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View from the 'ville
Thursday, March 27, 2008

By Al Myatt

Editor's Note: This is part one of a two-part series in which Al Myatt looks ahead to East Carolina's football schedule and sizes up the spring status of the Pirates' 2008 opponents. Part two was published on April 3.

Foes gearing up for football season

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

East Carolina held its eighth session of spring practice on Wednesday in preparation for a highly-challenging schedule in 2008. Across the region and around Conference USA, the Pirates' opponents are about their offseason business as well.

As we did last spring, let's take a tour of the camps of teams that ECU will match up against this season. We'll visit the first half dozen today and take a look at the programs comprising the last six games of the Pirates' 2008 schedule next week.

Aug. 30 vs. Virginia Tech (Charlotte)

The Hokies started spring practice on Wednesday without running back Brandon Ore, who had run for 2,129 yards and 26 touchdowns over the last two seasons. Coach Frank Beamer said last week that discussions with Ore had resulted in his exit from the program but Beamer did not explain further.

The quarterback situation may be more clearly defined than during an 11-3 season in 2007 that included the ACC championship in a rematch with Boston College before a disappointing 24-21 Orange Bowl loss to overachieving Kansas. Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon split time last season with some speculating that Taylor may get the job this season because of his overall athleticism.

Taylor, who made five starts, is a run-throw threat, averaging 4.2 yards on 102 keepers last season. He completed 53.7 percent of his passes for 927 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions.

The Hokies lost seven starters on defense and five on offense. There are also significant special team voids to address.

Position changes include Kam Chancellor from rover to free safety, Victor Harris from field corner to boundary corner and Ed Wang from right to left offensive tackle. Harris will also get a look at flanker.

Tech's spring game is April 19 at 2 p.m. at Lane Stadium.

Sept. 6 vs. West Virginia (Greenville)

The Mountaineers promoted Bill Stewart to head coach following a 48-28 win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl and the departure of Rich Rodriguez to Michigan. But Stewart isn't just seeking to maintain the status quo in terms of offensive and defensive systems.

With running back Steve Slaton leaving Morgantown after his junior season and three 1,000-yard rushing seasons, the new WVU boss is planning to open up the passing game. Jeff Mullen is the new offensive coordinator. The Mountaineers have thrown a lot off of play action but will now incorporate a greater variety of routes in their air game.

The new approach should feature the abilities of talented quarterback Patrick White but the running game will remain a staple with Noel Devine expected to perform in the vacated tailback spot.

There are seven players returning who have started games on defense and 13 players who have made starts on offense. Four offensive linemen are out for the spring with injuries as the Mountaineers head toward their spring game on April 19.

West Virginia's second round NCAA basketball win over Duke meant that Mountaineers back-up quarterback Jarrett Brown will remain with the hoops team for another week.

Sept. 13 vs. Tulane (New Orleans)

Tulane has produced some outstanding players in the Conference USA era, including quarterbacks Shaun King and J.P. Losman and running back Matt Forte, who was second in rushing in the Bowl Subdivision as a senior last season with 2,127 yards.

The Pirates downed the Green Wave 35-12 late in the season last year despite 120 yards rushing by Forte, who was averaging 182 coming into that game. Forte's share of the offensive load will have to be carried by someone else this season.

With Forte, the Wave managed four wins last season. His absence will put even more pressure on a group of quarterbacks led by Anthony Scelfo, the nephew of former Tulane coach Chris Scelfo. Scott Elliott and Kevin Moore also saw time at quarterback but as a threesome they combined for 12 interceptions and just 10 touchdowns.

Second-year coach Bob Toledo has some potentially-sound receivers, Jeremy Williams and Brian King, if he can settle on a passer who can consistently deliver the ball. Redshirt freshman Joe Kemp could figure in the quarterback picture.

One upside for the Wave is that guards Troy Kropog and Michael Parenton, who helped spring Forte last season, are back.

Tulane opened spring workouts on Wednesday and has its spring game on April 19.

Sept. 20 vs. N.C. State (Raleigh)

An advantage that second-year coaches such as Toledo and the Wolfpack's Tom O'Brien will enjoy this spring is that there will be considerably less teaching of new systems to be done compared to this time a year ago.

O'Brien was trying to learn his players' names while teaching them terminology and schemes during spring workouts in 2007. There's still plenty of work to be done as the Pack preps for its Red-White game on April 19.

Only five starters return on offense and just four are back on defense. State must also replace kicker Steven Hauschka, who had 10 points in last season's 34-20 win in Greenville.

Quarterback Daniel Evans had shoulder surgery in the offseason. He will contend with returning QB's Harrison Beck and Justin Burke, along with redshirt freshman Russell Wilson, who is also a member of the baseball team.

Former Greenville Rose star running back Andre Brown is back from a broken foot and backfield depth should be an asset as Toney Baker and Jamelle Eugene also are proven ball carriers. Baker is still recovering from knee surgery and is sidelined for the spring.

The Pack will try to find some answers on defense where it allowed 186.4 yards rushing per game during a 5-7 season in 2007.

Sept. 27 vs. Houston (Greenville)

After restoring the Cougars to competitiveness, Art Briles accepted a new coaching challenge at Baylor but look for Houston to continue to be an exciting team.

The Cougars passed for 3,614 yards last season and ran for 2,911, totaling 484 yards in a 37-35 loss at home to ECU. That was just below their season average of 501.9 total yards per game.

New coach Kevin Sumlin may throw the ball even more than his predecessor. Houston's new offensive coordinator is Dana Holgorson, who came from Texas Tech, which subscribes to the theory that every down is a passing down.

Case Keenum returns after throwing for 2,259 yards and 14 touchdowns during an 8-5 season in 2007. Blake Joseph also is back after throwing for 1,324 yards and nine scores.

Issues to address in the spring include replacing the production of back Anthony Alridge, who rushed for 122.8 yards per game, and linebacker Rocky Schwartz, who was in on a team-high 103 stops. Both were seniors.

Houston's Red-White game is April 12.

Oct. 11 vs. Virginia (Charlottesville)

The Cavaliers will have just five starters back on each side of the ball and must deal with some major personnel losses, some of which were not anticipated. All-American defensive end Chris Long, offensive guard and tight end Tom Santi all exhausted their eligibility but sophomore quarterback Jameel Sewell, junior cornerback Chris Cook and sophomore defensive end Jeffrey Fitzgerald were reportedly waylaid by academic issues before leaving school.

A lot of holes must be filled before Virginia hosts Southern California in its season opener on Aug. 30.

Peter Lalich, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, is the most experienced returning quarterback but played in only eight games during a 9-4 season. It remains to be seen if senior Scott Deke, soph Marc Verica and redshirt freshmen Brendan Lane and Warner Blunt are pretenders or contenders as offensive leaders.

When Sewell was hurt and went out of the Gator Bowl, Lalich threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns.

Senior Cedrick Peerman is a proven entity at running back, gaining 585 yards in six games before going out with a foot injury. Mikell Simpson filled in capably when Peerman was sidelined. Tackles Eugene Monroe and Will Barker return on the offensive line but the entire defensive front is gone.

The Cavs also lost punter Ryan Weigand and kicker Chris Gould. Virginia fans can probably use a program to learn the new faces at the spring game on April

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04/02/2008 11:59:15 PM


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