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View from the East
Thursday, September 8, 2011

By Al Myatt

Conference dominoes starting to teeter

Players Responding to Camp Connors, Part II

The Tenth Anniversary Edition of Bonesville The Magazine has rolled off the presses. Among the wide- ranging features in its 100 pages is a revealing report by Bonesville columnist Al Myatt on the immediate impact East Carolina strength and conditioning guru Jeff Connors is having on the team since his return to the program.  Both the traditional print and online Flash versions of Bonesville The Magazine may be ordered through links elsewhere on this page.



Conference dominoes starting to teeter
Basketball Recruiting Thumbnail: Mike Zangari
Football Recruiting Thumbnail: Hunter Furr
Conference USA Standings & Schedule
We've seen this before...
Audio: Ruffin McNeill Game Week Presser
McNeill shedding more than weight
• Game Center: South Carolina 56, ECU 37
• Box Score / Statistics
• Audio: Ruffin McNeill Post-game Presser
• Game Day Photo Gallery
• Myatt: Pirates catch fumbleitis
• O'Brien: ECU 'D' shows promise
• Monroe: Kevin's Keys to the Game
• ECU Schedule, Scores, Attendance


Cliff Perryman
Ben Ryan
Matt Milner
Joe Womack
Michael Dobson
Hugh Parker
Will Simmons
Antonio Allison
Ty Holmes
Marke Powell
Damon Magazu
Michael Barbour
Derek Blacknall
Grant Harner
Justin Jones
Torrance Hunt
Andrew Bodenheimer
Michael Brooks
Lance Lewis
Justin Dixon

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

The news that the Southeastern Conference had accepted Texas A&M indicated that another round of musical chairs was cranking up in terms of conference affiliations. The Aggies' proposed move from the Big 12 is subject to litigation but the point relevant to East Carolina is the potential for openings to be created in the SEC, ACC or Big East.

The Pirates fit the mindset of the SEC with their traditional emphasis on football but a lot of programs are apparently ahead of ECU on the list of possibilities if the SEC goes to 14 or perhaps even 16 teams.

The possible departure of ACC teams to the SEC could create potential openings for the Pirates. The ACC would be the best fit geographically for ECU and travel costs are definitely a more important factor than when the ACC added Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College effective in the 2004-05 scholastic year.

The ACC's last expansion has not elevated the league's football to the level envisioned. To a degree, things have gone in the opposite direction. Several programs have run afoul of NCAA regulations in their attempts to upgrade their football programs. Miami is a repeat offender and the case could be made that the Hurricanes have taken several programs down the tube with them in the rush to achieve gridiron success without the necessary awareness of how significant advances are being made.

In plain terms, UNC-Chapel Hill hired former Hurricanes coach Butch Davis and now the Tar Heels are trying to excavate themselves from a Miami-like mess. ACC commissioner Johnny Swofford, in his desire for big time football in the league, indirectly set in motion the events that have so damaged his alma mater's integrity with the multitude of improprieties that have come to light.

One thing we've seen is that big time football success is often accompanied by NCAA violations. See also Ohio State, Southern Cal, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Boise State, et al.

So be careful what you wish for and realize that small steps up the ladder of success may be the most prudent course.

That said, there is no doubt that the grass — and money — is greener on the BCS side of the fence.

Former ECU coach Steve Logan was well aware of what a major conference affiliation could do. He said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer told him what an impact joining the Big East had in enabling the Hokies in recruiting. Too bad none of the North Carolina programs in the ACC advocated for ECU in 2003 in the manner that Virginia did for the Hokies. Virginia Tech has been the lone addition to significantly enhance the ACC's football profile.

Louisville's potential departure from the Big East to the SEC also could create a slot in a BCS conference for the Pirates.

But the big time also has its potential downside and the bigger you are, the farther the fall.

Don't believe anything until it is formally announced. Several weeks ago, the SEC said it wasn't adding teams. Now that that bit of deception is out of the way, the musical chairs can begin.

Ruff, Pirates eye improvement

East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill has said he is looking forward to seeing the proverbial improvement that is made from week one to week two in college football. Part of that progress is based on understanding what went wrong in the first game and correcting it.

The Pirates jumped out to a 17-0 lead on No. 12 South Carolina and led 24-14 at the half in their season opener at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Three straight turnovers by the Pirates on their end of the field to start the second half resulted in three quick touchdowns by the Gamecocks for a 35-24 lead. USC went on to a 56-37 win.

Evaluating film and then teaching on the practice field is the process by which the coaching staff implements improvement. The experience the players gained from facing a talented Southeastern Conference team also has value in terms of their development.

"I wanted to make sure we played hard and fast." McNeill said. "We did that from beginning to end. When you watch the film, and I watched the game twice, with the coaches and by myself, we played hard and fast. The second thing was to play smart. I've been talking about this item. That's with penalties and with decision making during the game. We did that, especially penalty-wise. We had three penalties. South Carolina had eight. That will be valuable to us and beneficial to us as the year goes on if we continue that trend. We're working to make sure we do that as coaches and players. That's got to continue.

"The third thing we talked about was turnover ratio. The first half, it was 4-1, our favor. We had the lead going in (to the locker room). The second half, it was 0-4, their favor, and that was the tale of the game. We need to make sure we take care of the football and take it away. That's what we have to improve on.

"The last two items: Did we compete the entire game? Yes, we did. Were we in great condition? Yes, we were. I was pleased with what Jeff Connors (ECU assistant athletic director for strength and conditioning) and Emmanuel (McDaniel) are doing. I was very pleased with that part. They did not throw us around, strength-wise. It was not a game where we got mashed around. Yeah, they got us sometimes but we got them, too. Our defensive line did a great job maintaining their own against a top-notch offensive line last week in South Carolina.

"I was pleased with those things. We've emphasized those things. The thing we've got to correct would be the turnover ratio."

I agree with everything Ruff said except in regard to the penalties. South Carolina was called for eight. Notable among the missed calls by the Southeastern Conference crew was a clip on a punt return for a touchdown by the Gamecocks. I've also got a photo of a South Carolina hand turning Reggie Bullock's head as it grasped his facemask.

I'm not saying the officials decided the game. The Pirates opened the door with their second half mistakes and the Gamecocks went through it like cops on a bust.

Hokies kings of the mountains

If there were such a thing as a football championship of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia Tech's 66-13 win over Appalachian State in Blacksburg on Saturday would be a good basis to claim it. The Mountaineers are traditionally one of the best Football Championship Subdivision programs in the nation and that gave the magnitude of the Hokies' season-opening win its astounding quality.

It was 52-0 early in the third quarter.

"They are a typical Frank Beamer-coached football team," McNeill said. "They're well-coached on all three sides of the ball. They feature special teams and defense every year. Bud Foster (Virginia Tech defensive coordinator) has been with coach Beamer at Virginia Tech for 25 years, close to that — and even before that at Murray State, they were together. Special teams and defense have been a trademark. It's still that way today.

"Offensively, they've always had a system and something they believe in. When they lost Tyrod (Taylor) last year, who was a great quarterback and a winning quarterback, you wonder about that position and they replaced him with Logan Thomas. He's 6-foot-6 and 240-plus pounds. He can run and throw the football equally-well. All big quarterbacks now will be compared to Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. (Thomas) is built the same way. He can run that way. They have designed plays for him. He can throw the ball just like that. He's a weapon.

"They definitely got after Appalachian State. They played well. At the running back position, David Wilson, he rotated last year with those other two guys. No disrespect to them but I was really scared of David Wilson. He's a return guy and he's got that breakaway speed. He's a big time player there on offense for them. ... Coach Beamer does not have a team. He has a program. Year in and year out, they just reload. They don't replace. Their offensive line has four out of five returners, who started on the (ACC) championship run.

"On defense, it's the same type of guys that Bud has had — 6-2, 6-3, 280 (pounds), 290, 300 that can run, powerful and athletic. They have a great football team, all three sides of the ball.

Scout team loses talented duo

Senior corner Emanuel Davis and senior receiver Michael Bowman served a one-game suspension for the South Carolina game and will be back for the 3:30 p.m. game Saturday against the Hokies.

"It will be good to add them back to the mix," McNeill said. "I was pleased with the way Leonard Paulk stepped up. The way you know if a defensive back played well — you don't notice him — and you didn't notice Leonard in the game. That means Leonard held his own, which made us a stronger football team. Emanuel is welcomed back with open arms. He did a great job on scout team for us. He worked extremely hard, had a great attitude and so did Michael.

"Michael had another tough time. His mother passed away last week and they had the funeral on Saturday so he had to bury his Mom last week the afternoon of the South Carolina game. He had a tough week but he's back now ready to go. I'm excited to have both of those guys back on the team and so is our team. They've done a great job and had great attitudes. We're ready to go."

No place like home

ECU set a record for football season ticket sales and a sellout is expected on Saturday.

"I was very pleased with how we traveled to Charlotte," McNeill said.

Pirate fans had a considerable presence among the crowd of 58,272 in the Queen City.

"I knew we would," said the ECU coach. "That's why we're a great bowl draw. The stands were full of purple. There were some Gamecock fans in that group but I was so pleased with how our fans came out and supported us. It made us feel really at home, there in Charlotte, but Dowdy-Ficklen is our home. ... The atmosphere at Dowdy-Ficklen is second to none. It's big time football. It's a big time atmosphere. I really love the atmosphere. I've been away for so long. To come back to it last year in that first game against Tulsa and what it has built to and grown to over the years is phenomenal.

"I'm looking forward to getting our team into Dowdy-Ficklen and getting around our fans again at home and making sure we play well — play hard and play fast — and continue those things I mentioned. We need to keep improving on those things we need to as a football team but I'm looking forward to being at home. I sure am."

Watching out for lightning

Severe weather has pounded Greenville the last couple of weeks, starting with Hurricane Irene the weekend before the South Carolina game. McNeill said the Pirates have not had to drastically alter their practice schedule.

"If it's just raining, we're fine, we're going," he said. "If it's lightning, of course you can't go — if lightning is within a range of our city. Mike Hanley (head trainer) and Antonio Huffman (director of football operations) alert us to that. If lightning comes, we're off the field immediately. If it's raining, we can go get it done. We have a (synthetic) turf field and we can work on that turf field and get some work done."

Ruff's home damaged

McNeill's dwelling in Greenville took a hit from Irene.

"It ended up being 15 trees in our yard and one came on our house," McNeill said. "It's O.K. We've got to get everything fixed and we're moving along on that. We're getting our yard back to somewhat normal. The guy's doing a great job. Erlene (McNeill's wife) does so much for me, I can't even begin. She set all of that up. She's a coach's wife, a C-Dub and she takes care of me. We were just blessed. A lot of families were worse off than we were. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them.

"I just heard last night that some people were without power for four, five or six days. We were fine and we're wishing that everyone else comes through everything fine. ... I'm thankful for what we have. The tree falling on the house — I was thankful that nobody got hurt. It didn't come through the house and hurt us. ... When the power went out, you did realize, 'Boy, I sure miss my TV.' But Erlene bought a weather radio so we listened to the weather radio the rest of the night.

"We had flashlights and candles and all that stuff."

Let's do it again

I enjoyed doing the State Line Power Rankings again last week so here's another round:

1. East Carolina (first 30 minutes last week) ... The Pirates looked impressive in building a first-half lead in Charlotte.

2. South Carolina ... Veteran quarterback Jeff Garcia was the catalyst in the comeback and ECU's turnovers provided the means.

3. Clemson ... Tigers wore out, who was it? Wofford, Presbyterian ... oh yeah, Troy. Wofford is this week. Then Auburn, a real test.

4. North Carolina ... Butch didn't know he was getting a game ball and therefore can't be held accountable.

5. N.C. State ... Liberty was a Wolfpack snack. Maybe Wake Forest will be more of a test — or a larger feast.

6. Wake Forest ... Deacons folded in the Carrier Dome with an injury to quarterback Tanner Price and some questionable calls.

7. East Carolina (second half last week) ... It was a tale of two halves and the second one didn't have a happy ending.

8. Duke ... A loss to Richmond isn't exactly the springboard the Devils were looking for with Andrew Luck coming to town.

E-mail Al Myatt

Al Myatt Archives

10/04/2011 01:33 AM


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