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View from the 'ville
Thursday, April 3, 2008

By Al Myatt

Editor's Note: This is part two 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 one was published on March 27.

Part two: Spring football tour

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

Last week we looked at the first six opponents on East Carolina's 2008 football schedule and some of the issues each program faced in spring practice. We continue the tour of spring camps today with the remainder of ECU's 2008 opponents.

Oct. 18 vs. Memphis (Greenville)

With the Tigers basketball team gearing up for the Final Four this week, it's a safe bet that Coach Tommy West's football program has been conducting its offseason workouts in relative obscurity.

At the top of West's to-do list are finding a quarterback to replace Martin Hankins and shoring up a defense that yielded 32.2 points per game. Hankins threw for 292.7 yards per game and 25 touchdowns as Memphis went 6-2 in Conference USA and 7-6 overall.

The quarterback candidates include senior Will Hudgens, transfer Arkelon Hall, sophomore Matt Malouf and redshirt freshman Dallas Walker. Hudgens is devoting his spring efforts to pitching for the baseball team and is enough of a prospect that he may have to weigh his options if he were to be drafted in June. That has left Hall and Malouf competing in spring camp.

The Tigers' running game has struggled since DeAngelo Williams left. West would like to see Miguel Barnes or T.J. Pitts step up and take some pressure off the passing game.

Fullback Stacy Jones has returned to the team after a bout with cancer. Jones missed last spring and the 2007 season while undergoing treatment.

"It is great to have him back," West said. "Stacy has been through so much. He can tell these guys how thankful they should be to be able to be out here."

Receiver Duke Calhoun is missing spring as he rehabs from knee surgery but the Tigers will have their top seven receivers returning.

New defensive coordinator Tim Walton comes from Miami and the Tigers have added defensive backs coach Lytrel Pollard from Jeff Bowers' former staff at Southern Miss.

Memphis' spring game is April 12 at the Liberty Bowl.

Nov. 2 vs. Central Florida (Orlando)

The Knights program was dealt an emotional blow prior to the start of spring workouts when redshirt freshman wide receiver Ereck Plancher passed away from complications at the conclusion of a conditioning session.

Plancher's death came a day before spring practice was scheduled to start. Workouts were then delayed until after Easter weekend.

Plancher did not appear in a game during UCF's run to the Conference USA championship last season but coach George O'Leary praised his character and potential.

Nine returning starters on a defense that recorded 24 interceptions and 39 sacks project as a strength for the Knights.

The offense has just five starters back. Running back Kevin Smith, who led the nation in rushing with 183.3 yards per game, opted for the NFL after his junior season and quarterback Kyle Israel also must be replaced.

The quarterback competition should be intriguing with sophomore Joe Weatherford, the younger brother of Florida State quarterback Drew Weatherford, and junior run-throw threat Michael Greco the primary contenders for the starting job.

The spring game will be played April 12 for the first time at the new Bright House Networks Stadium on campus.

Nov. 8 vs. Marshall (Greenville)

The Thundering Herd disrupted East Carolina's bid for its first conference championship since 1976 with a 26-7 defeat in Huntington in the 11th game of the season in 2007.

Thankfully for the Pirates, the Herd star that day, Bernard Morris, who ran for 126 yards and threw for 238 more, was a senior. All C-USA center Doug Legursky also has departed.

This may be a pivotal season for coach Mark Snyder, who has just 12 wins in three seasons. He's revamped his staff, bringing in John Shannon from Toledo as offensive coordinator and former Cincinnati coach Rick Minter as defensive coordinator.

Projected stars include running back Darius Marshall, who made the All C-USA freshman team last season, defensive end Albert McClellan, who was the league's defensive player of the year in 2006, but sat out last season with torn knee ligaments, and All C-USA safety C.J. Spillman. Linebacker Maurice Kitchens returns after making 90 tackles and four sacks as a junior.

Tight end Cody Slate plus wide receivers Darius Passmore and Emmanuel Spann provide capable targets for a group of quarterback hopefuls which include Georgia Tech transfer Jonathan Garner, redshirt freshmen Mark Cann and Chris Smith, and 2007 back-ups Brian Anderson and Wesley Beardain.

Marshall's spring game is April 12.

Nov. 15 vs. Southern Miss (Hattiesburg)

The Golden Eagles probably won't be sending their tailback off tackle 30 or more times per game now that Larry Fedora has succeeded Jeff Bower as Southern Miss coach.

The program is making the transition to a spread passing attack. Southern Miss still has an outstanding running back, Damion Fletcher, to utilize when defenses are stretched by the new air game.

The development of quarterback Martevious Young in the new system this spring will be an important factor in a successful start for the new coach.

There also are voids to fill on the defensive side as all four members of the starting front are gone.

Fedora will put his new product on display at the spring game on April 12.

Nov. 22 vs. UAB (Birmingham)

With just two wins in his first season with the Blazers, Coach Neil Callaway went for immediate help and signed 11 junior college players.

Four returning starters on the offensive line give UAB realistic hope to improve an anemic ground game that was the least productive in C-USA. Running back Aaron Johns, a transfer from Alabama, appears to have resolved the academic issues that sidelined him a year ago.

Joe Webb should move into a starting role at quarterback after backing up Sam Hunt in 2007. Webb saw action in 11 games last season, completing 65 of 117 passes for 679 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. He also ran the ball 67 times for 348 yards.

There's also work to be done on the defensive side as the Blazers yielded 487.6 yards per game and an average of 35.1 points.

UAB's spring game is April 12.

Nov. 29 vs. Texas-El Paso (Greenville)

When it comes to the need for defensive improvement, the Miners are in much the same boat as UAB. Actually, UTEP's boat may be a little leakier. The Miners yielded 37.1 points per game last season and an average of 504.8 yards.

ECU was right on that average in piling up 507 yards of total offense in a 45-42 overtime win last season in El Paso in which Pirates quarterback Rob Kass performed some late-game heroics.

Coach Mike Price has a new defensive coordinator, Osia Lewis, who has brought a novel 3-3-5 alignment from New Mexico. After a pair of eight-win seasons, UTEP has had two losing campaigns.

Quarterback Trevor Vittatoe may be in the position of having to outscore opponents if Lewis can't get things tightened up on defense.

UTEP just started spring practice on Tuesday and has the last spring game in C-USA on May 2.

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04/02/2008 11:59:33 PM


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