NCAA Football Preview - East Carolina Pirates
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From The Sports Network By Ralph Lauro, College Football Staff Writer 2003 SEASON IN REVIEW: It certainly was one of the worst seasons in East Carolina history, as the club went a dismal 1-11 overall, which included a 1-7 mark in C-USA action. Head coach John Thompson's first ECU team was just awful on the offensive side of the ball which led to the hiring of two new offensive coordinators this past offseason. The Pirates' six passing touchdowns last season ranked 115th in the nation. The squad was manhandled in its first three games of the season, getting outscored 126-13 over that span. The Pirates dropped their first six games before handing winless Army a 38-32 setback for their only victory of the year. Although the team struggled to score points for most of the year, it started to come on strong toward the end, averaging 26.3 ppg over its final six contests. 2004 ANALYSIS: OFFENSE: After spending two years with the Washington Redskins as their quarterback coach, new offensive coordinator Noah Brindise will try to put some of former boss Steve Spurrier's "Fun-and-Gun" in the Pirates' attack this season. The first order of business for Brindise will be to limit turnovers, as the Pirates had three times as many interceptions (18) as touchdown passes (six) last season. ECU will turn to a new play caller this season in James Pinkney, who started the final three games last year. In those games, he completed 43-of-87 passes for 422 yards and two touchdowns. Pinkney will have to work with a new group of receivers, as the program lost its top two wideouts to graduation, including the school's fourth all-time leading receiver in Terrance Copper. Marvin Townes is the leading returning receiver on the team with 23 catches for 176 yards and two touchdowns. Townes, however, also led the squad in rushing last year with 1,128 yards and eight scores. He is expected to be pushed to wideout this season with the re-emergence of Art Brown at the tailback spot. Brown, who missed last year with an injury, has rushed for 1,512 yards and 14 touchdowns in his first three seasons at ECU. While the Pirates have some talent at the skill positions, they lack it along offensive line. The line has just one returning starter in left guard Charlie Dempsey, who has All-conference potential. The OL has paved the way for three consecutive 1,000-yard rushers, but this year maybe a different story. DEFENSE: The Pirates' defense last season was just as dreadful as their offense. The unit allowed a whopping 409.6 total ypg and ranked 105th in scoring defense (35.7 ppg). The defense also had its share of problems against the run, allowing 209.9 ypg. The Pirates return six starters on defense, but many other players have seen limited or no action. Linebacker Chris Moore is the heart and soul of the defense, as he was among the nation's leading tacklers in 2003 with 148. Moore, who has played in 20 games during his career, was named Second Team All-conference last season and an Honorable Mention All-American. Mickey McCoy will provide a nice complement to Moore at the linebacker spot, as he finished second on the team in tackles with 105 last year. Returning in the secondary is C-USA All-Freshman Team defensive back Erode Jean, who led ECU in pass breakups (nine) and finished sixth on the team in tackles with 50. He is considered the team's top playmaker with two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions in '03. Guy Whimper, who ranked fourth on the team in tackles last year, is the only starter left on the defensive line for the Pirates. Richard Koonce, who accounted for 48 tackles and made a pair of starts last year, will also factor into the preseason battles for a starting role. SPECIAL TEAMS: Cameron Broadwell will once again manage the kicking duties for the Pirates after making 12-of-18 field goal attempts in 2003. Punter Ryan Dougherty was a pleasant surprise for ECU last season, as he averaged a stellar 44.5 yards per boot, which earned him First Team All-Conference USA honors. He also has great athleticism with a rushing touchdown and completed pass to his credit. The Pirates also welcome back their top kick returners from a year ago in Damarcus Fox and Robert Tillman. OUTLOOK: The Pirates had been one of the more successful teams in the league in the not-too-distant past, but two straight disappointing finishes have started a domino effect. Head coach John Thompson has brought in some help on the offensive side of the ball which will allow him to focus on defense where he excels. The Pirates play a tough schedule this season, with games against West Virginia and North Carolina State, so a winning season may be unlikely. The team does have a few talented starters, but a very weak offensive line will keep them from finishing in the upper half of the conference.