2011 East Carolina Preview – Offense
East Carolina WR Lance Lewis
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - East Carolina Pirate Offense
Preview 2011 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The change taking place in Greenville is no more obvious than on offense, where a conservative attack is being scrapped in favor of a completely opposite look. As his offensive coordinator, Ruffin McNeill hired young Lincoln Riley to run a similar version of the "Air Raid" attack that was so prolific for so long at Texas Tech. The Pirates will operate a shotgun spread offense that floods the field with receivers and aims to strike as quickly as possible. Naturally, the existing personnel wasn't recruited for this type of a system and achieving the right tempo and rhythm could take all year. East Carolina has a multi-dimensional star in WR Dwayne Harris, the ingredients of a decent line, and a ton of question marks. For starters, who's the triggerman? Coming out of spring, untested sophomore Brad Wornick has the best chance of getting the ball in the opener.
Star of the offense: Senior WR Dwayne Harris
Passing: Dominique Davis
393-609, 3,967 yds, 37 TDs, 16 INTs
Rushing: Dominique Davis
79 carries, 141 yds, 9 TDs
Receiving: Lance Lewis
89 catches, 1,116 yds, 14 TDs
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore QB Brad Wornick
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Dayon Arrington
Best pro prospect: Harris
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Harris, 2) Senior OG D.J. Scott, 3) Senior OT Willie Smith
Strength of the offense: Veteran backs, receivers, the left side of the line
Weakness of the offense: Quarterback, center, lack of proven playmakers
State of the Unit: The installation of the Air Raid in Greenville went far better than anyone could have imagined in 2010. The Pirates, a far more conservative team under Skip Holtz, put it up 632 times, producing more than 4,000 yards and 39 touchdown passes. While all kinds of school records were smashed, it was far more important that all of the quarterbacks on the roster got a season to digest Lincoln Riley's unique system.
Who could have imagined? Senior Dominique Davis, by way of Boston College and Fort Scott (Kans.) Community College, arrived in the summer and never gave another Pirate a chance. The Conference USA Newcomer of the Year started every game, accounting for more than 4,000 yards and 46 total touchdowns. The 6-3, 222-pounder rewrote the school record books and instantly became one of the team leaders as he bombed away game after game growing into one of the nation's most dynamic playmakers. He started off the season red hot with 383 yards and five touchdown passes in the shootout win over Tulsa, and he hung five scoring passes in back to back weeks against Navy and UAB. Consistent, he hit the 300-yard mark eight times and bombed away for 413 yards in
the loss to the Midshipmen. Not just a passer, he's good on the move with nine touchdown runs and just enough mobility to keep defenses honest. With a full season and offseason to work out the wrinkles, he could be even more effective this fall.
Last season's backup was 6-2, 191-pound junior Brad Wornick, a former walk-on with the program. An accurate passer, he appeared in five games, including the Military Bowl, going 13-of-19 for 138 yards and a touchdown. Looking to bump him down on the depth chart are athletic sophomore Rio Johnson and redshirt freshman Shane Carden .
Watch Out For .... more big plays out of Davis. Despite all of the head-turning numbers, the staff was somewhat conservative with him, explaining why he was just 10th in the league in yards per attempt. More confident than ever, the coaches will start to open him up this fall.
Strength: A returning starter. It's been years since East Carolina began a season in this kind of a position behind center. Not only has Davis started 13 games in a complex system, but he's flush with confidence and eager to show last season was no fluke.
Weakness: Depth. Wornick was serviceable in 2010, but a former walk-on as the No. 2 is less than an ideal situation, especially since Davis endures plenty of contact. If possible, East Carolina would like to begin grooming his successor out of Johnson, Carden, and true freshman Cody Keith , a coveted recruit from California.
Outlook: As long as Davis remains healthy, East Carolina will house one of the most potent passing games in America. He picked up the system in a hurry, which bodes well for the upcoming season. After feeling his way through the process, he's in the right place to raise his game and contend for honors in a league known for its prolific quarterbacks.
State of the Unit: It's a good thing East Carolina doesn't lean too heavily on the running game. Last season's top two backs, Jon Williams and Giavani Ruffin are gone, and leading returning rusher Dominique Davis is a pocket passer. It'll be a close contest, with the eventual winner likely to be the Pirate, who does the best job of catching passes and picking up blitzes.
The closest thing to a veteran on the roster is 6-0, 187-pound sophomore Michael Dobson, who rushed for 62 yards on 11 carries and contributed on special teams last year. The third-stringer at the time, he has the quickness and soft hands to get to the top of the depth chart.
The only two scholarship running backs in the spring were 6-1, 201-pound sophomore Damonte Terry and 5-11, 179-pound redshirt freshman Alex Owah . However, a converted wide receiver, 5-8, 166-pound sophomore Torrance Hunt stole the show
this spring. One of the fastest of the Pirates, he positioned himself for a run at the No. 2 job. Owah might have the best hands among the backs, a difference-maker in this offense. Terry has good size and a punishing running style that could make him the choice in short yardage situations.
Watch Out For .... the arrival of Reggie Bullock . The NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year, he rushed for 1,830 yards while at Arizona Western Community College last year. Oh, and don't be fooled by the fact he's just 5-9 and 175 pounds. He runs with unexpected power, and chose ECU partly for the chance to start immediately.
Strength: Hands. By this stage of their growth, all of the young backs realize that if you can't emulate the wide receivers, your chance of getting on the field is greatly diminished. The Pirate runners are young and eager, and smart enough to spend extra practice time on running routes and watching the ball into their hands.
Weakness: Proven players. When your leading rushing went for 62 yards a year ago, a steep learning curve is unavoidable. While the Pirates might have talent, it's young and raw, and prone to making blunders. Unless Bullock or Dobson makes an immediate mark, defenses will have no reason to respect the ground game.
Outlook: The Pirates won't ignore the running game, but it won't be the focal point either. The team should have time to develop the backs, working with a group that has upside potential. Between Dobson and Bullock, one of these guys is capable of rushing for 700 yards with proper feeding.
State of the Unit: The Pirate receivers got a crash course last year in performing in a pass-happy spread offense, surviving beyond most expectations. The unit, a combination of inside and outside receivers, learned on the fly and generally passed the test. From that group, only one player has graduated, but it's critical one, all-conference playmaker Dwayne Harris.
Harris may be gone, but East Carolina's most dangerous outside receiver, 6-3, 212-pound senior Lance Lewis remains an amateur. One of the biggest beneficiaries of the offensive shift, he flourished in his first year removed from East Mississippi Community College, catching 89 passes for 1,116 yards and a school-record 14 touchdowns. He has the speed to get behind a secondary, but has even better body control, allowing him to beat defensive backs for balls in the air.
The Pirates are excited about the possibility to be getting back 5-11, 188-pound senior Darryl Freeney, who missed the 2010 season for off-field reasons. If he remains on track, he could be another deep threat and an ideal complement to take some heat off Lewis. In his two seasons of action, he caught 70 balls for 1,070 yards and five touchdowns. The other veterans on the outside, or "Z" receiver, are 6-3, 202-pound junior Andrew Bodenheimer and 6-1, 163-pound sophomore Mike Price. Bodenheimer plays with the physicality of a tight end, quietly making 40 receptions for 370 yards and two touchdowns a year ago. While inexperienced, Price possesses the quickness to be a factor if he can remain healthy.
Although no one can replace Harris on the inside, 5-9, 165-pound senior Michael Bowman will do his best to soften the blow out of the slot. A genuine playmaker, with the wiggle and quickness to make something out of nothing, he caught 47 passes for 434 yards and three scores in 2010. The antithesis of Bowman in the slot is 6-8, 264-pound sophomore Justin Jones, East Carolina's version of a tight end at Big "Y" receiver. An obvious weapon because of his unique size, he had 21 grabs for 211 yards and five touchdowns, and should be an even bigger factor in 2011.
Watch Out For .... Freeney. Before getting suspended for the season, Freeney was being viewed as a potential star of this bunch. He has good separation speed and proved himself when the offense was far more conservative. In this attack, and with Lewis warranting so much attention, he could make a splash in his return.
Strength: The outside receivers. On Lewis alone, this is a talented set of pass-catchers. If Freeney takes care of business away from the field, the Pirates will have a chance to be downright unstoppable on the periphery of the field.
Weakness: The inside guys. You don't get better after losing Harris, but the decline might be a little more than the program cares to digest. While Bowman and Jones have potential, neither will make opposing defenses sit up and scheme to stop them.
Outlook: Yeah, losing Harris hurts, but a full season with a new staff has afforded the program the time it needs to build depth and recruit the right players for the offense. Plus, it helps having Lewis in the fold to make plays downfield and occasionally command extra attention. If Freeney is right, Harris' departure becomes a little less of an issue.
State of the Unit: Three starters have departed from a veteran line that did an exceptional job of protecting QB Dominique Davis in 2010. More than any other unit, this is the one that's going to dictate how well the Pirates operate this season. If Davis doesn't have the time to check down and locate an open man, the attack is liable to collapse under the weight of the front wall's ineffectiveness.
At the pivot, the program is hopeful that 6-3, 294-pound Dalton Faulds has cleared up his academic issues and can regain his job. He was playing well in the first 10 games and showing more leadership before being shut down for the year. If Faulds fails, the staff could turn to 6-3, 272-pound Hugh Parker, a little-used senior.
At left guard is 6-4, 291-pound senior Doug Polochak , who was granted a sixth year by the NCAA in January. In an ideal situation, he's nabbed a starting spot, bringing some much-needed poise and veteran leadership to the front wall. One of the favorites to nab the other guard spot is 6-5, 304-pound sophomore Will Simmons. Though he played sparingly in 2010, the staff feels he has the right mix of toughness and attitude to hold off the competition and win a job.
While just a sophomore, 6-6, 303-pound Grant Harner is being looked at to anchor the tackles on the right side. He picked up the system, shed a few pounds, and started all but one game of the 2010 season. At left tackle, 6-3, 297-pound sophomore Jordan Davis will have a chance to supplant All-Conference USA first teamer Willie Smith. While not ideally sized for the position, he's the best young talent at tackle and an athlete who can seal off the edge on speed rushers.
Although he hasn't met expectations, 6-8, 310-pound senior Steven Baker remains a key cog among the tackles. He has three letters, mostly on special teams, and a chance to crack the lineup if he can play with more of a chip on his shoulder.
Watch Out For .... junior G Anthony Garrett . Pegged to be in the rotation when he first arrived from Fort Scott (Kans.) Community College, he never played a down because of an injury. Now healthy, he's set to compete with Polochak and Simmons, giving the Pirates a physical mindset at the guard position.
Strength: Tackle. Relatively speaking, this is Pirates' strongest area of the offensive line. Four tackles have seen action at the college level, including Campbell transfer Adhem Elsawi, and Harner, Davis, and Baker have not quite reached their potential.
Weakness: Center. It's the most important position of the front wall, and the one with the greatest uncertainty. Faulds can address it and allay many fears, but that might not happen until the summer. If he has any issues in the classroom, it'll have a ripple effect that impacts the rest of the interior.
Outlook: It's a transition year for the East Carolina offensive line, which was better than expected last season despite changes in philosophy. It'll be a blue-collar group that's tough at the point of attack, yet vulnerable in the early stages. Faulds is the key. If he's back and able to pick up where he left off, the starting unit has a chance to be better than just serviceable.
East Carolina Preview |
East Carolina Offense
2011 East Carolina Defense |
East Carolina Depth Chart
- East Carolina Previews 2010