What you need to know ... The defense improved by leaps and
bounds shaving off more than ten points and 50 yards per game
off the average, but there still wasn't any production against
the run finishing 113th in the nation against the run. Thee JUCO
transfer will push for the starting linebacker jobs, while the
front four should have enough experience and size to be better.
The secondary will be a strength with the return of safety Jamar
Flournoy and the emergence of corner Kasey Ross.
Pierre Parker, 69
Sacks: Marcus Hands, 5.5
Interceptions: Pierre Parker, Kasey Ross, 3
Star of the defense: Junior DE Marcus Hands
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior NG
Unsung star on the rise: Senior LB Orlando Farrow
Best pro prospect: Hands
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hands, 2) CB Kasey
Ross, 3) DT Brandon Setzer
Strength of the defense: Secondary
Weakness of the defense:
There's enough beef and experience to be far
more effective against the run, and there needs to be more of a pass
rush from all four spots. The return of Marcus Hands from a shoulder
injury will be a big boost, while tackles Brandon Setzer and Mark
Robinson should be more effective now that they know their roles. Depth
will be an issue early on needing several young players to shine right
The key to the unit: Hold up against the run. If the Pirates allow 218 rushing yards per game again,
it'll be the front four's fault.
Defensive Line Rating: 5.5
- DE Marcus Hands, Jr. - 21 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 9 TFL, 3
quarterback hurries, 2 forced fumbles
Back after earning a few all-star honors last season, the 6-5, 270-pound
junior will be the key man on the D line and one of the team's top
all-around defenders. He was one his way to a phenomenal year before
suffering a shoulder injury that knocked him out in November. He missed
spring ball getting healthy, but he's expected to be back and dominant
early on this fall.
- DT Brandon Setzer, Soph. - 28 tackles, 6.5 TFL
This is Setzer's year to shine. He took over the starting role halfway
through last year and took his lumps, but showed great promise. At 6-6
and 317 pounds, he's the team's biggest defensive lineman and has
all-star potential if he turns into a consistent all-around defender.
- NG Mark Robinson, Jr. - 32 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 broken up passes
Able to play either tackle spot, the 274-pound Robinson has to grow into
an anchor. He was effective against the run as one of the team's few
consistent run defenders, and he has the quickness to grow into more of
an interior pass rusher.
- DE Shauntae Hunt, Sr. - 36 tackles, 4 sacks, 7.5 TFL
Hunt has to take advantage of playing on the other side of Marcus Hands.
The 6-5, 262-pound senior has 19 games of starting experience, but he
hasn't done enough against the run and has to be more consistent at
getting into the backfield.
- NG Dontre Brown, Sr. - 16 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL
Brown has seen more than his share of starting time over his career, but
he was a backup last year and will spend this season behind Mark
Robinson on the nose. At 309 pounds he needs to be better against the
run and use his quickness to get into the backfield more.
- DE Scotty Robinson, RFr.
One of the team's rising prospects, the 6-4, 225-pound Robinson has the
athleticism of an outside linebacker and good strength. He'll start out
behind Marcus Hands offering a smaller, quicker option.
Thank you JUCO transfers. With a knee injury suffered this
off-season by Pierre Bell, there's little to no starting experience
returning and no proven D-I depth. Three transfers specifically targeted
for each spot will be key backups right away and could take over the
starting spots early on this fall. The biggest position to watch is the
middle where heart-and-soul Chris Moore will be replaced by 2004 starter
Durwin Lame and big Fred Wilson. There's decent speed on the outside,
but everyone is going to need a little time to figure out what they're
The key to the unit: Figure out the starting three as
soon as possible this fall. It's going to take a little while before
everyone works together like they should.
Linebacker Rating: 6
- Jeremy Chambliss, RFr.
Speed, speed and more speed on the outside. The 6-0, 205-pound Chambliss
is strong and fast on the outside taking over for Richard Koonce. He'll
be used as a pass rusher and needs to grow into a steady producer if
Pierre Bell can't return from a knee injury.
- Durwin Lamb, Jr. - 7 tackles
Lamb was a key true freshman making 25 tackles and getting nine starts
in the middle. Moved to the outside last year, he had a hard time
getting on the field playing behind Richard Koonce on the outside. With
Chris Moore gone, Lamb moved back in the middle where he'll be one of
the team's most experienced linebackers.
- Quentin Cotton, Jr. - 2 tackles
A special teamer last season, Cotton came out of spring ball with a
starting job on the outside. He's a decent athlete, but more likely than
not he'll spend the year rotating with Danny Muhwezi. He'll be a regular
on special teams.
- Orlando Farrow, Sr.
The JUCO transfer was a strong pass rusher last year for
Lackawanna College in Delaware, and now he'll be expected to be a key player on the
outside with Pierre Bell hurt. At 225 pounds he's a bigger option than
- Fred Wilson, Jr.
Finally in the mix after coming over from Georgia Military academy, the
pure tackler is the biggest ECU linebacker at 6-2 and 255 pounds. He'll
try to help Durwin Lamb replace Chris Moore in the middle.
- Danny Muhwezi, Jr.
Muhwezi joins Orlando Farrow from Lackawanna College where he made 50
stops. He's a good-sized tackler who'll be a regular in the rotation on
the outside pushing Quentin Cotton.
- Pierre Bell, Soph. - 28 tackles, 2 TFL, 1forced fumble, 2
A spot starter as a freshman, Bell was buried on the depth chart on the
outside after missing spring ball thanks to a knee injury. He'll find
his way back in the rotation early on, or will likely take over the
starting job, if he can return to 100%.
One of the best pass defenses in Conference USA should be
just as good with the expected return of Jamar Flournoy after being
suspended all of last year. Kasey Ross is a nice corner to rely on,
while Travis Williams and Steve Walls should do a decent job of holding
down the other side. Pierre Parker and Kyle Chase aren't all that big,
but they're effective safeties. There's decent depth and a lot of speed.
The key to the unit: Consistency in the lineup. Kasey
Ross was the team's only defensive back that started the entire season.
There will be lots of movement and shuffling in the lineup with several
good backup options, but the starting four needs to be in place as long
Secondary Rating: 7
- CB Travis Williams, Jr. - 13 tackles, 2 broken up
Williams turned out to be a nice backup and a strong special teamer with
a blocked kick against Memphis. He's quick enough to be a punt returner,
even though he lost the job midway through last season. He'll have to
hold up with passing games staying away from Kasey Ross on the other
- FS Pierre Parker, Sr. - 69 tackles, 3 interceptions, 6 broken
Parker saw nine starts last year and finished second on the team in
tackles and tied for the lead in interceptions. He's a tough 6-0 and 207
pounds with good enough hitting ability to play strong safety if needed.
Even with his experience and playmaking ability, he'll have to battle
with Jamar Flournoy for the starting job.
- SS Kyle Chase, Sr. - 36 tackles, 2 TFL, 3 broken up passes
An undersized safety at 5-8 and 190 pounds, Chase was one of the team's
top tacklers in 2004 with 73 tackles. He was moved to a backup role with
the emergence of Zach Baker, but he still saw three starts. He's tough
for his size and decent against the pass; his experience will make him a
key starter in the back seven.
- CB Kasey Ross, Sr. - 35 tackles, 3 interceptions, 8 broken up
The lightning quick senior started every game at one of the corner
spots. He turned into a surprising open field tackler with 32 solo stops
in his 35 tackles. A pure coverman, he'll be the main man against the
opposing number one receivers.
- CB Steve Walls, Soph. - 8 tackles
A special teamer last year, Walls saw a little bit of time in the
secondary rotation. While not all that big at 5-9 and 175 pounds, he has
- FS Jamar Flournoy, Sr.
The former linebacker was suspended and missed last year. He was a star
in 2004 with 75 tackles and 14 tackles for loss, and was supposed to be
a key player in the secondary before the troubles. He's 2056 pounds and
very fast. He'll push Pierre Parker hard for a starting spot or could
end up at strong safety.
- CB Markeith McQueen, Sr. - 1 tackle
One of the team's fastest players and best athletes, McQueen suffered an
arm injury early on and missed the rest of the season. He'll be a key
third defensive back and should see plenty of time behind Kasey Ross.
Placekicker Robert Lee and punter Ryan Dougherty form one
of the nation's best kicking tandems. Now the return game needs some
work after averaging 6.6 yards per punt return and a mere 18.5 yards on
kickoff returns. Markeith McQueen should add some punch to the punt
returns, while Dominique Lindsay will get more work as a kickoff
returner than last year's main man, Chris Johnson. The coverage units
have to be far better.
The key to the unit: More pop to the return game. ECU
was last in Conference USA in kickoff returns and ninth in punt returns.
Special Teams Rating: 7.5
- PK Robert Lee, Sr. - 17-19 FGs, 30-30 extra points
The star JUCO transfer turned into one of America's best kickers nailing
all 15 shots inside 40 yards and showing off nice range hitting a
51-yard bomb against Wake Forest. He'll be one of the leaders in the Lou
Groza Award race.
- P Ryan Dougherty, Sr. - 58 tackles, 2,368 yds, 40.8
ypc, 20 inside the 20
Dougherty has been a sensational weapon over the past three years and
should be in the mix for All-Conference honors. His average has fallen
over the last three years going from 44.5 in 2003 to 41.8 to 40.8 last
year, but his accuracy has improved with 15 kicks placed inside the 20
in 2003 to 18 in 2004 to 20 last year.