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Pirate Notebook No. 442
Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Denny O'Brien


Help wanted: QB with thick skin

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

Though less than a week remains before East Carolina opens its season against Tulsa, there is no indication as to who will trigger the Pirates’ new aerial assault.

Whoever trots into the Pirates’ huddle — be it one-time Boston College starter Dominique Davis or walk-on Brad Wornick — one will soon become the most scrutinized player on the ECU roster. The guy left holding the clipboard could be among the more popular with fans.

That’s been par for the course for ECU of late.

You won’t find a student-athlete at East Carolina who endures more public nit-picking than the starting quarterback. The position has been the school’s athletics calling card since 1991, and the expectations for anyone who fills it are borderline unfair.

That’s one attribute that either Davis or Wornick would just as soon not inherit when head coach Ruffin McNeill and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley make the final call for the season opener. But it is inevitable that one of them will, and whoever that is would be wise to seek Patrick Pinkney’s counsel on the situation.

Pinkney would be the first to tell them that a demanding crowd awaits. He could probably even teach a class on emotional survival under center at ECU.

All Pinkney did during his two-plus years as the Pirates’ starting quarterback was deliver consecutive Conference USA championships and start in three straight postseason bowls. Along the way he overcame multiple shoulder surgeries, authored a record-setting performance in a home win over North Carolina, and was the triggerman in victories over five Top 25 opponents, including historic wins over Virginia Tech and West Virginia to open 2008.

Yet you might not find a more criticized starting quarterback in ECU history.

For every win Pinkney’s right arm helped deliver, there was seemingly equal focus on each incompletion or turnover. It took only one game last season for some to seek an impeachment in favor of backup Josh Jordan, who coincidentally now finds himself among the receivers on the ECU depth chart.

Such is the plight for the starting quarterback at East Carolina. And it’s not like Pinkney was the first to endure it.

Paul Troth can attest to that.

When Troth sailed into Greenville, he did so with more expectations than any other player in program history. Labeled one of the nation’s elite high school quarterbacks, it was assumed by many that he would rewrite David Garrard’s records and elevate the Pirates to another level within the national power structure.

Instead of a storybook career dotted by marquee wins, Troth became a centerpiece in a political tug-of-war.

Those who sought the dismissal of former head coach Steve Logan jumped at every opportunity to document each of Troth’s errant throws. Meanwhile, Logan loyalists were quick to defend him. That verbal battle waged into the first year of John Thompson’s brief tenure when the coach chose Desmond Robinson as his starter.

Given the current climate, we’re unlikely to witness what occurred during the Troth-Robinson days at ECU. But because of the nature of the Pirates’ new offense, and the fact that it produced unprecedented numbers at Texas Tech despite the absence of elite quarterbacks, I’m guessing some will expect similar numbers to what the Red Raiders produced.

"In this offense and what we do, a strong arm is great,” McNeill said. “But, it's where to deliver the ball, when to deliver it and how to deliver it that are the most important. Both (Davis and Wornick) are doing a great job. I just have to get the team focused. There is nothing we're trying to hide. Those guys are battling each day.

"If you had a chance to watch the film, you would see one guy during seven-on-seven complete great throws and then in team-on-team, the other guy does the same thing. It has been back and forth.”

Whoever wins the QB battle shouldn’t be surprised if he receives a constant back and forth response from the stands.

Over the years, ECU fans have been spoiled by splendid quarterback play from the likes of Jeff Blake, Marcus Crandell, Dan Gonzalez, and Garrard. So this crowd knows a quarterback when it sees one.


Bailey: Dawn of a new era on all fronts
O'Brien: Help wanted: QB with thick skin
Audio: Coach Ruff: Game Week Presser
Cherubini: One-on-One with the Pirates

Perhaps that explains the incredibly high demands Pirates fans place on their field general, and why poor play is occasionally greeted with a verbal flogging.

E-mail Denny O'Brien

Denny O'Brien Archives

08/31/2010 03:42 AM

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