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Pirate Notebook No. 324
Monday, October 22, 2007

By Denny O'Brien

QB shuffle has run its course

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.


For the second year in a row, Denny O'Brien is a member of the voting panel for the Harris Interactive College Football Poll, commissioned by the Bowl Championship Series. O'Brien was nominated to the panel by Conference USA.

The Harris Poll is a component of the BCS Standings. The initial 2007 BCS Standings, which also take into account the USA Today Coaches Poll and an average of six computer service rankings, were released on Sunday, Oct. 14. The most recent BCS Standings were released on Sunday.

Here is this week's Harris BCS Poll ballot submitted by O'Brien on Sunday:

 1. Ohio State
 2. LSU
 3. Boston College
 4. Oklahoma
 5. Oregon
 6. South Florida
 7. West Virginia
 8. Southern Cal
 9. Arizona State
10. Missouri
11. Florida
12. Virginia Tech
13. Kansas
14. Hawaii
15. Kentucky
16. Texas
17. Virginia
18. South Carolina
19. Michigan
20. Alabama
21. Rutgers
22. California
23. Wake Forest
24. Boise State
25. Auburn

Complete BCS Standings


BVL: BCS Standings
O'Brien: QB shuffle has run its course
Game Center: NCSU 34, ECU 20
Box Score/Statistics
Audio: Skip Holtz post-game
Myatt: State reasserts itself after bye
O'Brien: Pirates stumble in unfamiliar role
Monroe: Kevin's Keys to the Game
ECU Media Relations/AP Game Recap
C-USA Standings, Scores, Schedule
ECU Schedule, Scores, Attendance, Links

East Carolina’s quarterback rotation had its moments. But as the Pirates continue their pursuit of a Conference USA crown, it might be time to abandon the concept.

Born out of necessity while Rob Kass served a one-game suspension against Virginia Tech, the two and sometimes three-headed QB system was required to keep ECU competitive during a tough early-season stretch.

It certainly kept Virginia Tech guessing as the Pirates changed offensive philosophies each time a different quarterback manned the huddle. The second half switch-a-roo against Houston is largely why the Pirates are 2-0 in Texas this year.

Now the luster is beginning to wear off.

That much is evident by Patrick Pinkney’s previous three drives, which have ended with two turnovers and one three-and-out. You have to rewind back to the first half of the Houston game to find a drive in which he engineered a score.

It’s not like Kass has been perfect, either. Far from it. But with only three starts under his belt, what would you expect?

“They did a good job in the secondary,” Kass said of the defensive challenge he faced against N.C. State. “They covered our receivers a handful of times, and their defensive line was doing some things up front that was confusing us a little.

“But, you know, that’s partly me. I’ve got to get rid of the ball. I take more than my fair share of the blame for those sacks. Those guys are blocking their butts off up front.”

That’s part of the learning process.

Like any quarterback at this stage in his development, mistakes and inconsistency should be expected. Turnovers and indecision are a common thread during a quarterback’s maturation, and Kass has been ahead of the curve, all things considered.

With the exception of his performance in the second half against South Florida last year, Saturday marked only the second time Kass has faced the type of defensive sophistication and athleticism that is prevalent among BCS schools. State mixed its coverage packages and occasional zone blitzes to rush him through progressions.

As Kass takes more snaps, he’ll grow more comfortable with different schemes and develop better chemistry with his receivers. It’s no stretch to suggest that many of the dropped passes can be attributed to the pace with which Kass delivers them.

But in an offense that is dependent on big plays, a gunslinger who can hit tight spots quickly is a necessity. Not only does that open the field vertically, it also generates running lanes and open space for bubble screens and reverses.

Only Kass provides that luxury.

This is by no means an indictment on Pinkney. He exemplifies the type of character any coach would desire from the position, and his poise and confidence amid extreme adversity made him an instant fan favorite.

His memorable performance against North Carolina had many believing he might become the long-term solution under center. That includes me. But as defensive coordinators have studied more tape, they have been able to exploit a couple of weaknesses that he presents.

By pinching him in the pocket, opposing defenses have limited his mobility and ability to see the field. The lack of a deep ball from his repertoire also allows the defense to stack the box and limit the run.

If ECU insists on playing both QB's, it needs to be more strategic in choosing scenarios in which Pinkney is inserted. Neither the fourth quarter of a tie game, nor 14 and 21-point deficits seem to fit.

Holtz spent eight months preparing Kass to be his field general, and it’s clear that he gives East Carolina the best shot to win a title. And given the shaky state of the ECU defense, the Pirates can’t afford to squander possessions.

Offensive production is dependent on continuity and rhythm, and the quarterback is the conductor of that 11-man orchestra. In ECU’s case, sudden changes in its maestro mid-frame have proven to disrupt both timing and tempo.

That’s why Kass should go the distance.

Send an e-mail message to Denny O'Brien.

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10/22/2007 01:53:45 AM

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