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2008 CFN East Carolina Preview
East Carolina WR Jamar Bryant
East Carolina WR Jamar Bryant
Posted Apr 23, 2008 2008 Preview - East Carolina Pirates

East Carolina Pirates

Preview 2008

By Richard Cirminiello

- 2008 CFN East Carolina Preview | 2008 East Carolina Offense
- 2008 East Carolina Defense | 2008 East Carolina Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN East Carolina Preview | 2006 CFN East Carolina Preview

Head coach: Skip Holts
4th year: 20-17
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 21, Def. 24, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 18
Ten Best ECU Players
1. WR Jamar Bryant, Jr.
2. DE C.J. Wilson, Jr.
3. FS Van Eskridge, Jr.
4. DE Marcus Hands, Sr.
5. DT Jay Ross, Jr.
6. LB Pierre Bell, Sr.
7. DE Zack Slate, Sr.
8. LB Quintin Cotton, Sr.
9. WR Dwayne Harris, Soph.
10. TE Davon Drew, Sr.

2008 Preview
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 Virginia Tech (Charlotte)
Sept. 6 West Virginia
Sept. 13 at Tulane
Sept. 20 at NC State
Sept. 27 Houston
Oct. 11 at Virginia
Oct. 18 Memphis
Nov. 2 at UCF
Nov. 8 Marshall
Nov. 15 at Southern Miss
Nov. 22 at UAB
Nov. 29 UTEP

2007 Preview
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record:

Sept. 1 at Virginia Tech L 17-7
Sept. 8 North Carolina W 34-21
Sept. 15
Southern Miss L 28-21
Sept. 22 at West Virginia L 48-7
Sept. 29
at Houston W 37-35
Oct. 6 UCF W 52-38
Oct. 13 at UTEP W 45-42 OT
Oct. 20 NC State L 34-20
Oct. 27
UAB W 41-6
Nov. 3 at Memphis W 56-40
Nov. 10 at Marshall L 26-7
Nov. 24
Tulane W 35-12
Hawaii Bowl
Dec. 23 Boise State W 41-38

Back-to-back winning seasons and bowl invitations have the Pirates approaching their glory days when the program was a perennial mid-major powerhouse under Steve Logan.

The school’s recent success, capped by a stunning upset of Boise State in the Hawaii Bowl, has East Carolina fans grateful that Skip Holtz will be back on the sidelines in Greenville again in 2008. Even without star RB Chris Johnson, the program has enough returning talent to go along with an air of confidence that this will be the season it breaks through with a division crown and a spot in the Conference USA title game.

East Carolina has been building to a point where it finally gets over the hump. The Pirates squandered a gift-wrapped chance to win the East Division late last year, which will haunt them until they can make amends later in the fall. While the Liberty Bowl is the goal, the return of both primary quarterbacks and one of the league’s deepest defensive lines signal no worse than a third consecutive December bowl game.

What to watch for on offense: Who plays quarterback? With RB Chris Johnson out of eligibility, the quarterback is going to have an even greater presence on the offense this season. For a second straight year, the battle comes down to the multi-dimensional Patrick Pinkney and the rocket-armed Rob Kass. Pinkney has a razor edge for his ability to spark the offense, but the ultimate decision could hinge on the play of the line. If it continues to have trouble with speedy defenses, the decision to go with Pinkney becomes that much easier. Although both will play this season, the staff would rather have one definitive starter rather than a revolving door.

What to watch for on defense
: The performance of the secondary. More than any other unit, the defensive backfield holds the key to how far East Carolina will go in 2008. The Pirates return a ton of familiar faces, but until they produce, the memory of last year’s debacle is going to linger. In their five 2007 losses, they yielded nine touchdown passes and picked off just three, a trend the coaching staff is working hard to reverse.

This team will be far better if
…the offense can somehow make up for RB Chris Johnson’s lost production. It’s going to take multiple players to replace the multi-faceted star, but the Pirates need a collection of players who can provide a spark to the running and passing game. If it’s entirely up to the quarterbacks to move the chains, the offense will be in a heap of trouble.

The Schedule: The Pirates have it nasty to start out with Virginia Tech, West Virginia, and a trip to NC State in the first four games. If the
non-conference schedule already didn't have enough issues, there's a mid-October date at Virginia just to keep things interesting. Going to Southern Miss and UCF will all but ruin East title hopes, and playing Houston from the West won't help,. but missing Tulsa is a plus.

Best Offensive Player: Junior WR Jamar Bryant. In his first season as the successor to Aundrae Allison, Bryant laid the foundation for an outstanding career in Greenville, leading the team with 48 catches for 708 yards and six touchdowns. A big target at 6-2 and 208 pounds, he has great hands in traffic and can block like a tight end when another Pirate has the ball.

Best Defensive Player: Junior DE C.J. Wilson. There are so many quality linemen on the front wall, it’s hard for one player to stand out. Wilson, however, is on the verge of doing just that. The Pirates’ best pass rusher, he’s had 16.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks despite being a part-time starter the last two seasons. Now firmly entrenched on one side and up to 6-4 and 271 pounds, he’s eyeing recognition as one of the league’s premier ends.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore CB Darryl Reynolds. No, the fate of the feeble pass defense doesn’t rest on Reynolds’ shoulders, but he sure could make a difference with a big year. Only two years removed from high school, he’s already flashed signs of having the best combination of size and speed among the corners. If he can gradually evolve into a stopper, it’ll have a ripple effect throughout the defense.

The season will be a success if ... the Pirates win the Conference USA championship. No one in the league is clearly better than the Pirates, making a trip to the Liberty Bowl the primary goal in 2008. Much of the team that scorched eventual league champ UCF, 52-38, returns with a chip on its shoulder and something to prove. This is as close to the mountain top as East Carolina has been in years.

Key game: Nov. 2 at UCF. East Carolina desperately wants another shot at a Conference USA title, which slipped through its fingertips last November. Beating the defending champs in Orlando and in front of a national TV audience will be a giant step toward redemption and the Eastern division.

2007 Fun Stats:
- Fourth quarter scoring: Opponents 106 – ECU 48
- Average yards per carry: ECU 4.9 – Opponents 3.9
- Penalties: ECU 104 for 827 yards – Opponents 71 for 699 yards