East Carolina Preview 2006
East Carolina Pirates
Posted Aug 7, 2006

Call last year the halting of the slide for East Carolina.

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

After the ugly but brief John Thompson era with a mere three wins (with two of them coming over Army) in 2003 and 2004, Skip Holtz came in and turned around a veteran team providing hope that ECU can again be among the Conference USA elite.

The passing game became a plus, one of the nation's worst defenses improved, and enough overall strides were made to erase most of the memories of the previous few seasons.

Holtz's first job has been to upgrade the overall talent level, and he has done it through the JUCO ranks to get immediate results in key spots.

Head coach: Skip Holts
2nd year: 5-6
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 19, Def. 18, ST 5
Lettermen Lost: 26
Ten Best ECU Players
1. WR Aundrae Allison, Sr.
2. DE Marcus Hands, Jr.
3. QB James Pinkney, Sr.
4. RB Chris Johnson, Jr.
5. P Ryan Dougherty, Sr.
6. PK Robert Lee, Sr.
7. CB Kasey Ross, Sr.
8. OT Eric Graham, Sr.
9. DE Shauntae Hunt, Sr.
10. DT Brandon Setzer, Soph.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: coming

9/2 at Navy
9/9 at UAB
9/16 Memphis
9/23 West Virginia
10/7 Virginia
10/14 Tulsa
10/21 SMU
10/28 at Southern Miss
11/4 at UCF
11/11 Marshall
11/18 at Rice
11/25 at NC State

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Record:
Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 Duke W 24-21
9/17 at Wake Forest L 44-34
9/24 at West Virginia L 20-15
10/1 Southern Miss L 33-7
10/8 Rice W 41-28
10/15 at SMU W 24-17
10/22 at Memphis L 27-24
10/29 UCF L 30-20
11/12 at Tulsa L 45-13
11/19 at Marshall W 34-29
11/26 UAB W 31-23

Aundrae Allison turned into one of the league's best receivers last year, and three good linebackers were brought in to be an instant boost this season. Task number two will be to start beating the better teams.

Oh sure, wins over SMU and UAB prevented those two from finishing with winning records, but to be a player in the Conference USA world, the Pirates will have to shine against teams like Southern Miss, UCF and Tulsa. Those three beat ECU by a combined score of 108 to 40, and there's little hope to be in the hunt for the conference title without winning two of those three games this season. This team might be good enough to do it.

If Allison and running back Chris Johnson return healthy after missing spring ball with injuries, they'll combine with quarterback James Pinkney to form one of the league's best offenses. The offensive line has some patching up to do, but it's expected to be fine.

The defense needs to be better against the run after getting steamrolled over last season, but there's enough size up front and experience in the front four to hope for an improvement. The secondary should be excellent with several good veterans returning from one of the league's best pass defenses.

Remember, it wasn't all that long ago when this was one of the best programs in Conference USA, and Holtz appears to have it close to being there again. If it can make the same progress from last year to this year that it made in 2005, a title isn't out of the question.

The Schedule: It's a tale of two seasons with a stretch of five straight home games starting in mid-September followed up by four road games in the final five. Unfortunately, key division games against Southern Miss and UCF will be in back-to-back weeks away from Dowdy-Ficklen. The non-conference schedule is a bit of a beat going to Navy for the opener and playing West Virginia, Virginia, and at NC State.

Best Offensive Player: Senior WR Aundrae Allison. He cooled off after starting out as the nation's best receiver over the first three games, but he still became a steady number one target. He's returning from a knee injury with the expectation that he'll return fine and be one of the league's top weapons.

Best Defensive Player: Junior DE Marcus Hands. The 270-pound junior was having an All-America type season before getting knocked out with a shoulder injury. He's tackle-strong with excellent pass rushing moves. If healthy, he'll be the key cog on D.

Key player to a successful season: Senior QB James Pinkney. He had a fantastic first season under Holtz, and now he needs to be the difference between a good season and a possible title. He needs to cut down on the interceptions a little bit and be a quicker decision maker. Expect both to happen after a year in the system.

The season will be a success if ... East Carolina finishes with a winning year and goes to a bowl. If it's going to happen, there needs to be a hot start and a few upsets over the second half of the year. Pirate fans are still trying to erase memories of the last post-season appearance, the 64-61 loss to Marshall in the GMAC Bowl.

Key game: Sept. 9 at UAB. ECU ruined UAB's season with a 31-23 win in the season finale. A win in Birmingham is a must with home dates against bowl teams Memphis, West Virginia, Virginia and Tulsa ahead along with a few brutal conference road dates in the back half of the year.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- First quarter scoring: Opponents 88 - East Carolina 34
- Rushing yards per game: Opponents 217.6 - East Carolina 137.5
- Third down conversions: Opponents 80 of 172 (47%) - East Carolina 59 of 159 (37%)

The Last Time East Carolina…
…played in a bowl game…2001 (GMAC Bowl vs. Marshall)
…missed a bowl game…2005
…pitched a shutout…2000 (Duke)
…was shutout…1997 (Syracuse)
…scored 50 points…2002 (Houston)
…went undefeated…1941
…won a conference title…1976 (Southern Conference)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…1991 (Jeff Blake)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2003 (Marvin Townes)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2005 (Aundrae Allison)
…had a first-round draft choice…1992 (LB Robert Jones)

Related Stories
East Carolina Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006
East Carolina Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006
East Carolina Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006

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