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View from the East
Friday, May 11, 2012

By Al Myatt

Al Myatt

Casting a wary eye on 2012 opponents

A Look at the Foes: Part III of IV



Part III: Mem, UAB, Navy

Part IV: UH, Tulane, Mar

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

View the Mobile Alpha version of this page.


Casting a wary eye on 2012 opponents: Part III
Pirates in search of something truly special
Pirates reel in a big catch in Smith
Smithmyer shines, ECU strolls
Big play RB Lee aims for quick impact
Sweep propels ECU down home stretch
Naysayers have it wrong on C-USA
ECU finishes off Herd as Wright delivers
Pirates snatch extra-inning thriller
Brandt corrals Herd as ECU sails
Casting a wary eye on 2012 opponents: Part II

In the third installment of our examination of East Carolina's 2012 football opponents, we'll be looking at the Homecoming game with Memphis on Oct. 13, a trip to Alabama-Birmingham on Oct. 20 and Navy's visit to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Oct. 27.

Two of the three Pirate foes in the third quarter of the upcoming regular season will have new coaches, which usually means adjustments in terms of systems and personnel.

Let's proceed with the preview.

Memphis at ECU, Oct. 13 (Homecoming)

Seven has been a lucky number for East Carolina. That's seven, as in the seventh game of the season, which is the schedule slot the Memphis Tigers occupy on the Pirates' docket for the upcoming campaign.

ECU has won six straight seventh games. The last loss on the seventh playing date of a season came in 2005 during Skip Holtz's first year as Pirates coach when the same Memphis program topped visiting ECU 27-24 at the Liberty Bowl.

The seventh game last season produced a memorable conquest with ECU winning 38-35 at Navy as Dominique Davis completed an NCAA record 26 consecutive passes. The Pirates were able to extract some payback for a 76-35 trouncing at the hands of the Midshipmen in the ninth game of 2010.

Another indicator for potential Pirate success is ECU's record in Homecoming games. Since 1955, ECU is 47-10 at the alumni gatherings, an 82.5 winning percentage.

Memphis is a program in transition, having dismissed Larry Porter as coach after going 2-10 overall and 1-7 in Conference USA in 2011.

The Tigers brought in Justin Fuente from national power Texas Christian. Fuente had been working as quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator for the Horned Frogs. From 2008 to 2010, TCU was the only program in the country that finished in the Top 10 in both the Associated Press and USA today polls. Fuente worked with Frog quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Casey Pachall. TCU was the only program in the nation to have two different signal callers ranked in the top 10 in passing efficiency over the last three years.

Jacob Karam, a transfer from Texas Tech, and Tigers returner Taylor Reed split snaps at the quarterback position in the spring game. Karam, a junior, completed 7 of 16 for 159 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Reed, a sophomore, connected on 8 of 16 passes for 58 yards.

Fuente will continue the teaching process in preseason practice. He wants a heightened tempo on offense and has been concerned about the tendency of the defense to give up big plays.

The Tigers start the Fuente era at home against Tennessee-Martin. They'll visit Arkansas State, host Middle Tennessee State and travel to Duke before initiating their last season in C-USA at home against Rice the week before their junket to Greenville. The Tigers' schedule provides the potential to gain some momentum before playing the Pirates.

ECU's game before tangling with the Tigers will be on Thursday night, Oct. 4, at Central Florida, which will give the Pirates a little extra preparation time before the 2012 Homecoming matchup.

ECU at Alabama-Birmingham, Oct. 20

Five years under former ECU assistant Neil Callaway produced an 18-42 record for the Blazers and led to his resignation as head coach after a 3-9 season in 2011.

The Blazers hired Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee as his successor. McGee played quarterback at Oklahoma, throwing for 2,449 career yards. He spent four years at Northwestern from 2004 to 2007, the last two as offensive coordinator before joining the Razorbacks staff.

McGee's philosophy on offense will be to put as much pressure as possible on the defense through different personnel groups and varying formations for base plays.

The approach depends on a high level of execution from the quarterback position where Jonathan Perry returns. McGee watched the Blazers defeat eventual league champion Southern Miss 34-31 on Nov. 17, an indication perhaps of UAB's potential.

Perry completed 174 of 300 passes for 2,042 yards with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions last season. He split time with Bryan Ellis in a 28-23 loss to ECU in Greenville last season. Perry completed 9 of 16 for 106 yards in that contest as the Pirates overcame seven turnovers for their first win in 2011. Perry also possesses running ability, having netted 294 yards on the ground last season with three scores.

Perry connected on 12 of 19 passes for 238 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Green team to a 43-8 win over the White in UAB's spring game on April 24. Jamarcus Nelson had three catches for 117 yards and two TDs. Josh Greer completed 6 of 10 passes for 137 yards.

McGee felt the program was on the right track in terms of attitude and energy after spring practice. Skill personnel projects as a team strength but there are voids on the offensive line to deal with as well as the need for improvement on defense.

McGee wants to play an attacking style on defense. The Blazers allowed 36.8 points per game last season. UAB faces adjustments for a defensive unit that was among the worst nationally in 2011.

The Blazers have struggled to develop significant fan support in a state which divides the bulk of its allegiance between Alabama and Auburn. There is very little in the way of tradition for McGee to build on.

The Pirates have won five straight against UAB to lead the series, 7-4. The Blazers have won three of five at home against ECU.

Navy at ECU, Oct. 27

The Midshipmen absolutely shredded an injury-riddled ECU defense on their last visit to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in 2010. The Pirates adjusted their scheme from a four-man front to a 3-4 after posting woeful defensive numbers in Coach Ruffin McNeill's first season at the helm. Depth and the talent level of personnel also have been improved on that side of the ball.

There are voids for the Pirates to fill, particularly with the departures of Derek Blacknall and Emanuel Davis at the corners, but by the ninth game of the season, hopefully ECU will have those potential issues resolved.

A 38-35 setback from the Pirates in Annapolis was the fifth defeat in a six-game losing streak for Navy last season. The Midshipmen went 5-7 but still managed to end the season on an up note with a 27-21 triumph over arch rival Army. Five of the losses were by a total of 11 points.

Navy had gotten used to winning for nine straight seasons and obviously there is a desire to atone within the program for the 2011 downturn.

The Midshipmen are one of the few run-first offenses the Pirates will encounter. Defending the triple option flexbone poses a substantial challenge.

The Midshipmen averaged 312.2 yards rushing per game last season and are perennially among the national leaders in that phase. There were graduation losses to deal with in spring ball. Among those were quarterback Kriss Proctor, some top ball carriers and three starters on the offensive line. Jabaree Tuani, who had 13.5 tackles for loss in his senior year, is another significant departure.

Fullback Noah Copeland had 66 yards on nine carries in the Navy spring game and a returning corps of linebackers should be a strength on defense.

Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo didn't protect his quarterbacks from contact at the outset of spring ball. He weighed the risk of injury but said his field generals and defense needed the work. The Navy quarterbacks run and read a lot more than they throw anyway. Trey Miller backed up Proctor last season. Josh Hendrick and Cody West project as Miller's backups.

Noseguard Travis Bridges had a promising spring but the Mids don't see the type of passing offenses they face during the season while involved in intra-squad combat.

Navy will start the 2012 season against Notre Dame in Dublin, Ireland, on Sept. 1. That kickoff will be at 9 a.m., Eastern time.

Perhaps the Pirates will be able to scout some of that clash on game day of their own season opener with Appalachian State.

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05/11/2012 01:57 AM


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