View from the East
Friday, February 27, 2015

By Al Myatt

Al Myatt

Evaluation simple on QB situation

HIGH PRIORITY: Dave Nichol (right), elevated by ECU to the offensive coordinator position after the departure of Lincoln Riley for Oklahoma, will count among his most important tasks before next season the identification of a successor to graduated quarterback Shane Carden.

ECU SID photo



In-depth with head coach Ruffin McNeill

In-depth with offensive coordinator Dave Nichol

In-depth with defensive coordinator Rick Smith

In-depth with RBs/special teams coach Kirk Doll



UConn rallies again

In a game that progressed similarly to an earlier American Athletic Conference matchup, Connecticut was too much for East Carolina in the second half on Wednesday night before a black-out crowd of 6,856 in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.

The 2014 NCAA Tournament champions overcame a 33-24 halftime deficit to top the Pirates 60-49 as Ryan Boatwright scored 16 points. ... Story & photos...

Post-game: Lebo, Guilmette, Whisnant...

Pictured: Terry Whisnant attempts a shot in the paint against UConn on Wednesday night. (Photo by W.A. Myatt)

Next: ECU at UCF | Saturday, 12 pm
| TV: ESPNN | The Season |



ECU closes Classic with win

Cfter a tough 4-3 loss to No. 24 Liberty on Sunday afternoon, East Carolina bounced back with a 9-2 win over St. John's on Sunday evening at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

The Pirates (2-4) finished the 12th annual Keith LeClair Classic with a 2-1 record. ECU stranded the tying run at third in the bottom of the ninth against the Flames. ... Story & pictures...

Post-game: Godwin, Lucroy & Lowery...

Pictured: David Lucroy delivers against St. John's. The junior right-hander went seven innings allowing one run on five hits with three strikeouts in his first win of the year. (Photo  by W.A. Myatt)

Next: ECU vs. Albany | Friday, 4 pm



Pirates surge past USF

East Carolina started the second half on an 11-0 run after building a 35-25 lead in the first 20 minutes and the Pirates went on to a 73-60 win over South Florida on Saturday. ECU got 19 points each from Caleb White and B.J. Tyson in its fourth straight win at home. ... More...

Post-game: Lebo, Guilmette & White...

Pictured: ECU sophomore guard Caleb White launches a jumper during ECU's 73-60 American Athletic Conference win over South Florida on Saturday at Minges Coliseum. White nailed five of six 3-point attempts and scored 19 points. (Photo by W.A. Myatt)


ECU rallies past UNCG

Cliff Godwin got his first win as coach of East Carolina as the Pirates rolled past UNC-Greensboro, 8-3, in the opening game of the 2015 Keith LeClair Classic. The Spartans had taken a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth but ECU answered with two runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth. ... More...

Post-game: Godwin & Lowery...

Pictured: ECU freshman Jackson Mims (20) is congratulated by teammates after an eighth- inning sacrifice fly in the opening game of the Keith Leclair Classic. After falling behind early, the Pirates used offensive firepower to roar back for the victory. (Photo by W.A. Myatt)

By Al Myatt
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Review ECU's 2014 Football Season


The East Carolina quarterback situation will get a lot of Dave Nichol's attention in the offseason with the exit of Shane Carden, who started for most of the last three seasons and recently took part in the NFL combine after a record breaking college career and a couple of conference offensive player of the year awards.

Spring practice starts March 20 and the spring game is set for April 18.

"Right now we've got five quarterbacks on the roster," said Nichol, who was promoted to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach after Lincoln Riley went to Oklahoma following the 2014 season. "Kurt Benkert, Blake Kemp and Cody Keith are our three scholarship guys. They're going to get quite a few reps this spring. We're just going to let them go compete. Obviously, Kurt was the No. 2 guy during the season. Cody was hurt. Blake was over there kind of redshirting on the scout team. Kurt will probably go out there as No. 1 but they're all going to get a bunch of reps. The way we practice, we get a lot of reps for our guys. We'll kind of go from there."

There are two walk-on quarterbacks on the roster, Jason Connella and Ray Smith.

"We'll be able to see what they can do as well by the way we practice and throw it around," Nichol said.

Story continues after the following picture...

In limited action as a backup last season to Shane Carden, rising redshirt sophomore Kurt Benkert (6) compiled some highlights, including this scoring run in the season opener against N.C. Central. (Photo by W.A. Myatt)

ECU's former outside receivers coach talked about the qualities of the scholarship quarterbacks.

"Kurt, first and foremost, is a really-motivated guy," Nichol said. "He's a big, strong guy. He's great in the weight room. He's great in the class room. He's obviously been here, kind of doing it behind Shane really for two years so to speak. He really wants to be the guy. He can probably run better than most people think. ... He's just really physically talented. Getting him to really absorb the offense even better than he has is kind of the goal with him.

"Cody Keith had the Tommy John surgery but his arm is coming back pretty good. He's a thrower. He's a talented guy who's always been able to throw it. Like all of them, his challenge will be how they can function when 11 guys are out there and moving the ball. He's a good kid. Smart kid. He's already graduated. Big, tall kind of passer."

Kemp transferred from Mesa (AZ) Community College before the 2014 season.

"I'm interested to see kind of what he's all about," Nichol said. "He was on the scout team last year and did a good job for them. He's an intelligent guy. He was a junior college kid who had run this offense basically. ... He gets it done in different ways. I'll be anxious to see him throw it around, too."

Nichol said the evaluation of Carden's successor will be simple.

"Whoever moves the ball the best," he said. "I've already told all them this. Whoever moves the ball the best. You get us moving down the field with first downs, that's the guy who's going to be the starter. However that happens. Somebody who doesn't turn the ball over and moves us down the field.

"The most important statistic well first, wins but then if you break it down offensively is scoring. Whoever takes us down the field to score, that's who's going to play. Obviously, that entails a lot of other stuff but that's very simple and it's very true. Then you go into not taking sacks, not throwing picks, not having negative yardage. A lot of times it starts with really just minimizing mistakes.

"Whoever it is, it's going to be their first game to start (Sept. 5, at home against Towson). That's something that we're not used to the last couple of years with a guy like Shane. So as opposed to making ridiculous, crazy plays, let's make sure we minimize mistakes because I think we've got some good talent around them. Throwing it to the right guy and moving the ball down the field, even though that's simple, that's still the name of the game."

Sizing up the running game

The running game has the potential to take some pressure off the Pirates' first-year starter at quarterback.

Chris Hairston, Anthony Scott, Marquez Grayson and Cory Hunter are among the experienced returners at running back.

"That's where it all starts," Nichol said. "Then you've got your play action passes off the thing, which can be very effective. We've got a bunch of linemen returning, long story short, so that's going to help us in that running game. We've got to lean on those guys and they've got to improve. Just because they're seniors doesn't mean they've got it all figured out. We've got to lean on them up front to help take some pressure off the quarterback and sometimes the passing game. We hope to improve that running game next year, no doubt."

Running back Chris Mangus sat out last season after transferring from Virginia Tech.

"He did some good things in the fall," Nichol said of Mangus. "He's got to keep doing that and keep taking care of his academics and all that kind of stuff. He's like a bunch of guys on offense. We're just going to wait and see throw the ball out there and see what they can do this spring. He can catch a little bit. He can run a little bit, but he's still got to kind of continue to grow and mature on and off the field. He's trying to do that."

Significant losses at receiver

The Pirates lose outstanding receivers Justin Hardy and Cam Worthy, both of whom were involved in the NFL combine in Indianapolis in February. There is still depth among the pass targets.

"We've got a good group coming back," Nichol said. "Obviously, those guys are motivated to step up and do some good things. We feel good about starting on the right outside, Davon Grayson and Jimmy Williams, then inside with Bryce Williams, Isaiah Jones, Quay Johnson. Travon Brown and Terrell Green. We feel really good about those guys.

"Each of them have to step up in different ways because that's a lot of production we lost. ... Collectively, I think we'll be able to get it done but that's the challenge. The one thing we talked to them about was Justin never missed practice. He never got hurt. He was just super consistent. That's why he could make all those catches and all those plays. Just showing up and being there every day. There's something to be said about that. The young guys will grow up and mature. That's what they've got to do. We'd like them to do it sooner than later."

Review ECU's 2014 Football Season

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