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View from the 'ville
Thursday, April 8, 2010

By Al Myatt

Time to check on the other guys, Part I

View "Time to check on the other guys, Part II

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

As East Carolina goes through spring football practice making adaptations with a new coaching staff and its systems, programs around the country are preparing for the 2010 season with offseason workouts.

It's a good time to check on the teams the Pirates will face next season and see the issues they are dealing with in their own spring sessions. This week, we'll examine six programs, the first half of ECU's upcoming regular season schedule. Next week, we'll plan to take a look at the last half of the Pirates' foes for the 2010 season.

East Carolina will open its 2010 schedule on Sunday, Sept. 5, at 2 p.m. against Tulsa in newly-expanded Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in a Conference USA contest so let's start with a look at the Golden Hurricane.

Tulsa (Sept. 5, in Greenville), 2009 record: 5-7 overall, 3-5 C-USA. 2009 result: East Carolina 44, @ Tulsa 17

G.J. Kinne emerged from the quarterback competition in last year's spring practice to complete nearly 61 percent of his passes in 2009 for 2,732 yards with 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. One problem for Tulsa was its ground game as Kinne also was the leading rusher with 399 yards.

The Golden Hurricane managed just 30 yards on 31 rushes in a home loss to the Pirates on Nov. 15 last season in a rematch of the 2008 league championship game. ECU had a commanding 517-266 lead in total yardage.

Kinne, a transfer from Texas, is working with new co-offensive coordinator Chad Morris this spring. Morris was a highly-successful high school coach in Texas, contributing to the development of college quarterbacks such as Jevan Snead of Ole Miss.

Tulsa will carry the C-USA banner into South Bend on Oct. 30 for a non-conference game at Notre Dame. The Golden Hurricane started spring practice on March 10 and will conclude with its spring game on April 17.

Memphis (Sept. 11, in Greenville), 2009 record: 2-10 overall, 1-7 C-USA. 2009 result: East Carolina 38, @ Memphis 19

The Pirates can quickly establish themselves as contenders for a Conference USA three-peat with two league games to start the season. The Tigers are in much the same position as ECU with a new coaching staff trying to learn and shape personnel during the spring sessions.

Incoming Tigers coach Larry Porter will no doubt concern himself with some troubling areas during the 2009 season, the first being overall defense and the second being pass efficiency. Memphis was 11th and next to last in C-USA in both categories last year, allowing opponents 457.5 yards per game on offense while struggling to move the ball through the air.

Like the Pirates, the Tigers are in the midst of quarterback competition. Miami transfer Cannon Smith appears to be the leader with Tyler Bass, who has some starting experience, junior college transfer Andy Summerlin, redshirt freshman Will Gilchrist and true freshman Ryan Williams in the mix. Porter's staff is installing a pro set attack.

Another Miami transfer, Jermaine McKenzie, has looked good among a new wave of receivers. Porter credited the defense's play in a scrimmage last Friday. The Tigers have their spring game on April 17.

Virginia Tech (Sept. 18, in Blacksburg), 2009 record: 10-3 overall, 6-2 ACC. 2009 result: Virginia Tech 16, @ ECU 3

The Hokies hang their helmets on their defense, which returns six starters from a unit that was ninth nationally last season in average points allowed. Coach Frank Beamer's staff has moved some personnel to fill some voids on that side of the ball.

Redshirt freshman Jake Johnson has been shifted from linebacker, where he made 55 stops last season, to defensive end. James Hopper has been moved from cornerback to rover. Sophomore Lorenzo Williams has been relocated from safety to whip linebacker.

The most noteworthy move on the offense, which returns seven starters, sends Josh Oglesby from tailback to fullback. The most compelling competition this spring shapes up at the tailback spot where Ryan Williams will try to keep the starting job in a battle with Darren Evans, who was out last season with a torn ACL.

Virginia Tech took a hit on special teams with the losses of punter Brent Bowden and placekicker Matt Waldron. The Hokies hold their first scrimmage on Saturday and will conduct their spring game on April 24.

North Carolina (Oct. 2, in Chapel Hill), 2009 record: 8-5 overall, 4-4 ACC. 2009 result: @ North Carolina 31, ECU 17

The Pirates will get a week off after their trip to Virginia Tech, which should be of value considering the physical style of the Hokies. North Carolina has a demanding schedule before the ECU game, playing LSU in Atlanta on Sept. 4, Georgia Tech at home on Sept. 18 and venturing to Rutgers on Sept. 25.

More immediately, the Tar Heels are making a big push to create fan involvement in their spring game which will be televised this Saturday at 3 p.m. on ESPN. Admission will be free plus there are numerous promotions designed to attract spectators and keep the cameras from showing too many empty seats at Kenan Stadium.

It has already been a high profile spring for the North Carolina gridders, who heard motivational remarks from former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy in March.

With the basketball program coming off a down year, the timing may be right for the football program to get an offseason bounce from the fan base on Saturday. Senior T.J. Yates, who has passed for 5,959 yards in his career, will quarterback the Blue team. Redshirt freshman Bryn Renner will direct the White.

A.J. Blue, who occasionally took snaps last season in a Wildcat set, is among those expected to sit out due to injury. Running back Ryan Houston, the team's top rusher last season with 713 yards, has not participated in spring workouts so that he might concentrate on academics. Houston had scoring runs of one and five yards in the ECU game last year.

Tar Heels tailback Shaun Draughn has recovered from a shoulder injury and has refined his running technique in training sessions with the track team. Draughn had 19 carries for 84 yards against the Pirates in 2009. There are 10 starters returning on a defensive unit that limited ECU to 192 total yards in last season's contest in Chapel Hill.

Southern Miss (Oct. 9, in Hattiesburg), 2009 record: 7-6 overall, 5-3 C-USA. 2009 result: @ ECU 25, Southern Miss 20

The Golden Eagles also had a notable speaker this spring as alumnus Brett Favre, who most recently starred as quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings, showed up at practice on Monday.

"He was just talking about what it was like to play here and what it meant to play here, on that practice field and in that stadium," said Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora. "You could've heard a pin drop out there. Everyone was glued in and listening to what he had to say. You don't get many opportunities like that to get to listen to the greatest quarterback that ever played the game. He said a lot of things that were on his heart. It was good."

Southern Miss was the first C-USA team to start spring ball and will be the first league program to hold its spring game this Saturday. The Golden Eagles have already scrimmaged twice off campus at Ocean Springs High on the Gulf Coast and Clinton High to the north.

Quarterback Austin Davis, who missed the last eight games last year with a foot injury, has been limited in the spring. His replacement, Martevious Young, has thrown for over 400 yards in the two off-campus scrimmages. The Eagles must replace running back Damion Fletcher. Tracey Lampley ran for 108 yards on nine carries in the first scrimmage. Mookie Assad had a 96-yard kickoff return for a score at Ocean Springs.

V.J. Floyd has run for 92 and 63 yards in the two scrimmages. Senior linebacker Martez Smith is expected to be a leader on a defense which returns nine starters. Senior center Cameron Zipp is the lone starter back on the offensive line. Only four starters are back on offense. Fedora was unhappy with fumbles in the scrimmage at Clinton and also was disappointed with the number of big plays allowed by the defense.

Southern Miss opens its 2010 season at South Carolina on Sept. 2. Steve Spurrier has announced he will be calling plays for the Gamecocks next season.

N.C. State (Oct. 16, in Greenville), 2009 record: 5-7 overall, 2-6 ACC. 2009 result: Did not play.

The Wolfpack will return seven starters on offense and five on defense in 2010. The biggest void going into spring may have been at running back where mainstays Andre Brown, Toney Baker and Jamelle Eugene exited the program.

Competing as ball carriers in their absence have been Curtis Underwood, James Washington and Brandon Barnes.

Russell Wilson is a proven quarterback although he has been involved in baseball this spring. Redshirt sophomore Mike Glennon is getting the bulk of the reps with the first unit. He completed 12 of 25 for 179 yards with two touchdowns in the initial scrimmage.

Linebacker Nate Irving, out last season from injuries sustained in a car accident, is expected to renew the defense with his return. He had eight tackles in the first scrimmage. Cornerback Gary Grant is out this spring with an abdominal injury.

The Wolfpack will conduct the Kay Yow Memorial scrimmage as its spring game at Carter-Finley Stadium on April 17. The event raised over $20,000 last year and fourth-year Pack coach Tom O'Brien is hopeful of exceeding that total this year in honor of the late ECU alumnus who coached the Wolfpack women's basketball program.

View "Time to check on the other guys, Part II

Athletic web sites of the respective East Carolina opponents and The Memphis Commercial-Appeal contributed to this report.

E-mail Al Myatt

Al Myatt Archives

08/06/2010 01:57 AM


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