Tulane Opponents: Game 5 - East Carolina

Tulane Opponents: Game 5 - East Carolina

Any team with John Thompson for a head coach is probably going to be a defensively-oriented football team. Thompson, the former Florida, Arkansas, USM, Memphis and (very briefly) LSU defensive coordinator, is a renowned designer of aggressive, attacking defenses

The ECU preview has taken a lot of time to get done. I apologize, but in explanation this team is in such flux that it's hard to get a handle on who will or who might play and there are a lot of players who MIGHT be contributors.

Any team with John Thompson for a head coach is probably going to be a defensively-oriented football team. Thompson, the former Florida, Arkansas, USM, Memphis and (very briefly) LSU defensive coordinator, is a renowned designer of aggressive, attacking defenses.

The defense that Thompson fields uses unpredictable movement (defensive shifting), stunting and an aggressively fast pace to keep opposing offenses off balance and opposing quarterbacks from finding a rhythym.

It's out with then old and in with the new at ECU, as Thompson is beginning a youth movement which sees many seniors in reserve roles, with younger players climbing into the saddle. Thompson appears to be in full 'build for the future' phase, with younger players occupying the top spots on the depth chart at many poiitons ahead of older players.

You have to believe that defense is Thompson's priority, so expect the second-year head coach to be more actively involved in the defense this season after the Pirates were racked for nearly 4,900 yards and allowed opposing offenses to score 52 touchdowns in 2003.

In recruiting last year, Thompson and staff went very heavily into the JUCO market, signing JC players even if they were unable to report until after meeting graduation requirments at the end of the spring or summer semesters.

Now let's break this team down, piece by piece, offense first.

Offense
It's hard to win football games without scoring points and hard to score points if you're a one dimensional football team. And the Pirates were almost as one-dimensional in 2003 as it's possible for a college football team to be.

They had a revolving door at quarterback, aggravated by injuries, with three quarterbacks - Desmond Robinson, Paul Troth and James Pinkney - seeing action. They combined to throw six touchdown passes and 17 interceptions. All-in-all, the Pirates turned the ball over 32 times (and their o'line allowed 32 sacks) in 2003. Some of the offensive problem was that the running game was hampered by the loss for the season of senior running back Art Brown, 5-9 207, still Marvin Townes ran for 1,128 yards and 8 touchdowns.

Given the collapse on offense in 2003, it's not surprising that Thompson starts 2004 with a new offensive coordinator. The new offensive honcho is former Washington Redskin quarterback coach Noah Brindisie. A former University of Florida quarterback under Steve Spurrier, Brindisie followed his mentor to the NFL. Expect Brindisie to attempt to install something like Spurrier's 'Fun 'n Gun' offense. Installation of that complex, confusing offense may take more than one spring and one August camp to complete.

The Fun 'n Gun is a four-wide, spread offense that uses the passing game to establish the running game, In this offensive system the quarterback has to be schooled to take advantage of mismatches caused by unusual alignments or by faulty assignments within the opposing defense - i.e. trying to cover a receiver with a linebacker. This was successful for Spurrier for years at Florida but just as Tulane fans have witnessed with the Green Wave version of the four-wide, spread offense, time and defensive coordinators catch up to every offensive innovation. Running this offense in today's college football world doesn't produce the tremendous advantage for the offense that it did 7-8 years ago, although some teams are better suited to run this offense than others.

Irregardless of the opponents preparedness, Brindisie's offense will put a lot of pressure on the quarterback and despite the emergence of Pinkney late last season and during spring practice, expect teething troubles as the Pirates try to shake off the more conservative offensive legacy of long time head coach Steve Logan. Those troubles will only get worse if Pinkney doesn't pan out over the long haul. One trend to note from the end of least season is that ECU turned the ball over 7 times in their final three games, all with Pinkney at the helm.

QB
Since Dave Garrard left after the 2001 season ECU has struggled to find a consistent quarterback. The QB job was handed first to highly regarded Paul Troth, who had a pretty good season in 2002 but a negative TD-to-INT ratio. Logan was fired after the 2002 season and Troth did not do well under the new regime, finally losing the starting quarterback job to Desmond Robinson, 5-10 207, whose forte is the option.

Robinson was awful early in 2003 and Troth got another chance but struggled and Robinson got his job back. Robinson held on, throwing for 1,262 yards and 3 touchdowns against 11 interceptions but was injured during the Memphis game and replaced by redshirt freshman James Pinkney, 6-3 208, who had been playing on the Pirate JV team earlier in the season.

Pinkney was an improvement over Robinson and Troth and held the job through the end of the season and maintained his hold on the starting job through spring practice and bids fair to be the glue that holds new offensive coordinator's Noah Brindisie's Fun 'n Gun offense together. If he's NOT the answer than it's probably back to Robinson or, most likely, Florida Gator transfer Patrick Dosh, 6-2 225, for the short term and the drawing board for the long term if neither can get it done consistently.

Troth threw only 69 passes, completing 44 for 380 yards and a single touchdown with 4 interceptions in 2003; has since departed the program.

Starter
James Pinkney 6-3 208, RSo. - Played in eight games as redshirt freshman and started the final three of the season. Pinkney offers the ability to stretch the defense vertically, something that Troth apparently could not do and that Robinson could not do consistently.

Reserves
Desmond Robinson 5-10 207, Sr. - option QB who won the job from Paul Troth but couldn't hold it. Comes out of spring practice as the number two quarterback. Has played in 17 career games and made 9 career starts.

Patrick Dosh 6-2 225, So. - Highly regarded Florida transfer who redshirted there in 2002, then transferred and sat out at ECU in 2003. Pirate head coach John Thompson was the defensive coordinator at Florida while Dosh was redshirting there in 2002, draw your own conclusions.

RB
Probably the best position on the team, with two top quality running back starters.

Starter
Art Brown 5-9 207, Sr. - Missed last year and spring after a serious knee injury. Named Second team All-Conference USA in 2002. Ran for 1,029 yards on 214 carries and scored 17 touchdowns that season. Career rushing total is 1,512 net yards, a 5.0 per carry career average. Scored 16 rushing touchdowns in his career. His best performance of 2002 came against Tulane, when he ran for 185 yards, the first 100-yard rushing game of his career, and scored two touchdowns. Has played in 30 games and made 8 career starts. 26 career receptions. Came to ECU from Fork Union (Va.) Prep School.
OR
> Marvin Townes 6-0 194, RSr. - Team's leading rusher in 2003 with 1128 net yards on 258 attempts, a 4.4 yard per carry average, scoring 8 touchdowns. Missed much of this past spring practice. 360 career carries for 1,558 net yards and 11 touchdowns. Has played in 36 career games and made 11 career starts. With Brown's return, Townes may assume increased kickoff return duties and possibly resume punt return duties, where he contributed in 2001. 29 career receptions.

Reserves
Robert Tillman 5-11 170, So. - Backup running back who has seen spot duty at that position and shared kick off return responsibities with D. Fox in 2004. Played in 11 games as a true freshman. Got extensive work in spring practice because Brown and Townes were held out. Participated in track as a sprinter in high school, indicating very good speed. Could contribute again on special teams as well as on offense.

Freshman
Pierre Bell 6-2, 205.

FB
Starter
Jermarcus Veal 6-0 242, RJr. - Linebacker converted to fullback after 2002. Played in 12 games, making 1 start at linebacker in 2002 season. Played in 12 games on offense last season. Enters fall practice as the starting fullback. Has no career carries and 1 career reception. Reserves
Lorenza Pickett 6-1 235, Jr. - Converted linebacker who's listed on the depth chart as the #2 at the fullback position coming out of spring practice. Has played in 8 career games at linebacker.

Kort Shankweiler 6-2 235, RSo. - Came to ECU as a quarterback and converted to tight end before the 2003 season, playing in all 12 games. Moved over to fullback for 2004.

WR
Frankly, the returnees are not impressive. It's going to be difficult to run the Fun 'n Gun, unless the receivers receivers can do something with the ball, presuming that there's stable play at quarterback, of course.

Starters
Kevin Roach 6-4 209, RSo. - Played in every game as a redshirt freshman, making 4 catches for 49 yards.

Damarcus Fox 5-8 177, Sr. - Played in 12 games and made 2 starts in 2003. 28 career games. Doubles as a kick off return specialist. Caught 9 passes for 132 yards, including a 65 yarder. Runs on relays in track, indicating great speed. 9 career receptions for 132 yards.

Reserves
Bryson Bowling 6-1 173, Jr. - excellent athlete who has played in 12 games and made 1 startin his career. 2 career catches for 18 yards.

Bobby Good 6-1 171, So. - Walk-on who played in eight games as a true freshman in 2003, making 2 starts. Made 8 catches for 55 yards.

Iverick Harris 6-3 215, Jr. - Played in 7 games, made 2 starts. Caught three passes for 75 yards. Versatile enough athlete to be used as a kick returner.

Edwin Rios 5-8 169, Sr. - Leading returnee among receivers after catching 10 passes for 48 yards last season. Has played in 28 career games and made 3 starts. 24 career receptions for 207 yards and 2 touchdowns. Has also seen action as a kickoff returner.

Will Bland 5-9 182, RSo. - High school quarterback making transition to wide receiver. Had a big spring and is listed as #2 on the depth chart at one receiver spot. Played in three games in 2003 and caught a total of 5 passes for 23 yards.

Freshman
Chris Johnson - 5-11 165, Excellent speed. Missed most of senior season with injury.

TE
Shawn Levesque 6-4 260 Jr. - JUCO transfer. Rep is that he's the blocking-type tight end.

Josh Coffman 6-6 238, So. - Played in eight games and made four starts last season. Caught 4 passes for 48 yards. Listed #2 at tight end on the depth chart coming out of spring practice. has very good speed for a tight end.

JUCO Transfer: Sean Harmon 6-3 264, Jr. Originally signed with Oklahoma State but attended Northeast Oklahoma JC instead. Committed to OSU last year but signed instead with East Carolina. Apparently needs to graduate from Junior College to be eligible as a transfer in 2004. Seems to be scheduled for an August report date. Rep is that he possesses superior receiving skills.

OL
Would like to have last season back as they allowed a collective 32 sacks. Even so, the Pirates have produced a thousand yard rusher in each of the past three seasons, with Townes gaining 1,128 yards last season. This year might be another of the same type as 2003 because five players with starting experience depart and they started a collective 44 games last season. The 13 players listed on the pre-season depth chart have only 7 letters and 31 career starts between them, 24 of those starts belonging to senior left guard Charlie Dempsey.

Starters
C Hunter Wood 6-3 275, RSo. - Has played in 18 games career games, earned 1 letter.

G Charlie Dempsey 6-3 300, RSr. - Has played in 36 career games, made 24 career starts and earned 2 letters.

G Gary Freeman 6-1 322, Jr. - 13 career games, 2 career starts, 1 letter.

T Eric Graham 6-6 307, RSo. - Played in three games last season.

T Joel Reynaud JUCO 6-7 325, Jr. - JUCO transfer. Could play on either the right or left side. May have three years of eligibility remaining.
OR
James Myrick 6-4 271, RJr. - Converted tight end who's played in 7 career games and made 1 career start.

Reserves
Hagen Mason 6-1 308, RSr. - Very experienced player who jas played in a total of 30 career games, made 4 career starts and earned a pair of letters.

JUCO Transfer
Chris Sellars 6-4 305, Jr. - Strong lineman who is expected to report in August. Should press for starting job immediately.

Defense
Linebacker Chris Moore is the headliner on defense after leading the Pirates with 140 tackles in 2003. Managed only 12 sacks and 6 quarterback hurries. Defense was battered again last season but shoyuld be improvd in the seocnd year of Thompson's crazy defense.

DL
Starters
DE Shaunte Hunt 6-5 266, Jr. - Played in 10 games in 2003 and made 16 tackles, including 2 tackles for losses and a sack. Had a big spring and moved into the starting lineup.

DT Guy Whimper 6-5 275, RJr. - Has started 9 games in his 23 game career. In those games has produced 44 tackles, 8 tackles for losses and 2 sacks.

NT Dontre Brown 6-1 285, RSo. - Played in 12 games and made 19 tackles.

BAN Richard Koonce 6-0 214, RSo. - Has played in 24 games and made 2 starts in his career. Has totalled 94 tackles, 7 tackles for losses and 0.5 sacks. Reserves
DE Craig Harper 6-3 246, RFr. - Made it to #2 on the depth chart at defensive end.

DE Eric Terry 6-2 250, Jr. - Made it onto the depth chart after spring.

DT Mike Horner 6-3 270, RFr. - #2 at defensive tackle coming out of spring.

NT Lance Neisz 6-3 275, RJr. - #2 at nose tackle after spring practice.

BAN Michael MacDonagh 6-3 240, So. - #2 at Bandit after spring practice.

BAN Sammie Walden 6-2 255, RSo. - Former walk-on who moved onto the depth chart after spring. Only action was in 2 games last season.

BAN Jason Pender 5-10 224, RJr. - Has played in 8 games in his career. Plays on special teams.

True freshmen: DT Josh Grier 6-3 315, - Defensive tackle who could make a quick impact if he qualifies. Has both strength and exceptional quickness.

LB
Starters
Ike Emodi 6-4 231, Sr. - 6 starts last season at the Bandit DE spot. 38 tackles, 4.5 tackles for losses and 2 sacks last season.

Chris Moore 6-1 220, RJr. - 20 games and 16 starts. Named second-team All-CUSA last season and honorable mention All-America after making 148 tackles with 13 tackles for loss. In his career Moore has amassed 220 tackles, 23 tackles for losses, 4.5 sacks and 2 interceptions.

Dashaun Stephens 5-11 232, RJr. - Ex-running back made two starts at linebacker last season and made 30 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for losses for 10 yards.

Reserves
Josh Chisholm 5-10 220, RJr. - 13 career starts, 8 last season. Produced 55 tackles with 1 tackles for a loss and an interception last season.

Pierre Parker 6-2 200, RFr. - Moved over from quarterback and played briefly early in the 2003 season.

Eric Butler 6-1 235, Sr. - Veteran played in all 12 games last season and made a few big plays, 35 tackles, 2.5 tackles for losses and 2 sacks. Also forced a fumble and blocked a kick.

JUCO transfer
Jamar Flournoy, 6-0 220, Jr. - JUCO transfer who runs well enough to play safety. Could make an immediate impact at linebacker.

DB
Starters
CB Erode Jean 5-9 177, So. - Has the potential to be big playmaker. Made big impact as a true freshman, starting 8 games and making 50 tackles, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions. Season was capped by his being named to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team.

ROV Mickey McCoy 6-0 180 Jr. -Played nickle or dime back in those packages in 2003. Has played in 20 career games and made 11 career starts. Finished second on the team in tackles with 105.

FS Zack Baker 6-1 207, Jr. - JUCO transfer who enrolled in January and participated in spring practice. Took over as the starting free safety. Reported to have good cover skills.

CB Donald Whitehead 5-10 177, RSr. - Former receiver who has played in 26 games in an injury plagued career. Has made 11 career starts. Made 20 tackles and broke up 2 passes last season.

Reserves
Markeith McQueen 5-9 174, Jr. - Converted running back who has played in 15 career games and made 26 tackles.

Kyle Chase - 5-9 200, So. - Played extensively as a true freshman, making 21 tackles; 2.5 tackles for losses, 2 sacks and snatching an interception. Potential as a playmaker may move him onto the depth chart.

JUCO Transfer
Demetrius Hodges 5-10 190, Jr.

Special Teams
The importance of special teams can't be minimized. For example, last year ECU outgained Tulane 339 yard in total offense to 309 but lost 28-18. The difference in the game was field position (and fewer turnovers and, to some extent, clock management, with Tulane ending up with a 4 minute plus advantage in time of possession despite being outgained), with Tulane punter Chris Beckman having an outstanding game with 5 punts for 273 yards, an average of 54.6 per punt with a 73 yards and three others of longer than 50 yards. One of Beckman's punts was a touchback and three ended up inside the 20. Only one of Beckman's punts was returned, that for a net gain of 18 yards, another was fair caught.

Contrast that to the day that ECU's outstanding punter Ryan Daugherty, named 1st Team All C-USA, had against Tulane: 5 punts for 202 and a 40.4 average and a long punt of 51 yards. One of Daugherty's punts was fair caught and another was a touchback. Three of Daugherty's punts were returned for 28 yards.

A good day but Daugherty was out-punted and the result was the average starting posiiton for ECU drives after Beckman punts, even averaging in the touchback was their 13 yard line.

The Pirates allowed two blocked kicks last season, while blocking one of their own.

Cover Units
Cover units seem solid. If they can repeat with averages in the 2003 ballpark, when they kept all opposing returnmen out of the end zone, they're going to be in good shape.
KOR 35-750 avg. 21.4
PR 32-213 avg. 6.7, net punting average: 40.6

Punter
Ryan Daugherty - outstanding punter. ranked among the NCAA top 10 in punting with a 44.5 yards per punt average, which earned him first-team All-Conference USA honors in addition to being named to the C-USA All-Freshman team accolades. Net Punting average of 40.6 is outstanding.

Kicker
Cameron Broadwell - 12-of-18 field goals. 23-of-25 on extra points. Long field goal was 46. Did not handle kickoffs last season but probably will in 2004.

Return Units
The Pirate return game was awful. One wonders how much of the punt return debacle was Copper and how much is a systemic problem of lacking enough athletes to get the downfield blocks needed. Still, Copper gained 111 of his yards in the final four games, possibly indicating a turnaround was in progress.
KOR 51-958 avg. 18.8
PR 27-124 avg. 4.6

Punt Returner
Senior Terrance Copper handled all the punt return chores last season and averaged a dismal 4.6 yards per return on 27 returns. However, 111 of those yards came in the Pirates final four ball games, possibly indicating improvement. On the other hand, no one on the team has ever returned a punt in college.

Copper will likely be replaced by either receiver Damarcus Fox, 5-8 177 Sr. or reserve running back Robert Tillman, a 5-11 190 Sophomore.

Damarcus Fox 5-8 177, Sr. - Spot receiver who has seen extensive duty as a kickoff returner the past two seasons. Has handled 38 returns for 823 yards and a touchdown. Has averaged 21.6 per return during his career and has had returns of 59 and 94 yards.

Robert Tillman 5-11 190, So. - Backup running back who has seen spot duty at that position and shared kick off return responsibities with D. Fox in 2004. Returned 14 for 265 yards, an 18.9 yard per average return. Long return was 25 yards.

Marvin Townes 6-1 194, Sr. - Because of the absence of Art Brown, Townes saw far less action as a kick off returner last season than in the past but his career totals of 50 returns for 1,120 yards and a touchdown are pretty good. Townes has averaged 22.4 had had a long returns of 45 and 93 yards.

Brought back four returns for 176 yards (44.0 per) against Tulane in 2001. Was kept out of the end zone twice in that game by touchdown saving tackles by Seth Marler. With Brown back in 2004 Townes may be available for additional return duties.

Kickoff Returner
Should be a strong area for the Pirates this season with both regulars from 2003 returning and the potential availability of senior running back Marvin Townes, who was very successful returning kick offs earlier in his career.

Damarcus Fox 5-8 177, Sr. - Spot receiver who has seen extensive duty as a kickoff returner the past two seasons. Has handled 38 returns for 823 yards and a touchdown. Has averaged 21.6 per return during his career and has had returns of 59 and 94 yards.

Robert Tillman 5-11 190, So. - Backup running back who has seen spot duty at that position and shared kick off return responsibities with D. Fox in 2004. Returned 14 for 265 yards, an 18.9 yard per average return. Long return was 25 yards.

Marvin Townes 6-1 194, Sr. - Because of the absence of Art Brown, Townes saw far last action as a kick off returner last season than in the past but his career totals of 50 returns for 1,120 yards and a touchdown are pretty good. Townes has averaged 22.4 had had a long returns of 45 and 93 yards. Brought back four returns for 176 yards (44.0 per) against Tulane in 2001. Was kept out of the end zone twice in that game by touchdown saving tackles by Seth Marler. With Brown back in 2004 Townes may be available for additional return duties.

Edwin Rios 5-8 169, Sr. - Reciver who has handles some kick off returns during his career. Has totals of 13 returns for 215 yards and a long return of 30 yards. Has averaged 16.5 yards per return.

I would expect a lot of improvement in special teams and defense by the Pirates, but the offense should take at least another year to come around.

It will be another long season, won-loss wise for East Carolina.

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