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'Painting 'em Purple'

From the Booth
Monday, August 26, 2002
By Jeff Charles
Voice of the Pirates


Strengths and weaknesses about to be revealed


It’s game week! If you’re like me you need a “fix.” A Pirate football “fix” that is.

It seems like it’s been a long time since the infamous Mobile Bowl last December and maybe that’s good. Let’s just call it a distant memory and leave it at that.

Every year is a new year, a new adventure, a new journey, especially in college football when there’s such a large turnover in personnel.

What’s going to happen this year? Your guess is as good as mine. The longer I’m around this racket the more unpredictable it seems to become. Here are some observations from the pre-season.

The infusion of new young blood has been a positive for this program. Strength and conditioning coach Jim Whitten told me all summer how pleased he was with the attitude, work ethic and enthusiasm of this group.

One thing is for certain, teams with good chemistry can overachieve. Teams with poor chemistry underachieve. You hear coach after coach, regardless of the sport these days, talk more about attitude, leadership, character and accountability than about X’s and O’s.

A wise man once said, “Sports are a microcosm of society.” He was more right than wrong, to borrow a “Loganism.”

Do the Pirates have any leaders, any tough guys who can fight through adversity when it occurs on the field? Is there one guy on this team who will get in the face of a teammate if need be? Jeff Kerr has been gone for a while. He used to be that man. Right now it’s tough to pinpoint a guy or two.

Having watched the two preseason scrimmages it was very apparent the defense was ahead of the offense, which is usually the case this time of year. The offense has struggled and patience will be important. The quarterbacks are young pups. Give Paul Troth and Desmond Robinson time. They’re being thrown in the fire.

The good news is the Pirates should be solid on the offensive line. Steve Shankweiler is one of the best offensive line coaches in the country. His group of players is the proven, most experienced unit on the offensive side of the ball. There are some good young players waiting to step up, too. Brian Rimpf is the real deal both on and off the field.

We know the running backs are talented, but they’re young. Art Brown can be the man. He has the talent. Marvin Townes can be effective plus Dominique Hatcher and Dashaun Stephens have had their moments. Keep your eye on the freshman Markeith McQueen, maybe not this year, but certainly next season. He looks good to me.

The receivers need to develop some consistency. Richard Alston should be a real weapon. Last year the converted quarterback was the team’s best receiver. That is a compliment to Richard but it also says something about last year’s performance. Marcus White, if the shoulder stays healthy can be a good one. It’s time for Terrance Copper to step up. He’s a junior now. Tutu Moye has looked good in camp as the Pirates now employ a “flex end” rather than a true tight end. The kid at Louisville, Ronnie Ghent, has flourished in that role.

Defensively, it was back to the drawing board following last season. The coaches have racked their brains to try and find a way to improve. The word is this is a faster unit. The young linebackers are going to be fun to watch. Chris Moore has been impressive. He has a world of talent and potential. You’ll like the look of these new guys.

Another question is can the Pirates get a pass rush? Damane Duckett and Ja’Waren Blair certainly look the part, and Ronald Pou in the middle is the strongest guy on the team and should be able to get a pocket push. It’s important that these guys stay healthy and play up to their potential. This is not a real deep position.

Now for the secondary. Yes we all know how poor it was last year. Let’s face it, one would think it has to be better. Paul Jette is back and he’s a good coach but no one is a miracle worker. The guys on the field have to be accountable. Most of the same cast of characters are back. Are they better? Or do they need to be replaced? A healthy Kelly Hardy will help. His injury hurt badly last year.

The kicking game is solid. Kicker Kevin Miller is Mr. Consistency and what a pleasant surprise punter Jarad Preston was. It’s the best one-two punch in the conference.

Thursday, I’ll match up the Pirates and Blue Devils. Your “fix” is on its way. Till next time, “Keep painting’em purple.”

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02/23/2007 10:23:41 AM

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