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It’s silly to put much
stock into a team’s spring game performance. The practice always seemed
With so many holdouts of
key personnel the norm, it’s difficult to gauge the quality of a
program’s product by viewing a two-hour intrasquad scrimmage. It’s
generally the only day of the college football calendar in which a
roster card is a requirement for both the fans and media to follow
That’s a good thing for
East Carolina. Because if you witnessed the annual Purple and Gold
scrimmage that culminated this year's spring practice, you likely left
unimpressed, if not discouraged, by the team’s outlook against a 2010
schedule that might be more frontloaded than it was last fall.
You certainly could find
justification for a bit of anxiety.
Of the 100 plays the
Pirates ran on Bagwell Field, it seemed as if half were flagged for
infractions. The other half were seemingly marked by dropped passes,
sacks, quarterback indecision, and miscommunication on both offense and
ECU spent much of the
afternoon off tempo, out of sync, and out of sorts.
“We were a little
disjointed,” Pirates offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said. “It’s
part of the nature of the spring game. If you look, probably the best
that we ever were on offense at Texas Tech was 2008 when we had a good
“You can go back and look
up what the stats were for the spring game. I’d be a little surprised if
they were better than what they were for (ECU).”
encouraging. At the very least it supports the position that a team’s
performance in a meaningless exhibition against itself isn’t the best
indicator of the results it will produce when the opponent is from
What we do know about the
Pirates is that they are going to throw the football. A lot. Regardless
of the down or situation, in most cases it will be the quarterback’s
responsibility to accurately distribute the football and move the
Of the 100 plays the
Pirates ran in the spring game, 71 were passes. Last year at Texas Tech
the pass-to-run ration was 67 to 33, so prepare for mostly four-hour
Defensively, we know the
Pirates are going to blitz more than they did under defensive
coordinator Greg Hudson’s direction. A lot more. And they will
complement that with more man coverage schemes than we’ve witnessed in
It will likely be feast or
famine on both sides of the ball.
Just how much feast and
how much famine remains to be seen. There won’t be any determination on
either until at least the Pirates’ opener against Tulsa on Labor Day
weekend, and that likely will be only a snippet of what the Pirates will
be towards the end of the season.
With any coaching
transition, the philosophy and terminology is bound to shift. The change
from Skip Holtz to Ruffin McNeill brought with it the type of systemic
transition that is a near 180 from the other, so to some degree it makes
sense that ECU appeared a mess in the Purple-Gold clash.
The good news for ECU is
that it has plenty of time to clean things up between now and the
opener, time that it definitely needs to identify starters at key
positions like quarterback. The anticipated arrival of junior college
transfer Dominique Davis this summer and freshman Shane Carden in the
fall should help with that.
It’s also helpful that
McNeill and his staff won’t have to invest much time in psychologically
rehabilitating a roster accustomed to losing. It took Holtz nearly a
year to alter the culture at ECU, shifting the mindset from one of
constant defeat to one that could compete for league titles.
What’s unfortunate is that
McNeill’s inaugural season on the ECU sideline is marked by an opening
grind that is unforgiving to say the least. Even with the previous staff
and the same philosophical approach, a 1-5 start wouldn’t be difficult
If the Pirates can somehow
muster a .500 finish and postseason bowl, next season should be
considered a resounding success. Given a new staff, new philosophies,
and unparalleled roster turnover, it’s simply unfair to expect much
And you shouldn’t need a
potentially misleading spring game performance to draw that conclusion.