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East Carolina Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
East Carolina Pirates
Posted Aug 7, 2006

East Carolina Pirates Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

1st and Ten – Double A batteries – Arriving at ECU after a two-year stint at Georgia Military College, Aundrae Allison came to Greenville with a fair amount of expectation.  Boy, that kid lived up to the pressure and hype, and then some, with one tremendous season.  All Allison did was catch 83 passes for more yards than any other receiver in the history of ECU football.  That’s all? (okay, that was tongue in cheek) Geez, only four guys averaged more receptions per game that Allison in the entire nation.  Allison came out of the blocks as well as any receiver could hope to do,with 10 receptions in the opener against Duke for 163 yards, and he didn’t slow down until late in the season.  He might look like a skinny waif, but the kid can run.  The toughest aspect of having to deal with a guy like this is that he puts so much pressure on defenses with his ability to stretch them both vertically and horizontally.   Even if Allison doesn’t come back and catch 83 passes, as long as he’s healthy, he’s going to be a valuable weapon regardless of where he lines up on offense.  Now, whether he can comeback from a knee injury that he rested this spring will be a question for the ECU offensive staff and Allison, himself.  He catches anything in his area code and is a solid all-around receiver, but how much that knee injury plagues him could slow down the passing game more than the Pirates could sustain.  However, as long as double A’s batteries are charged at 100%, the Pirates will have enough power to push for a few more wins. 

2nd and Seven – Don’t call it a comeback – Although Allison was good enough as a solo act at receiver, the combination he formed with QB James Pinkney at quarterback was often times electrifying.  Wait, did you say James Pinkney?  Yep.  Well, what was expected from him last spring?  (Crickets in the background).  The biggest question that faced Skip Holtz last year was who was going to be his signal caller, considering that Pinkney wouldn’t be a part of the team.  However, Pinkney was invited back to the team after missing the spring and he made it worth the coaching staff’s time, by turning into a poor man’s David Garrard.  He threw for nearly 2,800, completing 61 percent of his passes, including 14 touchdowns.  In addition, he rushed for just under 200 yards.  What’s scary for CUSA opposing defenses this fall is that Pinkney now has one full year and one spring under his belt, as opposed to coming in and learning the offense cold like he did last fall.  If he was this good last year, man, what he could do this year is downright frightening.  If Pinkney can harness the good and block out the bad (yes, a Happy Gilmore reference), in other words, if he can manage the game a bit better, this offense will be a force.

3rd and Three – Feeling defensive about the run defense – Getting shredded on the ground against the likes of DeAngelo Williams, formerly of Memphis, is bound to happen.  Williams did rush for 226 yards against the Pirates in a 27 to 24 loss for ECU.  But, for as good as Williams was, that was just an average day for opposing rushers against ECU last season.  The Pirates gave up a whopping 218 yards per game on the ground, and that was with three linebackers with experience in the lineup.  After finishing 112th in the nation against the run and a new trio of linebackers, defensive coordinator Greg Hudson has his work cut out for him in this conference stopping the run.  The good news for Hudson is that his front four returns in tact, including defensive end Marcus Hands, who could be huge for this defense if he’s recovered from his shoulder injury.  Brandon Setzer and Mark Robinson must step up in the middle and demand three on two each and every run play to allow the inexperienced linebackers to make plays unscathed.

4th and One – Progress is his middle name – Maybe it was because his name was Holtz, or perhaps it was because his own dad took away play calling duties in his last year at South Carolina.  Either way, when Skip Holtz was named the ECU head coach, the decision was met with a bit of derision.  Maybe more than a bit.  But, for as good a coaching job that Joe Paterno, Steve Spurrier and Rich Rodriguez did last year, what Holtz did at ECU was on par with the job that those three men did last year; his and ECU’s performance didn’t garner the attention that turnaround job deserved.  Although his run defense couldn’t stop running water and the offense could only muster 138 yards rushing per game, Holtz’s charges never quit all season long, competing hard in every game, which should pay major dividends in the 2006 season.  Winning five games in 2005 didn’t seem like a realistic goal heading into the season, but Holtz and his staff got these kids to believe they could win each and every week.  They did have two hiccups against Tulsa and Southern Miss, but they battled Big East and Sugar Bowl champ West Virginia to the final gun.  They knocked off UAB at home in their finale to keep the Blazers from being bowl eligible.  ECU has been absent from the bowl game scene for a few years, but behind this Holtz, the future is bright in Greenville once again.

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