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View from the 'ville
Thursday, April 15, 2010

By Al Myatt

Time to check on the other guys, Part II

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

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

Today is the deadline for filing your income tax with Uncle Sam. That said, the rest of the column should be an improvement as we contemplate a generally more popular topic among Pirate fans — football.

Many spring practices are winding up as we continue our look at the programs East Carolina will face in the 2010 season. The Pirates, of course, play their spring game Saturday at 2 p.m. in the midst of stadium expansion construction at the east end of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Last week we examined the opponents for the first half of the upcoming campaign, which includes two home dates with Conference USA teams to start the season. In between early games with ACC foes Virginia Tech, North Carolina and N.C. State is a trip to Southern Miss.

This week, we'll check in on the teams the Pirates will face in the last half of the regular season, which includes five of six games against Conference USA teams in addition to a home game with ground-oriented Navy.

Marshall (Oct. 23, in Greenville), 2009 record: 7-6 overall, 4-4 C-USA. 2009 result: East Carolina 21, @ Marshall 17

Pirate fans might look at the Thundering Herd and wonder what might have been when former athletic director Mike Hamrick dismissed Steve Logan as ECU coach following the 2002 season. Hamrick's candidate to replace Logan was Doc Holliday, then on the staff at N.C. State.

Hamrick was thwarted by a search committee that settled on John Thompson. The decision led to a 3-20 span for the Pirates in two seasons. Things begin to get turned around when Terry Holland brought in Skip Holtz.

Now Hamrick is back at his alma mater as AD and has hired Holliday, who served subsequent stints at Florida and West Virginia, as head coach. The coaching move was made prior to the Thundering Herd's 21-17 bowl win over Ohio.

Returning quarterback Brian Anderson completed 22 of 32 passes for 222 yards in a scrimmage on April 10. Aaron Dobson had five catches for 153 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Marshall's spring game is April 24. Up and coming country music group Gloriana will perform following the scrimmage.

Central Florida (Oct. 30, in Orlando), 2009 record: 8-5 overall, 6-2 C-USA. 2009 result: @ East Carolina 19, UCF 14

April showers don't bother the Knights, who have a full-football field-sized indoor practice facility. UCF finished one game behind ECU in the C-USA East Division last season and has 15 starters back.

Not all of them have been available throughout the offseason workouts as coach George O'Leary suspended nine players, including several starters, for missing classes. Running back Brynn Harvey has been sidelined with an injury and Brendan Kelly has been getting the lion's share of the first team reps.

Rob Calabrese, who has started at times over the last two seasons, has appeared to be the sharper quarterback in competition with Jeffrey Godfrey.

End Bruce Miller, the C-USA defensive player of the year in 2009, has been a leader for coordinator Dave Huxtable's unit in the spring.

The Knights play their spring game this Saturday.

Navy (Nov. 6, in Greenville), 2009 record: 10-4 overall (independent). 2009 result: Did not play.

With the Pirates installing their new pass-oriented "Air Raid" offense, the non-conference matchup should provide a severe contrast in styles. The Midshipmen like to run the option and were fourth in 2009 in the bowl subdivision with 280.5 yards per game on the ground.

Navy had the fewest pass attempts (110) and the least number of completions (58) of the 120 teams in the FBS last season.

The Navy defense got the best of the offense over 22 possessions last Saturday morning, allowing just one touchdown and four field goals while forcing four turnovers in the first scrimmage of the spring. Safety Eric Stein was in on 12 tackles.

Option quarterbacks must have good split-second decision making ability based on reading the defense and they must also possess running skills. Ricky Dobbs, last year's starting quarterback, has completed his eligibility. Kriss Proctor, who looks to be his successor, saw action in three games in 2009.

UAB (Nov. 11, in Birmingham), 2009 record: 5-7 overall, 4-4 C-USA. 2009 result: @ East Carolina 37, UAB 21

The game with UAB was moved to a Thursday night for television, giving the Pirates a short week after facing Navy's physical attack. The Blazers also will have limited time to prepare as they host Marshall on Nov. 6.

Against UAB, ECU will likely face a quarterback who will run — and throw. The Blazers' 273 rushing yards and 520 total yards were the most allowed by ECU last season.

Like Joe Webb before him, emerging sophomore quarterback David Isabelle is a dual threat. Isabelle completed 16 of 27 passes for 172 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in UAB's second spring scrimmage on Saturday. Isabelle, who played sparingly last season, also had 17 rushes for 124 yards and a score.

Senior Mike Jones led the receiving corps with six catches for 95 yards with two TDs. While Jones stood out, Blazers coach Neil Calloway expressed his disappointment in veteran Frantrell Forrest, who dropped three passes.

If Isabelle's performance is any indication, the Blazers may be able to use quarterbacks Jonathan Perry and Joe Bento as situational receivers.

Junior college transfer Pat Shed showed big play capability in running for 135 yards on 16 carries in UAB's first spring scrimmage.

The Blazers' spring game is Saturday on the West Campus Field.

Rice (Nov. 20, in Houston), 2009 record: 2-10 overall, 2-6 C-USA. 2009 result: @ East Carolina 49, Rice 13

Rice compacted its spring practice between March 8 and March 27.

The Owls' lack of success last season prompted some staff changes with David Beaty returning to the program to be offensive coordinator after two seasons working with wide receivers at Kansas. Judging by the point production in the Blue's 47-41 win over the Gray in the spring game, Beaty's charges are absorbing his system very well.

"The tempo is way faster, but structurally (the offense) is actually a lot easier than it was last year," said Owls tight end Vance McDonald. "There's a lot there, but it's not like it's really hard to learn at all."

Beaty was on hand at Rice in 2006 when the program was making a transition with its personnel from an option offense to a passing attack. The Owls' offense will be Taylor-made in 2010. Taylor McHargue completed eight of 11 passes in the spring game while Taylor Cook completed 12 of 18 for 111 yards.

Rice leads off the season against Texas at Reliant Stadium on Sept. 4. The Owls also have non-conference challenges against Northwestern and Baylor.

Southern Methodist (Nov. 27, in Greenville), 2009 record: 8-5 overall, 6-2 C-USA. 2009 result: @ SMU 28, East Carolina 21

The early bird catches the worm, according to the adage, but SMU coach June Jones isn't looking for fish bait as the Mustangs hold their weekday spring practices at 7 a.m. Jones is thinking in terms of a Conference USA championship.

Last season, SMU was the only league team to defeat eventual champion ECU. While the Pirates are looking for a quarterback this spring and learning a new offense, the Mustangs return sophomore Kyle Padron, who started the last seven games and threw for 460 yards in a Hawaii Bowl win over Nevada.

Padron has added 10 pounds to his frame and, although he is supposedly getting a challenge from New Mexico State transfer J.J. McDermott this spring, he has a proven grasp of the offense.

"He's going to get better and better," Jones told the Dallas Morning News regarding Padron. "It's so fun to have a quarterback that now gets it."

Padron completed 135 of 201 passes for 1,922 yards with 10 touchdowns and just four interceptions in seven games.

SMU's quarterback situation has allowed former quarterback Braden Smith to move to safety. Patrick Fleming has moved from linebacker to slot receiver. Cornerback Derrius Bell has had to give up football after two concussions. The Mustangs also must find a noseguard this spring.

The biggest losses are Emmanuel Sanders, the school's career receiving leader, and Shawnbrey McNeal, who ran for 1,188 yards last season but opted to forego his senior year for the NFL draft.

The Mustangs will end spring practice on April 24 without a spring game but Jones' tactics are not in question after taking the program from 1-11 in 2008 to 8-5 last season.

The C-USA schedule makers have put the matchup with the Mustangs at the end of ECU's regular season, creating the possibility that the teams could meet again the following week in the league championship game if they win their respective divisions.

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

Athletic web sites of the respective ECU opponents, The Dallas Morning News and The Birmingham News contributed to this report.

E-mail Al Myatt

Al Myatt Archives

08/06/2010 01:57 AM


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