2008 East Carolina Preview - Offense
East Carolina TE Davon Drew
East Carolina TE Davon Drew
Posted Apr 23, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - East Carolina Pirate Offense

East Carolina Pirates

Preview 2008 - Offense

- 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 

What you need to know: One player won’t be enough to replace current Tennessee Titan RB Chris Johnson. As good as he was running the ball, he may be missed more as a kickoff returner and a receiver out of the backfield. Fortunately, the Pirates are well-stocked at the position, returning letterwinners Dominique Lindsay, Jonathan Williams, Norman Whitley, and Brandon Simmons. The budding star is Williams, a 6-1, 210-pounder that averaged almost seven yards a carry in limited action as a true freshman. After using three different starters a year ago, Skip Holtz would prefer to have one quarterback for the entire season. Patrick Pinkney is the dual-threat. Rob Kass is the strong-armed pocket passer. After needing emergency heart surgery and missing all of 2007, behemoth T Terence Campbell resumes his career with an eye on bolstering a line that’s missing two starters.               

Returning Leaders
Passing: Patrick Pinkney
121-200, 1,358 yds, 11 TD, 4 INT
Rushing: Patrick Pinkney
79 carries, 306 yds, 1 TD
Receiving: Jamar Bryant
48 catches, 704 yds, 6 TD

Star of the offense: Junior WR Jamar Bryant
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior RB Dominique Lindsay or sophomore RB Jonathan Williams
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Dwayne Harris
Best pro prospect: Bryant
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Bryant  2) Senior TE Davon Drew  3) Junior RG Doug Palmer

Strength of the offense
: Two starting quarterbacks, the starting receivers
Weakness of the offense: Lack of a true feature back, pass protection


Projected Starter: Senior Patrick Pinkney and junior Rob Kass split time last season, starting five and seven games, respectively. In the spring, they shared snaps once again. In Skip Holtz’s ideal world, one quarterback pulls away and the revolving door stops. In the event that doesn’t happen, the coach has remained open to using both again this fall. At 6-0 and 198 pounds, Pinkney is the more mobile player, a quality athlete capable of beating defenses on the ground or through the air. He showed a knack for sparking the offense, throwing for 1,358 yards and 11 touchdowns, while rushing for 306 yards and a score. He was named the most improved quarterback of the spring, a possible sign of things to come in August.

While Pinkney is the dual-threat, the 6-4, 255-pound Kass is a pure pocket passer with modest mobility. He has a good grasp of the offense and, by far, the strongest arm on the roster. There aren’t many throws he can’t make, though he’d benefit by exercising more touch on his passes. He was inconsistent as the starter, going 96-of-175 for 1,164 yards, nine touchdowns, and four interceptions, saving most of his highlights for just two games.  

Projected Top Reserves: However the pecking order winds up, Pinkney and Kass will occupy the first two slots. The only other quarterback with experience is 6-0, 210-pound junior Brett Clay, who actually started the opener with Virginia Tech before sinking down the depth chart. He wound up attempting just 13 passes, a number he’ll surpass only in the event of an emergency.  

Watch Out For… Pinkney to get the nod for the opener with Virginia Tech. While there isn’t much separation between the quarterbacks, Pinkney has a special quality of lighting a fire under the offense and making defenses pay attention to his feet. His play in the Hawaii Bowl upset of Boise State was emblematic of what he means to the program.
Strength: Two starting quarterbacks. Yeah, it’s a headache at times, but Pinkney and Kass provide the staff with a luxury, a pair of very distinct hurlers with experience running the offense. For situational purposes or in the event of an injury, East Carolina is in good shape at the position.                            
Weakness: Consistency. There’s a reason no one has padlocked this job and ended talk of a controversy—neither has shown the sustained excellence to pull away. Holtz is still waiting for either Pinkney or Kass to build separation and not look back.           
Outlook: Although Holtz will have to delicately manage and massage two egos, his situation at quarterback is better than it looks. Pinkney and Kass offer completely different skill sets and have had success at this level. Plus, the competition in August should bring out the best in both Pirates. Ideally, the coach wants one player taking the majority of the snaps, but recent history indicates that may not happen in Greenville.                        
Rating: 6

Running Backs

Projected Starters: Someone will succeed Chris Johnson. No one will replace him. The Pirates will move forward on offense without one of the most dynamic players in school history. Although no clear-cut favorite emerged in the spring, seniors Dominique Lindsay and Brandon Simmons built some separation on a deep field of contenders. At 5-10 and 210 pounds, Lindsay is a tough inside runner with three seasons of experience. The primary backup to Johnson a year ago, he carried 66 times for 205 yards and five touchdowns, adding nine catches for 58 yards and another score.

Simmons is the most physical back on the roster, a 6-1, 223-pound bulldozer, who’ll be used for more than just short-yardage carries. He runs hard and with good vision, making him a natural in the red zone. In two seasons since transferring from Elizabeth City State, he’s scored five times on just 53 carries.

Sophomore Kevin Gidrey is a quality athlete at 6-2 and 260 pounds, who can be used as a blocking fullback or as an H-back. In his first season with the Pirates, he only played on special teams, but that’s going to change this fall.        

Projected Top Reserves: Providing a little more dash than Lindsay and Simmons is 6-1, 196-pound sophomore Jonathan Williams, the school’s best blend of power and quickness. He shook off an ankle injury as a freshman to rush for 150 yards and a score on 22 carries, and enjoyed one of the best springs among the backs.

Hopes are still high for 5-9, 187-pound sophomore Norman Whitley, despite the fact that he’s done little so far and is coming off a second shoulder surgery in the last two years. A shifty cutback runner with good hands as a receiver, he has a high ceiling if he can shed the injury-prone tag.   

Watch Out For… Whitley. In a backfield currently being led by bruising 200-pounds, he’s the one back most likely to conjure up images of Johnson. Recruited as the heir apparent, he needs to get healthy in order to inject some flash into the running game. 
Strength: Power backs. In Lindsay, Simmons, and Williams, East Carolina has three big backs who are capable of moving the chains and wearing out a tired defense late in the second half. In short yardage, there’s no shortage of viable options for keeping drives alive.                            
Weakness: Lack of a gamebreaker. Unless Whitley begins to fulfill his vast potential, the Pirates will be without the type of back who can get outside and jet down the sidelines for a big chunk of real estate. That explosiveness from the running game is what really made the offense go last season.                             
Outlook: To replace Johnson’s production as a runner and a receiver, East Carolina will use the services of multiple backs. Lindsay has the inside track on being the workhorse, but keep an eye on Whitley, the one back in the stable capable of supercharging the running game.    
Rating: 5.5


Projected Starters: Junior Jamar Bryant stepped up last season and did a nice job of succeeding all-star Aundrae Allison, leading the Pirates with 48 catches for 704 yards and six touchdown catches. A physical 6-2, 208-pounder, he’s an asset in traffic and as a downfield blocker. Originally a Georgia Bulldog, he has the all-around talent to follow Allison into the NFL in a couple of years.

Joining Bryant in the starting lineup will be 6-0, 198-pound sophomore Dwayne Harris, who lived up to expectations in his first year of action. The Pirates’ most versatile receiver, he was as a pass-catcher, runner, and punt returner. Dangerous in the open field, he caught 26 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns, rushed 20 times for 197 yards and another score, and even threw a touchdown pass. The staff will continue looking for ways to get the ball in his hands.     

Back for a third season as the starting tight end is senior Davon Drew, a skilled pass-catcher and honorable mention All-Conference USA selection. A transplanted quarterback, he’s bulked up to 6-4 and 254 pounds, and enjoys a significant advantage in athleticism when matched up with most linebackers. As a junior, he caught 19 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns.
Projected Top Reserves: When the Pirates shift to a three-wide set, talented junior Alex Taylor is likely to come off the sidelines. In two seasons, he’s yet to catch a pass, but at 6-4 and 207 pounds, has the size and vertical skills to deliver a breakout year. Still relatively new to the sport, he’s liable to explode once he gains some relevant experience.

Junior Reyn Willis was one of the breakthrough players of the spring, earning the job at the A receiver when the Pirates go four-wide. A transfer from Alabama, he’s a 6-3, 215-pound possession receiver, who’ll flourish when matched up with smaller defensive backs. While not a blazer, he could still be a vertical threat, playing above defensive backs on jump balls.     

Watch Out For… incoming freshman Dayon Arrington. One of the top recruits from the latest recruiting class, Arrington has great size, good speed, and a good chance to contribute in his first fall in Greenville.                
Strength: The starters. In Bryant, Harris, and Drew, the Pirates have one of the best starting trios in Conference USA. All are reliable pass-catchers, each offering a unique skill and attribute to the offense.     
Weakness: Depth. After the three starters, the drop-off in talent and experience is precipitous, especially at wide receiver. Coming out of spring, the only backup with a letter was senior T.J. Lee, and he caught just five passes a year ago.                      
Outlook: The receivers have regrouped nicely since losing Allison, a dynamite playmaker in his short time with the program. Bryant has star qualities of his own, Harris is a multi-dimensional threat, and Drew is one of the league’s best pass-catching tight ends. The key will be for these three to stay healthy and increase their output because the reserves have yet to prove they’re capable of excelling in an expanded role.         
Rating: 6

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: For the first time in the Skip Holtz era, East Carolina can boast an offensive line that goes two-deep with experienced players. Leading the way from his right guard spot is 6-3, 300-pound junior Doug Palmer, a 13-game starter who earned honorable mention All-Conference USA honors. After bouncing between offensive and defensive line since arriving, he’s finally going to stay put. The most physical of the blockers, he gives the unit a presence, especially on straight-ahead running plays.

The coaching staff is hoping that the other guard position can be locked down by 6-2, 317-pound junior T.J. Harper, a junior college transfer who already took part in his first spring in Greenville. Very strong at the point of attack, he’ll need to prove he has the quick feet and good hands to handle the league’s faster pass rushers.

Taking over at center is junior Sean Allen, a key reserve the last two seasons getting his first chance at a regular role. He moves well for a 6-3, 307-pounder and can shift seamlessly to left guard if Harper can’t handle the job. The Pirates have plenty of depth at the pivot, which could have Allen on the move.

The tackles shape up as 6-5, 282-pound senior Stanley Bryant on the left side and 6-6, 324-pound D.J. Scott over on the right, each of whom started eight games a year ago. Bryant has the agility and footwork of a former tight end, making considerable progress in his first season in the lineup. Despite being on the light side, he was second to Matt Butler with 40 knockdown blocks.

Scott was a pleasant surprise in his first season, getting in on 605 snaps and earning a spot on the Conference USA All-Freshman team. Already one of the strongest members of the program, he’s a devastating run blocker, who could eventually shift inside and be a force at guard.

Projected Top Reserves: The big news in the offseason centered on the return of junior tackle Terence Campbell, who sat out 2007 after undergoing emergency heart surgery. Before the ailment, the 6-5, 320-pounder was on his way to becoming the foundation of the offensive line. The key will be to get him back in game shape and back to dominating the other team’s ends.

Junior Stephen Heis started eight games at center a year ago, sliding into the lineup after starter Fred Hicks was lost for the season with an ankle injury. A rugged, blue-collar worker at 6-5 and 285 pounds, he’ll continue his battle with Allen when practice resumes in August.

The 6-0, 306-pound Hicks was playing well when he suffered his season-ending injury. A former letterwinner at defensive tackle, he gets good leverage on his blocks and is tough to shake when he locks on to a defender. He sat out the spring to continue his rehabilitation, but will be back in the hunt for a starting job in the summer.    

Watch Out For… line coach Steve Shankweiler to do a lot of juggling before deciding on his five best linemen. Palmer and Bryant are pretty much set, but the battles at left guard, left tackle, and center could rage on right up until the opener.
Strength: Depth. Holtz has been working toward a day when he had both experience and talent filling out the two-deep. That day has arrived, with six linemen having started games over the last two seasons.                 
Weakness: Pass protection. After allowing 26 sacks, a few more than the staff would’ve liked, the Pirates are faced with not having a sure thing at either tackle position. Bryant, Campbell, and Scott have upside to go along with an equal amount of question marks.           
Outlook: By Conference USA standards, this is a solid offensive line that could extend beyond that if Campbell can return to the form that made him such an exciting young player two years ago. With a number of players expected to move around in the early going, it could take a few weeks before this unit completely gels.                  
Rating: 6