East Carolina went 9-5 in Skip Holtz's last season, but whether the Pirates are better, worse, or about the same, it's certain that the 2010 team will bear the stamp of first-year Coach Ruffin McNeill.
The pass-happy offense employed in his 10 seasons as an assistant at Texas Tech was on display in the Purple and Gold game on April 17 and was a preview of coming attractions.
The offense passed the ball 71 times and ran it just 29 times.
"The offense is ahead of schedule when you compare it to 10 years ago at Texas Tech," McNeill said after three quarterbacks passed for 354 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions.
Despite all the focus on throwing the football, the spring ends with the quarterback job still up for grabs.
Brad Wornick, a sophomore walk-on, was 18-for-33 for 226 yards with two TDs and one interception. Rio Johnson, a redshirt freshman, hit on 18 of 27 passes for 105 yards and a TD. Sophomore Josh Jordan was 4-for-11 with 23 yards and an interception. A fourth contender, juco transfer Dominique Davis, is to enroll in the fall and join the team.
"It's still to be decided," McNeill told the Daily Reflector. "We have some guys that competed well this spring, and we have some guys coming in the fall that could be thrown in the mix as well."
"Blitzing is part of our defensive scheme and we will continue to work on some packages for that," McNeill said. "I feel we have the athletes to do that. That will, in turn, make our offense better since they will have seen these things in practice every day."NOTES, QUOTES
--Because of construction at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, the April 17 scrimmage was played on a 70-yard field and had more of an offense vs. defense setup. The stadium will have 7,000 more seats by the start of the 2010 season.
--Junior tight end Korey Reynolds has moved to the other side of the ball and now will compete at defensive end.
--Junior linebacker Matt Thompson and sophomore cornerback Rahkeem Morgan missed the April 17 scrimmage after conduct resulting in citations from the Greenville Police Department a week earlier.
QB Brad Wornick -- Although the sophomore has not won the job yet (no one has), he had a strong spring game April 17 and seems to be a good fit in the Texas Tech-style offense.
QB Rio Johnson -- Like Wornick, he can't claim the job is his. But the redshirt freshman completed nine straight passes at one point in the spring game and led three straight scoring drives.
WR Dayon Arrington -- The sophomore has made plays all spring and in this offense play-makers are a must.
OL Jordan Davis - Davis has moved into the guard spot formerly occupied by senior Cory Dowless, who is now taking snaps at center. Davis looks to be on track to win the job.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I want our players to do their own jobs and not worry about someone else's job." --Coach Ruffin McNeill.STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: No one doubts the Pirates will be entertaining this season. But fans are used to winning now and just throwing the ball around won't be good enough. Just piling up showy offensive stats won't be good enough. The focus in the spring has been heavy on the offense, but the defense has looked more solid and reliable. If the defense can create turnovers, the Pirates can control the game with their quick, short passing game. ECU should be a contender in C-USA and should make it back to a bowl game.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The sooner the quarterback derby is settled the better, but no matter who wins the competition the Pirates will throw, throw and throw some more. There appear to be plenty of capable receivers. Coming out of the spring the offensive line is banged up, but this issue should be resolved by the fall. Overall, five starters return.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The defense will attack first, ask questions later. "Blitzing is part of our defensive scheme and we will continue to work on packages for that. I feel we have the athletes to do that," McNeill said. Only two starters, cornerbacks Emanuel Davis and Travis Simmons, return.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: There will be a complete overall in the kicking game, though junior Ben Ryan has experience and should be fine. With a lot of talented wide receivers, there are multiple options in the return game. The new coaching staff is emphasizing aggressive play on kick and punt coverage.
--Offensive lineman Dalton Faulds missed the Purple-Gold game with a knee injury.
--Also out with a knee injury is senior center Will Towery.
--Freshman receiver Justin Jones missed the Purple-Gold game and the last part of spring practice to address academic responsibilities.
Previous Report: 04/09/2010