2011 East Carolina Preview
East Carolina QB Dominique Davis
East Carolina QB Dominique Davis
Posted Jun 24, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - East Carolina Pirates

East Carolina Pirates

Preview 2011

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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Ruffin McNeill 2nd year: 6-7
Returning Lettermen
Off. 22, Def. 25, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 24
Ten Best ECU Players
1. QB Dominique Davis, Sr.
2. CB Emanuel Davis, Sr.
3. WR Lance Lewis, Sr.
4. S Bradley Jacobs, Sr.
5. PK Michael Barbour, Sr.
6. S Derek Blacknall, Sr.
7. NG Michael Brooks, Jr.
8. DT Antonio Allison, Sr.
9. LB Justin Dixon, Soph.
10. WR Michael Bowman, Sr.
2011 Schedule

Sep. 3 South Carolina (in Char)
Sep. 10 Virginia Tech
Sep. 24 UAB
Oct. 1 North Carolina
Oct. 8 at Houston
Oct. 15 at Memphis
Oct. 22 at Navy
Oct. 29 Tulane
Nov. 5 Southern Miss
Nov. 12 at UTEP
Nov. 19 UCF
Nov. 26 at Marshall

Is the Pirates' tankard half-empty or half-full these days? After last season, it's awfully difficult to tell.

East Carolina had a rather strange 2010 campaign, a rollercoaster ride that didn't stop until the end of December. The staff was new, the personnel turned over, and the season was a tale of two very different halves. In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, the Pirates jumped out to an improbable 5-2 start in Ruffin McNeill's debut, stunning Tulsa on the final play of the opener and upsetting NC State along the way.

And then the defense traversed from bad to historically bad over the final six games, five which were losses. The weathered unit yielded at least 42 points in every game, with a 76-35 loss to Navy being the exclamation point.

The Pirate defense has a long way to go before becoming respectable, meaning it'll once again be up to the offense to bail the team out. Lincoln Riley's new Air Raid system was the sole reason that East Carolina went bowling in 2010, producing 39 touchdown passes and more than 318 yards a game through the air. The catalyst of the attack, QB Dominique Davis, is back, as is one of his primary targets, Lance Lewis. It'll be bombs away for ECU, which will have no choice but to compete in shootouts in order to survive in Conference USA.

Now that McNeill has started getting himself in shape, shedding more than 80 pounds during the offseason, the coach has his sights on retooling his defense. The calling card when Skip Holtz was prowling the sidelines in Greenville, the D needs a dramatic makeover before it can start seriously thinking about East Division crowns once again.

What to watch for on offense: The other receivers. Lewis is a terrific player, with a chance to play on Sundays. However, he's going to need help. Lots of it now that Dwayne Harris is a Dallas Cowboy. Out of a cadre of unproven players, such as Michael Bowman, Justin Jones, and Andrew Bodenheimer, someone needs to rise up and absorb some of the attention that No. 88 is going to get. It'll be worth keeping an eye on 5-10, 184-pound Danny Webster who has convinced the coaching staff that he can contribute in his first year out of high school.

What to watch for on defense: Competition. Save for maybe CB Emanuel Davis, just about every position is going to be competitive in the summer. When you play as poorly as the East Carolina D did a year ago, no job is safe. Plus, those transfers who've yet to practice with the team, such as DE John Lattimore and linebackers Joseph Banks and Chris Baker, are sure to begin shaking up the depth chart once they put the pads on in August. The Pirates are searching for the right combination, a process that could trickle into the start of the season.

This team will be far better if … the defense makes even modest strides from a year ago. In theory, things can't get worse after last season's debacle, but the Pirates have to make actual progress in the areas of third down and red zone defense this fall. Every possible area of the unit is need of repairs, which puts the onus of the second-year staff to instill better fundamentals and anoint the right personnel before the opening weekend.

The Schedule: The Pirates are never afraid to take on a challenge, but they're gluttons for punishment over the first part of the season with dates agaisnt South Carolina, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina in the first four games. Making the schedule more strange is that the off week is after dealing with the Hokies and facing UAB. Getting three straight games at home, including the Virginia tech and UNC games, is followed up by three straight road dates including a huge Conference USA showdown against Houston. In a big plus, the East race comes to Greenville with the November showdowns against Southern Miss and UCF at home.

Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Dominique Davis. Conference USA's most impressive newcomer of 2010, Davis was a hand-in-glove fit for the Pirates' new Air Raid offense. In his debut out of Fort Scott (Kans.) Community College, the one-time Boston College Eagle ranked No. 7 nationally in total offense and accounted for 46 total touchdowns. With a full season and an entire spring to digest the nuances of the pass-happy attack, he's hoping to be even more efficient as the caretaker of the East Carolina offense.

Best Defensive Player: Senior CB Emanuel Davis. Back for one final season as the Pirates' most competent defender, Davis is getting a lot of offseason attention from NFL scouts. And why not? The First Team All-Conference USA selection made 54 tackles, three stops for loss, two picks, and nine pass breakups in 2010. Negatively impacted by a dearth of big-time talent around him, he possesses the speed and hips to lock down the other team's best receiver.

Key players to a successful season: The linebackers. If the newly-minted 3-4 defense has any chance of working, it'll need better play from an athletic, yet inconsistent group of linebackers. The situation on the second level took a turn for the worse when one of last season's more productive defenders, Lamar McLendon, decided to retire in the spring. With just one senior, Cliff Perryman, listed on the post-spring two-deep, the Pirates' fate is going to rest with a bunch of untested underclassmen, without many reps on the resume.

The season will be a success if ... East Carolina qualifies for a sixth consecutive bowl game, with at least a little more help from the defense. The Pirates are determined to go bowling in 2011, preferably with a more balanced team than a year ago. In all likelihood, the schedule is going to require the program to rally from a slow start. In the first five games, ECU opens with South Carolina, hosts Virginia Tech and North Carolina, and travels to Houston to play the Cougars.

Key game: Oct. 1 vs. North Carolina. If the Pirates are going to make a non-conference splash this season, a visit from in-state Carolina could provide the right opportunity. East Carolina will have the edge on offense, as the Tar Heels continue to work young QB Bryn Renner into the system. Faced with a difficult schedule in 2011, ECU might need an early upset in order to ease some of the second-half of the year pressure when bowl-eligibility hangs in the balance.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Rushing yards per game: East Carolina 118.9 – Opponents 226.7
- Passing yards per game: East Carolina 318.7 – Opponents 252.1
- Red zone touchdown %: East Carolina 73% - Opponents 74%

- 2011 East Carolina Preview | 2011 East Carolina Offense
- 2011 East Carolina Defense | 2011 East Carolina Depth Chart
- East Carolina Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006