>The Pirates are coming off of their fourth consecutive winning season, a feat that had not been achieved since the 1970′s. People all across the country realized the success East Carolina has had, as coach Skip Holtz was named Head Coach at the University of South Florida. So in comes former Pirate Ruffin McNeill, who was actually on those successful Pirate teams in the ’70′s. McNeill comes back after coaching at Texas Tech.
Offense - The major key in the offense that McNeill brings from Texas Tech is quarterback play. Unfortunately for the Pirates, the quarterbacks they have returning have little or no experience. Only sophomore Josh Jordan has any experience but that is limited as he has seen action in only three games and thrown seven passes.
The team also loses two of the the three starting receivers from last year. But luckily for whoever the starting quarterback ends up being, Dwayne Harris returns for his senior season after putting up some monster numbers in 2009. He caught 83 passes for 978 yards and seven touchdowns. However after Harris, junior Joe Womack is the next leading receiver and he only caught 12 balls for 141 yards. Coming out of spring ball, nine of the 17 wide receivers are underclassmen, so youth will be served.
The Pirates lose last year’s top rusher, Dominique Lindsay, but return second-leading rusher Brandon Jackson. Jackson, who played in only nine games last season, rushed for 316 yards and three touchdowns. Giavani Ruffin also returns after running for 308 yards and five touchdowns, while Harris ran for 149 yards and five touchdowns.
Defense - Last year, saying that the defense excelled at forcing turnovers would be an understatement, as they forced 28 turnovers. Unfortunately, the defense only returns two starters from last year’s squad, both cornerbacks. One good thing, however, is that there will be plenty of experience, as outside of the two returning starters, 21 defensive lettermen return.
Emanuel Davis returns for his junior campaign after finishing fifth on the team with 69 tackles, while being in a three-way tie for second with two interceptions. He also had four tackles for loss and led the team with 12 broken up passes. Travis Simmons is the other returning corner and he finished with 52 tackles.
Ironically, a player with a similar name to his position, Dustin Lineback, returns to anchor the linebackers. He finished the year with 29 tackles. Matt Thompson had 20 tackles in seven games. Steve Spence had 15 tackles, two sacks and two and a half tackles for loss.
Josh Smith returns for his senior year on the line after being in on 26 tackles, four and a half for loss and four sacks. Michael Brooks finished right below him with 24 tackles, three and a half of which were for loss.
Recruiting - Despite having around a month to recruit, the Pirates coaching staff was able to bring in 18 signees to compile its 2010 class. With such great turnover on the defensive side of the ball, it’s no shock that 10 of the 18 recruits come from that side. Maurice Falls comes in as a defensive end prospect who enrolled early. In his senior campaign, he came up with 118 tackles.
While in high school, Jacob Geary played end, tackle and linebacker on the defensive side of the ball, but comes to East Carolina to play linebacker. He had quite an impressive senior campaign, as he tallied 162 tackles, eight sacks and two forced fumbles. Jeremy Grove also comes to ECU as a linebacker prospect and enrolled early after tackling 107 opponents, including 19 for loss. Lee Pegues was a four-year starter who had 90 tackles and 10 sacks as a senior.
Schedule - The Pirates jump right into conference play as they welcome both Tulsa and Memphis to Greeneville in the first two weeks of the season. The team will use those two games as warmups to their two hardest games of the year, when they face Virginia Tech and North Carolina in back-to-back weeks. The Pirates played both teams last season, losing to both, but keeping close with the Hokies. ECU completes its three-game road trip with a trip to Southern Miss, a team that gave the Pirates a fight last season. The team returns to three of its next four games at home, hosting N.C. State, Marshall and Navy, while traveling to UCF. ECU finishes the season with two of their last three games on the road, as they travel to UAB and Rice before hosting SMU to close the season.