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Spring Football Preview: Part Two
Thursday, March 17, 2011
By Ron Cherubini
Staff Features Writer

Editor's note: This article focuses on "Offense." It is Part Two in Ron Cherubini's "Way-Too-Early" series that looks at the possibilities for East Carolina's 2011 football season. Other articles in the series are linked below.

Part One: Introduction

Part Two: Offense

Part Three: Defense

What will offense do for an encore?

Part Two: Bonesville's Way-Too-Early Football Preview

By Ron Cherubini
All rights reserved.

Even Better? Quarterback Dominique Davis rewrote the ECU record book in 2010 with only a crash course in the Air Raid East offense. He is back to add some new chapters to the book in his senior season.

(ECU Media Relations image)

By Ron Cherubini
All rights reserved


Heading into last season, while we all knew what Texas Tech was doing out west with the offense being installed at East Carolina, most reasonable folks didn’t expect it to take off in the manner it did. With an unproven quarterback and, as it turned out, one that had only a month to learn the playbook, the offense performed amazingly well and did so from the first snap. Early on, the bar was set high and when the offense ran into some consistency issues, the fans had already adopted a zero-tolerance for failure to score. And that is good thing as this offense prides itself on being unstoppable if run properly.

Despite the 6-7 record, the offense managed to put up monster numbers for yardage and scoring. Enough for the nation to take note, but not enough for offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley to be satisfied.

“The biggest thing is that we didn’t consistently eliminate the three things that we know hurt drives: turnovers, sacks, and penalties,” said Riley. “We have to eliminate those, there is no way around that. We didn’t give up many sacks, but the ones we gave up, hurt drives. We had way too many turnovers in the second half of the season, and the penalties… we really stopped ourselves too much.

“This offense can be much better than that. The were solid, but the bar here is set much higher than that.”

With a large contingent of returning players now understanding the offense, its timing, its nuances, and its capabilities, the prospects in 2011 look to be nearly limitless. Of course, the loss of all-star Dwayne Harris will hurt — not only from a talent perspective but even more so from a leadership perspective — but with a veteran quarterback returning with full understanding of the system and a crop of wildly talented receivers, there is much to be excited about in 2011.

And with so much experience returning on the offensive side, Riley expects spring football to be a little different in the staff’s second time around.

“This spring, the guys know what we are doing out there now, so I expect it will be smoother — things like where to go, how we do a particular drill, what we do in any given period, that type of stuff — which should allow us to evaluate where we are at and where we should be sooner,” said Riley. “That should allow us to start improvement sooner and address how this group is going to emerge from spring.”

The biggest question marks are, of course, the offensive line, which is the most pivotal unit in an offense, and at running back, where there is very little experience in the ranks. Surprisingly, to hear the coaches talk, they are not as worried about the offensive line as one would think considering the graduation of nearly 100 games of starting experience.

There is reason for the coaches’ seeming lack of concern and that is because they believe what they lose in experience, they can mitigate with a total upgrade in talent. While they admit that it might be tough to replace Willie Smith at left tackle with an equally talented younger guy, they believe that on the whole they will be very strong and talented throughout the line. Further, the young guys who will be expected to take on the starting roles in 2011 have had a year to understand the blocking schemes and protection packages, something that their predecessors did not have.

For the running back position, there was a reason the Pirates turned to the junior college ranks — experience. While the staff is high on the group of young running backs in the stable, they were also wary about two realities: thin numbers at the position and lack of experience. So, they went out and got a JUCO running back in Reggie Bullock who led the country in the NJCAA ranks in rushing, having piled up more than 100 yards in all but one of his 25 games at Arizona Western. He fits the mold as well for the offense, so it is expected that he will come in and bridge the program to its younger, highly-talented stable of backs.

The final summation on the offensive side of the ball is that the coaching staff fully expects the offense to improve over last year — which is a scary prospect for opponents. There will be some new wrinkles. Several “tight-end like” packages will be installed to take advantage of the talent on hand when the coaches want to go “big;” and, with a comfortable Dominique Davis, it is expected that his play calling will get better, his pocket management better, his reads better… which all translates to better consistency in the entire offense.

“We want to get our best players on the field,” said Riley. “If that means moving inside guys to the outside or tackles to guard, or adjusting what packages we run, than so be it. We will see a lot (of what they have) this spring.”

The following is a position-by-position breakdown of the returning Pirates on offense. The ↑→↓ symbols next to each position header are an indicator of the relative strength or weakness of the unit. This rating is based not just on returning talent and experience, but more so on depth or question marks at the position.


  1. Dominique Davis (SR-TR), 6-3, 222: When you have a top-10 (nationally) rated quarterback, who passed for 3,967 yards (64.5% completion rate) with 37 TD passes against 16 INTs and he doesn’t fully grasp the offense yet, you are looking at high probability that those numbers will improve in 2011. Davis was not only a great player, but by all accounts he is a bonafide leader on the team. The offensive coordinator said that he will be better now with a season under his belt and will now get a full spring, summer, and fall camp to improve. Davis, a true film junky, is first to criticize his own game and is committed to improving in the areas he showed weaknesses, which should have fans jacked up. Look for Davis to get some All-America chatter in the preseason and more importantly, look for him to be a quarterback who can carry the team when needed.
  2. Brad Wornick (JR-SQ), 6-2, 191: While many felt that the 2010 quarterback battle was more hype than real competition, it was, in fact, a really close competition. Wornick just missed getting the call. While he got little opportunity during the season to display his abilities, he prepared every day with a starter’s mindset and when he did get a couple of chances, the work ethic showed. He completed 68.4% of his passes for 138 yards and a TD in back-up role. He has a strong grasp of the offense and has the OC’s confidence that he can step in at any moment against any opponent.
  3. Rio Johnson (SO-RS), 6-2, 196: Johnson had a good fall camp in 2010, but got very little work after that as the reps went to Davis and Wornick. Riley has indicated that Johnson has figured out the offense and has matured and should factor in to the battle for depth chart position in the spring of 2011. The competition will only make the position that much stronger next season. But for Johnson, this spring is pivotal as the QB position is now a crowded pipeline with five guys who are very good at it, meaning Johnson has now got to be eyeing a path to being a starter in his senior season.
  4. Shane Carden (FR-RS), 6-2, 216: Carden was the first quarterback on the roster that was brought in by the new staff and fits the mold of exactly what the staff wants for the position in this offense. Word out of the program is that Carden is good, real good, has the offense down, and is expected to battle all the quarterbacks on the roster for depth chart position. His spring performance a year ago was stellar and it will be interesting to see where he comes out of spring this year from a depth chart perspective. The succession planning in the program will probably be more of a factor in where Carden is on the depth chart this year, which begs this line of inquiry: Does the program want to have a young backup poised for multiple years as a starter? Or will the program be happy to have a one-year at a time progression in which each year a senior is the starter. The latter more than worked at Texas Tech. Only time will tell, but Carden is a competitor who will fight to get earlier playing time. That said, his real battle most likely looms in 2012 or 2013, barring injuries to the veterans ahead of him.
  5. Cody Keith (FR), 6-3, 178: It should be a redshirt, learning year for the nationally-ranked, top-10 prep quarterback who enrolled in January. He was a blue chip, hyped player who opted to prep a year before signing on with a team. That prep year probably was the best decision he could have made as he refined his game. According to Riley, Keith is tailor-made for this system and can make all the throws. Between him and Carden, the Pirates should have about as good a scout team QB as could be hoped for, particularly in mimicking the likes of Houston, Tulsa, and Southern Methodist. Keith is at least a year away from battling for the job put provides a perfect pipeline QB for the program.

QB Position Analysis: It is not often any team has a quarterback situation as enviable as ECU’s is heading into 2011. Davis is one of college football’s top QBs who now knows the system completely and will run it even more efficiently in 2011. In Wornick, the backup, the Pirates have a QB who came within a day or two of being the starter and who in his limited opportunities showed that he has a thorough command of the offense and the confidence of his teammates. He is a starter-in-waiting should it be needed. The most interesting battles are below the 1 and 2 spots — not to say that Wornick can get cozy at No. 2 yet. Coach Riley insists that Johnson will also be in the mix in 2011, saying that he is an impressive talent and that he is now properly focused. But Riley also indicated that the rising RS frosh Carden is tailor made for this offense and has a great command of it already. Throw in the super prep freshman Keith, who will participate in spring ball, and you have a situation that for the program is great — talent and competition brings out the very best in those players who are very good. The downside to it is that there is only one starter and the program must consider the future during the present. It will be interesting to see what happens at the No. 2 and No. 3 spots coming out of camp. The bottom line is that the position has NEVER been this healthy. The unit is very good top-to-bottom, giving the offense not only quality depth, but also a lot of eyes on game day to help the starter understand what is going on in all facets of the game.


  1. Michael Dobson (SO-RS), 6-0, 187: With just 62 rushing yards (6.5 yards per carry) along with a 4-yard reception in actual games in 2010, Dobson is the most experienced running back on the roster heading into 2011 camp. He has a host of skills… he has good size at 6-0 and 187 pounds and is a good pass catcher. He earned his carries in 2010 despite having three seniors ahead of him on the depth chart. Dobson will be considered a slight spring favorite for what should be a truly wide-open running back competition in 2011.
  2. Alex Owah (FR-RS), 5-11, 179: Owah had a very good spring in 2010 and was right in there pushing the seniors with Dobson, getting a lot of praise from the coaching staff. A redshirt was applied to protect the RB succession plan or it might have been Owah out there getting that little bit of experience. Owah will head into camp virtually a co-favorite to win the position in the spring. He is perhaps the best receiving back on the roster and has good quickness.
  3. Damonte Terry (FR-RS), 6-1, 201: A lot of buzz has been made of Terry since he came into the program and now fans will get a chance to see what he can do. Terry is the biggest of the backs at 6-1 and 201 pounds and was a dominating back at Scotland High. He is punishing runner with good speed. Terry will also make a run at the position in the spring.

RB Position Analysis: There are so many unknowns at running back that Coach McNeill admitted that he recruited the position looking for a starter. That guy, likely, is Reggie Bullock, the 2010-11 National Junior College Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Year. The 5-9, 180 pound power back — yes power back — was completely dominant at the JUCO level and was brought in, frankly, to start. Coach Ruff has said that a JUCO guy is meant to help bridge your program when you have a gap and with the inexperience at running back created by the loss of three talented senior backs, you get a JUCO to hold you over till your young guys can take on the role. Pirate fans, of course, will have to wait till the fall to see what Bullock can do and should watch how spring ball unfolds at running back, noting that the real battles will rage in fall. Not to say that one of the young backs in camp can’t win the job, but if one of them does, it will be because they flat out took the position. For Dobson, Owah, and Terry, they will have the spring to establish themselves before Bullock and two spectacular freshmen, Chevelle Buie and Chris Hairston, arrive in the summer to prep for fall camp. The returning backs own the advantage of understanding what is expected at running back in this offense, which is not easy for all backs to grasp. It is as important that a back can pass protect (meaning, quickly identify blitzes and put the leather on the guy) as it is to maximize each touch (meaning, have the potential to get to the sticks and to go the distance on any given play). And in this offense, the RB has to be a great receiver — ala Jon Williams who was the third leading receiver in the Pirates pass-happy offense. Not a lot of backs can excel in this offense with only one or two of these skills. This stable of backs should produce a top notch starter. But until it is seen first hand, the overall strength of the unit is characterized by more questions than answers. Look for Dobson to have an early edge based on his limited in-game experience in the spring. Of particular note, the guy who comes out of spring atop the depth chart will be the one thrown into the pool in the fall with a shot against Bullock and the two young talents coming in.


  1. Michael Bowman (SR-RS), 5-9, 165: If any of the inside receivers are going to have to pick up the slack left in the wake of the departure of Dwayne Harris, it will have to be Bowman. Not anywhere near the powerful runner that Harris was, Bowman does possess that special ability to turn a quick, short pass into a home run on any given snap. Coach Donnie Kirkpatrick characterized Bowman as being just a drop or two of confidence away from being a star, a slight weakness that was addressed as the percolating of that confidence appeared to complete last season. Dependable as a route-runner and pass catcher, Bowman has that x-factor that makes him a chance for a touchdown every time he touches it. He returns as the second most productive receiver on the roster behind outside receiver Lance Lewis with 47 receptions for 434 yards and 3 TDs. He will have to be Harris-lite to improve on his very good junior season and to ensure that the inside position can be equally productive in 2011.
  2. Jeremy Davis (JR-SQ), 5-10, 191: The most important thing that Davis accomplished in 2010 was that he got on the field and did so in 11 games. That experience, though limited, is important because it will allow him to draw on real experiences when he battles in spring this time around. The coaches like him and expect him to contribute more in 2011, though he will have to contend with a ton of talent ahead of him and alongside him.
  3. Justin Jones (SO-RS), 6-8, 264: Jones announced his presence with an acrobatic, last-second jump-ball catch to win the opening game against visiting Tulsa during the 2010 campaign. That made him an instant hero with Pirate fans. But what many might now realize is that Jones went on to show he is a dependable receiver and will return as the team’s fourth most productive receiver having caught 21 passes for 211 yards and 5 TDs in limited opportunities behind all-world player Dwayne Harris. With Harris gone, Jones is bound to see the field much more in 2011 with receiving packages specifically designed to take advantage of his 6-8 stature and pass receiving abilities. He should see much more linebacker and safety coverage which will give him an opportunity to do some serious damage from the inside position.
  4. Torrance Hunt (SO-RS), 5-8, 166: The staff is very excited about Hunt and rewarded him for his weekly hard work by ensuring that he got a snap or two in all 13 games. He only managed one catch on the season, a 26-yarder, but has the requisite tools to become a star in this offense: speed, good hands, toughness. Playing time will be tough to come by, but his work habits will put him in the thick of it.
  5. Zico Pasut (SO-RS), 6-3, 226: Pasut spent 2010 adjusting from a true tight end mindset to a receiving tight end mold. His progress has been very good, according to staff, and it is expected that he will get some chances coming in behind Jones. He, too, according to Coach Kirkpatrick, will benefit greatly a be able to better display his abilities in the retooled “big” packages being unveiled in the spring. Look for Pasut to begin to carve out a name for himself in the passing game in 2011.
  6. Justin Hardy (FR-RS), 6-0, 184: From the moment the new staff arrived at ECU, Hardy has been a young guy that the staff really likes, particularly OC Riley and Coach Donnie Kirkpatrick. He has been singled out on numerous occasions as a guy who has potential future-star ability, so Hardy should see enough reps in the spring to get on the depth chart, which is saying a GREAT deal about his potential given the talent ahead of him that has already seen the field. Hardy will have to make each rep count to turn that potential into what would be very early playing time, but he apparently has a real chance to do just that. Look forward to Hardy getting some limited real-game opportunities in the fall with his shining moments more likely to come in 2012 and beyond.
  7. Reese Wiggins (FR-RS), 5-11, 187: Wiggins has a lot of talent and the staff is excited to see what he can do in 2011. Like his young teammates, he will have to fight to get on the field, but when he does, he should be a viable target for the quarterback.
  8. Torian Richardson (FR-RS), 5-10, 187: When you talk about Richardson, you start with speed/quickness. He has great hands and is a playmaker. A redshirt allowed him to ease into the offense and it is expected that he will get some chances as he adjusts to real-speed of the game.
  9. Danny Webster (FR-HS), 5-10, 184: A super athlete, Webster enrolled in January to get a jump start on his preparation. He will first be looked at for the role of inside receiver. Webster's experience as a stellar quarterback at Havelock High School will transition very well into the inside receiver position. Though not a big, big guy, he is a shifty, agile guy along the lines of a slightly bigger Mike Bowman. He has that something “special” that has Coach Riley very excited about his future. That said, Webster will likely make his mark as a true freshman on special teams and on scout team with the ton of receiving talent ahead of him on the depth chart.

IWR Position Analysis: When you lose a guy like Dwayne Harris, it is difficult to say that the unit is going to be better. But it could be as good. Opponents will be loading up to stop outside receivers Lance Lewis and, most likely, Darryl Freeney, which may make the inside position more productive. Consider that a scary thought. Mike Bowman had a solid year and if you talk to Coach Kirkpatrick, he will tell you that the greatest thing that has happened with Bowman is that he now has a level of confidence that really hampered him early in his career. Though not as big as Harris, Bowman possesses one big similarity — playmaking ability. Bowman has in his mind that he needs to play up to Harris’ level in 2011 and began working on that the day after the Military Bowl. He will be a force from that position. Opposite him, Justin Jones gave a glimpse of what had the coaches so excited last spring. He is a horrible mismatch for defenders and the offense is making some adjustments to truly exploit those mismatches. The offense will feature some “tight-end like” sets to force defenses to try to cover Jones and Zico Pasut — who Kirkpatrick stressed is a very, very good receiver — with linebackers and safeties rather than the corners that were able to mitigate some mismatches with athleticism. Besides Pasut, the coaches believe that Justin Hardy is very talented and will emerge, and there is no shortage of young guys who will be fighting for there chance to get into the rotation. The Pirates also signed Donte Sumpter, a very physically strong inside receiver who helps stuff the inside receiver pipeline and will help the scout team in the fall.


  1. Lance Lewis (SR-TR), 6-3, 212: When Lewis signed with the Pirates as a transfer from a JUCO last year, the buzz was he was going to be an instant star and he delivered on that prediction, providing exactly what the outside receiver should provide: Big plays. With 89 receptions for 1,116 yards (12.5 ypr) and 14 TDs, Lewis put himself in the top-10 all-time at ECU for yardage in a season and now is the all-time leader with 14 TD receptions in a season. Still, at times, he had some inexplicable drops. He returns to the lineup as the No. 1 receiving threat, and now that he has adjusted to top level defenses, he should be even more productive in 2011. It will be a challenge for Lewis, however, as he will be a very marked man, likely to draw the opponent’s top cover corner and have a safety keeping an eye on him, too. That said, expect for him to do away with the drops and to have another stellar season in 2011.
  2. Darryl Freeney (SR), 5-11, 188: With the return of Freeney, the unit went from great to potentially exceptional. Freeney was a rising super star before he ran afoul of the coaching staff with some self-generated, off-field issues. Intervention was applied and now, he has a real chance to get back on the field. He has apparently satisfactorily done everything he has been asked to do to gain re-instatement to the team — and this staff set a very high bar for his return — and now can focus on making it back to the depth chart. If he can regain his stature from 2009, defenses will be tested vertically on every play in a way ECU has not done in a long time. With Freeney and Lewis outside, it should be bombs away for the offense with two pro-caliber deep threats. It is a scary thought for defensive coordinators who will have to pick their poison on each and every snap.
  3. Joe Womack (SR), 6-1, 199: Womack has been a bit of a mystery. After a great freshman season, he has been spotty in terms of opportunities since. There is a lot of talent around him so touches are hard to come by, but he has always seemed to make the most of his chances. He pulled in 5 catches in the 8 games in which he played for 84 yards, including a TD grab. Womack should push for more action next season but will have to be better then his younger counterparts to take snaps from guys who have seasons beyond 2011.
  4. Andrew Bodenheimer (JR), 6-3, 202: Almost quietly, Bodenheimer put together a very solid season and returns as the third most productive receiver in the lineup for 2011. He had 40 receptions for 370 yards and 2 TDs, but more importantly he appeared to get better each week as the season moved on. A physical after-the-catch runner, Bodenheimer showed that he has the ability to not only make the key possession catch, but can do some things with the ball after the catch, averaging 9.2 yards per reception. Bodenheimer will improve on his numbers now that he has had a season to adjust to a starter’s role and should be able to contribute regardless of situations that the offense is in.
  5. Dayon Arrington (JR-SQ), 6-2, 194: Everyone was excited about Arrington when he came into the program and it seems like it was a long wait to see him start to have an impact. Like Bodenheimer, Arrington visibly improved as the season went on, playing his best football at the end of the year. He only had 11 receptions and 110 yards but he averaged 10 yards per catch and made the most of his limited opportunities. Look for Arrington to continue his improvement hence getting more opportunities.
  6. Mike Price (SO-RS), 6-1, 163: The coaching staff did not shy away from talking about how excited they are about Price. Though he got limited action as a freshman, he contributed with 6 receptions, taking one of those to the house for a TD. He has good hands and great speed on the outside. He needs to improve on the little things that make a good receiver great, but has a lot to offer in 2011 as a back-up.

OWR Position Analysis: Lewis established himself as a star in 2010 and played some of his best football down the stretch, showing a tough side that he didn’t display early on. Bodenheimer demonstrated that if you get the ball near him, he will catch it and he will put his head down for the hard YAC. Now, with Freeney presumably back in the fold, the outside receiving unit is simply scary. Freeney has already proven he is a big-play, super-physical talent and he will be back looking to make up for lost time. What this means for the ECU offense is that it can expand the vertical attack. Opponents will have to pick their poison now, putting their best cover guy on one receiver at the expense of the other. It would be an odds-on bet to project that both Lewis and Freeney are potentials to hit the 1,000 yard mark in 2011. And Bodenheimer doesn’t give the corners a break when he is in the lineup. Behind the projected first teamers, there are talented and experienced backups in Price, Womack and Arrington, each of whom are ready to be starters in their own rights. In the fall, fans will also catch a glimpse of Antonio Cannon, the only outside receiver signed in February. Cannon truly won the lottery when the staff picked him out of what is rumored to be a very long list of BCS signees who came calling on ECU to offer their services. Cannon drew praise from Coach Riley for being most Lance Lewis-like of all the prospects they scouted. This unit should produce quite a few TDs again in 2011, topping the 18 it tallied in 2010.


  1. Doug Polochak (SR-MH), 6-4, 291: The coaching staff probably had a good sense of relief with the NCAA granting Polochak a sixth year of eligibility. While the young linemen on the roster are talented and ready, Polochak — who earned and delivered quality starts at guard down the stretch in 2010 — is just the player to galvanize the youngsters. Polochak is a very capable center if needed — he was the backup for the 2010 bowl game — though he is expected to lock down one of the guard positions. More likely, Polochak will be the emergency third-stringer at center, but it is a great relief to know he is on the roster.
  2. Hugh Parker (SR-TR), 6-3, 272: A transfer from Wingate, Parker has been preparing to try to be an impact player in his remaining season of college eligibility. He has put in the work to gain notice from the staff as a guy who might compete for a depth chart position. Given the situation at center, he should get good reps in the spring and have a chance to earn that spot on the depth chart.
  3. Dalton Faulds (JR-SQ), 6-3, 294: Just when Faulds had gotten good in the wake of Will Towery’s abrupt sabbatical from the team, he inexplicably blew it in the classroom and found himself ineligible for the bowl game. If Faulds gets it together academically by summer, which all indicators from inside are saying he will, he likely will be the starter again, but even better.
  4. Drew Gentry (FR-RS), 6-6, 304: Coming out of high school, Gentry was considered one of the 50 best linemen in the country. He did not get on the field in 2010, but it is expected that he will compete for playing time in 2011. The staff wants to see if he has the goods to play center so he will get a big look there in the spring, but he is talented enough to move around on the line.
  5. Mack Helms (FR-RS), 6-3, 274: Should Faulds falter, Helms is the guy that the staff is jacked up about. He is ready to play according to the coaches and is a force in the center position, perfect for the role in this offense. If Faulds returns to the fold, Helms is likely to start the season as the backup, but could push for the starting role on a week-in, week-out basis.

C Position Analysis: The center position is the most important position on the line for this offense. It paces and sets the tempo for the offense. One of the bowl game woes was that a new center was playing and it threw off all the timing, not only initiation of plays but more importantly in the blitz pickups and protection schemes. Will Towery was the best center on the roster, but he left the program. While the staff has told him that he is welcomed back at any time arms wide open, the inside word is he is not likely to return. Faulds was getting good at the position before he blindsided the team with his surprise ineligibility. So now he has work to do to get back on the job, though all indications within the program are that he will be back, perhaps in spring. Even with that news, there is big opportunity for the young Helms, whom offensive line coach Brandon Jones is very high on. So confident is the coach in Helms, he expects Helms to make an earnest run at the position regardless of who returns. Gentry also could factor at center. Incoming freshman Chaz Lowery might also see some looks at center, given his football smarts and versatility, and invited walk-on C.J. Struyk, who started in the Shrine Bowl at center, gives the Pirates some options for the future. However, given Faulds high-level of performance as the position in 2010, it is certainly hoped that Helms will be the backup this season to Faulds. If Faulds returns and has his house in order and Helms is as good as the coaches think he is, the position may not be in crisis, but certainly, it is a position to watch closely this spring given the way the depth chart fell apart during the 2010 campaign. Maybe much ado about nothing, but until it sorts itself out, this position is the greatest worry for the staff on the offensive line.


  1. Doug Polochak (SR-MH), 6-4, 291: Finally healthy, Polochak won the position at the end of the season and did a good job. With that momentum, he will go into spring ready to actually have a full off-season and 2011 season to show what he can do. The former top blocker in Tim Tebow’s offensive line at Nease High School in Florida, Polochak knows this offense’s blocking schemes, is smart enough to be a leader on the line and has a lot to prove. Those are the right ingredients for a line that will need his leadership more than anything. Expect Polochak to be one of the mainstays at guard in 2011.
  2. Anthony Garrett (JR-TR), 6-5, 303: An injury delayed his debut as a Pirate after transferring in. Garrett was a very good JUCO prospect expected to see playing time in 2010 before suffering the injury in camp a year ago. Look for a healthy Garrett to vie for playing time at guard.
  3. Josh Clark (JR-RS), 6-4, 287: Clark only saw action in one game and hasn’t shown enough to note that he is ready to vie for significant action in 2011. He should be healthy going into next season and will have a chance to earn a backup role, but he will first have to solidify himself as a legitimate top-level player.
  4. Will Simmons (SO-RS), 6-5, 304: According to OL Coach Brandon Jones, Simmons is the most physical, nastiest (in a good way) offensive lineman on the team. He is considered a better talent for this offense than either D.J. Scott or Cory Dowless — that is high praise. He is the odds on favorite to lock down the other starting job at guard. Riley admitted that he should have played Simmons more in 2010, which would have been great for 2011, but still, by all accounts, Simmons is READY. He is described as ideal for a guard, nasty, relentless and simply put, just plain mean when he gets on the field. He is also a good student of the game and spent a lot of time soaking up all he could from D.J. Scott, who mentored him in the position. Expect no drop-offs at guard in the starting lineup.

G Position Analysis: The unit’s potential for success received a big boost when Polochak was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Not because Polochak is some sort of All-America, but rather because it fuses leadership into a talented but young group of linemen. What Polochak also brings is the experience of being in the program for five years and of starting down the stretch in 2010, a position he earned over a veteran. He and Simmons will be a good pair of guards as starters. Keep an eye on Anthony Garrett, the JUCO brought in last season who was lost in camp for the year with an injury. If he has healed up, he has experience and should battle for a spot or at the very least, provide some quality depth at the thin position. Clark is a bit of a mystery as he didn’t see much playing time last year and was hardly mentioned when querying the coaches. Clark needs to show up as depth will be a concern and will likely be shored up via shifting some tackles down into the interior. There are plenty of names to make this move and the Pirates also brought in four solid offensive line prospects, including two that might find their way to guard. Chaz Lowery and Tre Robertson, a pair of 6-5 true freshmen, will join the team after spring. Lowery is a very smart guy who can play all five positions on the line and Robertson is, as described by Coach Riley, an inside mauler… nasty and mean. One or both may find themselves bypassing a redshirt season should they prove good enough in the fall, to provide the required depth at the position.


  1. Steven Baker (SR), 6-8, 310: Baker has been a disappointment so far and hopefully it will all come together for him in his final campaign. Without a doubt, he is considered the most talented lineman of the group with great physical gifts. The knock has been that he is very inconsistent and doesn’t play with the intensity needed to be a dominant tackle in top level football. At 6-8, 315 pounds, if he has developed a mean streak by spring, he could change the complexion of the offensive line materially. Spring performance will determine his future — perform, he might step ahead of Grant Harner or Jordan Davis, or remain inconsistent and look for youth to surpass him.
  2. Grant Harner (SO-RS), 6-6, 303: Harner was pressed into a starting role at right tackle right away and did well throughout the season as part of an offensive line that gave up very few sacks in 2010. That experience should make it a whole lot easier for him in 2011 to be a very good right tackle. He will be stronger and smarter, which means the position should be a strength in the unit in 2011.
  3. Jordan Davis (SO-RS), 6-3, 297: The heir apparent to Willie Smith at left tackle. Though slightly undersized for a left tackle in this offense, according to the coaching staff, he is the best young tackle the team has coming up right now from a pure talent perspective and is good enough that there will be little drop off if any from Smith, which is basically saying that Davis is an NFL potential talent. If they are right, then he and Harner will provide a better-than-good outside tandem in 2011.
  4. Adhem Elsawi (SO-TR), 6-6, 313: The coaches are eager to see how the mammoth transfer from Campbell performs this spring. He has a been active in the weightroom during his mandatory 1-year wait following his transfer. He has 4 years remaining to play 3 and fits the prototypical build that the Pirates seek up front. At 6-6 and 313 pounds, Elsawi moves well and is comfortable in the pass-first philosophy. He was a standout performer in high school in New York and saw considerable action as a true freshman a Campbell in 2009. He is currently an unknown, but with his size, he is someone to keep an eye on.
  5. Taylor Hudson (FR-RS), 6-5, 272: The coaches are eager to see how Hudson does as he has the frame and build that tends to thrive in this offense. He has shown potential and now they all want to see what he does in real action, starting in the spring. The hopes are that Hudson will provide quality depth at the position.

T Position Analysis: Tackle is the strongest position on the squad with the top four prospects seeing action in 2010. Harner is a proven quantity who will be better with a  full season of action under his belt. Baker could be a bonafide stud if he finds the intensity needed at this level and Davis is expected to step right in and be as good as the departing Smith. Hudson is a young guy who is chomping at the bit to show that he should be on the depth chart this season. Add to this group two flat-out eye-openers signed in the incoming class in 6-7 Isaac Harris and 6-7 Stewart Hinson and huge, athletic Campbell transfer Adhem Elsawi and there is a great pool to build tackle depth. While neither freshman is expected to play this season, Hinson was singled out by Coach Riley as being built and physical enough to come in and challenge. Harris would benefit from a year of Camp (Jeff) Connors to ensure that his maditude matches his streamlined huge frame. There could be some movement of players to build depth at guard or center, but over all the tackle position should be good if what is on paper translates onto the field. This would have been an Up Arrow unit if Baker had proven himself last season, but since that did not happen, the unit is considered in neither ascension nor decline until spring answers some questions here. On paper, however, the tackle spots are well in hand.


  1. Michael Barbour (SR-TR), 5-10, 185: The transfer from the University of Maryland wasted little time grabbing the place-kicking job and then proceeded to demonstrate why all season in 2010, going 16-of-18 in field goals, with a long of 52 yards, and also hitting 56-of-57 PATs. He is a sure-footed kicker who is as cold as ice. Expect nothing less than the same production next season.
  2. Ben Ryan (SR-SQ), 6-2, 204: Expected to once again handle punting duties in 2011, Ryan is a more than adequate place-kicker having kicked in live games in 2009. He was barely edged by Barbour for the job in 2010 and will be like having a second starter should Barbour suffer an injury or lose his edge.
  3. Matt Millisor (SO-RS), 6-0, 200: Last fall, the young kicker was very close to winning both the punting and place-kicking jobs, though he was bested by the more experienced guys. He is a good place kicker and if needed can make the kick in a game situation. His time is more likely going to be in 2012.

PK Position Analysis: The place-kicking position is very well-covered in 2011. Barbour had an extraordinary year in 2010 and appears poised to have an equally good senior season. Should he falter or be injured, Ryan has game experience place kicking. Millisor is a very good prospect for the future.

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03/21/2011 03:36 AM


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