays, making sure we give
all we've got on every play, which I think this team has done since
we've been here, but continue to do that and let's go have a good time."
ECU had just three
penalties for 30 yards last year against South Carolina while the
Gamecocks were flagged eight times for 55 yards.
penalty-free football has been a building block in McNeill's regime. The
Pirates had just two penalties for 25 yards last week against
According to ECU sources,
Saturday's game in Columbia will be called by a Conference USA crew. SEC
officials worked the matchup in Charlotte a year ago.
The Pirates can't do any
better from a penalty standpoint than their flag free day in the second
game last season against Virginia Tech.
E-mail Al Myatt
Al Myatt Archives
09/06/2012 10:40 AM