2010 East Carolina Preview – Offense
East Carolina OT Willie Smith
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - East Carolina Pirate Offense
Preview 2010 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The change taking place in Greenville is no more obvious than on offense, where a conservative attack is being scrapped in favor of a completely opposite look. As his offensive coordinator, Ruffin McNeill hired young Lincoln Riley to run a similar version of the "Air Raid" attack that was so prolific for so long at Texas Tech. The Pirates will operate a shotgun spread offense that floods the field with receivers and aims to strike as quickly as possible. Naturally, the existing personnel wasn't recruited for this type of a system and achieving the right tempo and rhythm could take all year. East Carolina has a multi-dimensional star in WR Dwayne Harris, the ingredients of a decent line, and a ton of question marks. For starters, who's the triggerman? Coming out of spring, untested sophomore Brad Wornick has the best chance of getting the ball in the opener.
Star of the offense: Senior WR Dwayne Harris
Passing: Josh Jordan
5-7, 114 yds, 61 yds
Rushing: Giavanni Ruffin
84 carries, 308 yds, 5 TDs
Receiving: Dwayne Harris
83 catches, 978 yds, 7 TD
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore QB Brad Wornick
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Dayon Arrington
Best pro prospect: Harris
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Harris, 2) Senior OG D.J. Scott, 3) Senior OT Willie Smith
Strength of the offense: Veteran backs, receivers, the left side of the line
Weakness of the offense: Quarterback, center, lack of proven playmakers
Projected Starter: The quarterback competition has begin to shake out, with an unlikely contender poised to run the new "Air Raid" attack in Greenville. Sophomore Brad Wornick , who had not risen above the scout team since arriving as a walk-on, is the man to beat coming out of spring practice. The 6-2, 205-pounder won't wow you with his physical ability, but he's accurate with his throws, composed in the pocket, and showed a better grasp of the new system than his competitors.
Projected Top Reserves: Running No. 2 to Wornick coming out of spring practice is 6-2, 185-pound redshirt freshman Rio Johnson . Long and lean, he throws a decent ball, but will need to make bigger strides as a pure passer to rise up a notch in August. His edge in this race is his athletic ability, which allows him to slide away from pressure and pick up yards on broken plays.
Sophomore Josh Jordan was supposed to be the future at the position in Greenville. While he still might be, for now, he'll be playing from behind. On paper, he appears to be the best combination of size and agility bunch, but didn't make enough of an impression in March and April. He's 6-4 and 218 pounds, with a strong arm and quick feet, so he still bears a close watch in the coming months.
Watch Out For .... Dominique Davis . No, he's not an incoming freshman, rather a transfer from Boston College, who'll become available once he takes classes in the summer. He has enough experience in Chestnut Hill and at Fort Scott (Kans.) Community College to mount an immediate challenge for the top spot.
Strength: Athleticism. Can these guys move the ball through the air in this offense? We'll see. They do appear to be a nice collection of athletes, a particular plus since the offensive line is going through an overhaul. If they can step up, avoid the rush, and complete passes, it'll be a boon to this attack.
Weakness: Experience. The Pirates are about to a 180 at this position, going from sixth-year senior Patrick Pinkney to a collection of complete unknowns. Davis will help, but by how much? He was erratic in his short stay in the ACC, and he's joining a trio that's attempted seven career passes combined.
Outlook: This is going to be very interesting. East Carolina has a new system, a new staff, and a handful of wide-eyed and unproven quarterbacks. Davis bears watching, but so does Wornick. He genuinely impressed the coaches in the spring, and it's worth noting that at Texas Tech it didn't require a strong-armed blue-chipper to be productive in this attack.
Projected Starters: The dismissal of Brandon Jackson leaves the Pirates without last year's top two rushers, including inspirational 1,000-yard back Dominique Lindsay. Although the running game won't be as prominent as the past, an expanded role is expected for 6-1, 196-pound senior Jonathan Williams . His career has been marred by off-field issues and untapped potential, but he does have experience, rushing 111 times for 568 yards and six touchdowns in 23 career games. If he keeps his nose clean, he's the type of versatile, sure-handed back, who can excel in the new system.
Although East Carolina will no longer use a traditional fullback, 6-2, 254-pound senior Kevin Gidrey is going to find his way on to the field in some capacity. He'll block in short-yardage situations, but is more likely to be used as a tight end or impersonate an H-back in the new system. A veteran of 41 games and 24 starts, he has good hands, catching nine balls for 101 yards in 2009.
Projected Top Reserves: Holding on to the backup job for now is 6-0, 185-pound redshirt freshman Michael Dobson . A big-play guy from his days in high school, he gets through the hole in a hurry, and has made noticeable strides as a complete back since spending all of last season on the scout team.
Senior Norman Whitley is the B team's version of Williams. He, too, has had issues away from the field, has played plenty of football in Greenville, and is looking to finish his career on a positive note. The team's leading rusher in 2008, he only earned three carries and a reception last fall. While not a feature guy at 5-9 and 186 pounds, he does a lot of little things well and is going to figure into the mix somehow.
Watch Out For .... for the best receiver and blocker to get the most reps this fall. It's no secret that the Pirates are going to throw a little more than in the past, which means the role of the backs are going to be different than when they first signed to play at East Carolina. Oh, they'll still carry the ball, but pass protection and catching passes will separate the logjam in August.
Strength: Veteran presence. While Williams and Whitley may not be the best role models for the younger backs, they do bring a lot of experience and know-how to the backfield. The two have been around for five years and have played in championship games, which shouldn't be understated. The situation gets even better if 6-1, 215-pound senior Giavanni Ruffin is reinstated from a suspension after rushing for 308 yards and five scores in his debut out of junior college.
Weakness: Stability. The veterans have had a history of discipline problems. The kids are, well, kids, with no relevant experience at this level. Add in a completely new system, and you've got a backfield rife with uncertainty.
Outlook: While the backs may not be as vital as they used to be, they'll still have a key role in this offense. Ideally, the feature runner will carry the ball 10-15 times a game, catch four or five passes, and provide protection when he's not running a route. Williams has the edge today, but he'll have to fend off the competition in the summer to keep it.
Projected Starters: A new offense and a shift to four-wide receiver sets has amped up the need for more capable hands. A lot more capable hands. The one sure-thing is 6-0, 205-pound senior Dwayne Harris , quietly one of the nation's best all-purpose players. He does it all for the Pirates, catching 83 balls for 978 yards and seven touchdowns, rushing for 149 yards and five scores, and taking three kicks back for six. He'll line up on the inside at "Y" receiver, but has the athleticism to be used all over, including taking direct snaps from center.
Joining Harris in the slot, or "H" receiver is 5-9, 165-pound junior Michael Bowman , who has played sparingly on offense and special teams in his first two years. He brings some wiggle and flash to the receiving corps, taking a short hitch and turning it into a first down by navigating through the cracks in the defense.
Sophomore Andrew Bodenheimer has used a good offseason to move into contention for the starting job at "Z" receiver, one of the outside slots. He played in all 14 games as a rookie, starting a pair and catching six passes for 87 yards. At 6-3 and 195 pounds, he has the long and lean frame to get behind the secondary and played above defensive backs on jump balls.
Filling out the projected starting lineup at "X" receiver is 6-2, 205-pound sophomore Dayon Arrington . He's played sparingly thus far, but was considered a strategic signing out of high school, with substantial upside. He's a physical receiver, who'll fight to get into space and battle for balls in the air. In this offense, he'll have a chance to make a lot of plays.
Projected Top Reserves: Running neck-and-neck with Bodenheimer at "Z" is 6-1, 193-pound junior Joe Womack . He has the edge in experience, having lettered in each of the last two seasons, started five games, and caught 29 career passes for 371 yards. A steady pass-catcher, with a lot of snaps on the resume, he's guaranteed to be in the rotation.
At Big "Y" receiver, the Pirates' version of a tight end, it's going to be hard to ignore redshirt freshman Justin Jones . You see, he's 6-8 and 252 pounds, a can't-miss receiving target, provided the offensive line coach doesn't try to convert him to a tackle first. Pursued by SEC schools coming out of high school, he has surprising speed and agility for such a big player, making the staff gush about his long-term potential.
Watch Out For .... the academic status of 5-11, 191-pound junior Darryl Freeney . A likely starter if his books are in order, he sat out the spring and is not currently listed on the two-deep. In his first two seasons, he's flashed all kinds of big-play capability, making 70 receptions for 1,070 yards and five touchdowns.
Strength: Anchors. Assuming Freeney returns to the team in good standing in the summer, the Pirates will have access to last season's top two receivers. In Harris, the new quarterback will be throwing to a next-level, with the ability to turn nothing into something with his speed and quickness.
Weakness: Bodies. While East Carolina is strong up top with Harris, Freeney, and even Womack, the drop-off from there is steep. In the Skip Holtz era, it wouldn't have mattered much. Today, however, when at least five or six quality receivers are required in the rotation, depth is an issue that'll need to be addressed.
Weakness: Other than the quarterback, no one benefits from the shift in philosophy more than the receivers. Besides Harris, someone that nobody is talking about today is going to catch at least 50 passes in 2010. With so much uncertainty and so many opportunities to make plays, the summer will be a time for the Pirate receivers to jockey for position and earn the confidence of the quarterbacks.
Projected Starters: In a sea of uncertainty in Greenville, the offensive line offers an ounce of tranquility with the return of three starters. Back at left tackle is 6-6, 290-pound Willie Smith , the blind side protector for a unit that ranked No. 10 nationally and first in the league in sacks allowed. He had 41 knockdowns and has come a long way with his overall technique. A converted tight end, he has the requisite athleticism to play the position and a chance to turn his final year into an NFL audition.
Over at right tackle will be a newcomer, 6-6, 323-pound redshirt freshman Grant Harner . He impressed the staff during the spring, earning no worse than a spot in the rotation. Physically imposing and powerful at the point of attack, he needs to clean up his fundamentals in order to avoid being schooled by smaller speed rushers.
The opening at right tackle became possible when last season's starter, 6-6, 323-pound senior D.J. Scott was shifted inside to right guard. Better suited to blocking in a phone booth, he has heavy hands, long arms and a strong base, tying for the team high with 48 knockdowns and earning honorable mention All-Conference USA honors.
The third returning starter for the Pirates is 6-5, 309-pound senior Cory Dowless , the program's rock at left guard. A steady performer, who does a nice job of protecting the pocket, he tied for third on the team with 45 knockdowns last year. His 36 career starts are more than any other Pirate holdover.
Arguably the biggest concern up front will be at center, where 6-5, 308-pound Will Towery is expected to replace first team all-leaguer Sean Allen. A tight end when he arrived, he has since added 50 pounds in order to hold up on the interior of the line. A nagging back injury has limited his playing time, so inexperience is not the only hurdle he'll be looking to clear in 2010.
Projected Top Reserves: The team's most experienced backup and Harner's toughest competition will come from 6-8, 316-pound junior Steven Baker . He's lettered in each of the last two seasons, appearing on special teams and 39 offensive plays last year. While the physical tools are in place, the staff needs to coach him into a more consistent blocker.
Considering Towery's durability concerns, 6-3, 287-pound sophomore Dalton Faulds better prepare as if he might go on the field at any moment. One of the school's top recruits of 2008, he gets out of the blocks quickly and plays with a good motor. He, too, was hurt at the end of spring, which could take another bite out of the Pirates' depth.
Watch Out For .... Harner's maturation. He's impressed the coaches in the early going with his blend of strength and agility. His youth is actually a plus because he won't have to shake too many habits from the old staff and the old blocking schemes. He's basically a clean chalkboard, with a chance to be the anchor by 2011.
Strength: The left side. East Carolina is in good shape to the left of center, boasting all-conference candidates at tackle and guard. Smith did an outstanding job in pass protection in his first year as a regular, and Dowless is a sturdy, reliable rock at guard.
Weakness: Center. Life after Allen at the pivot wasn't going to be easy, especially since no backup has any experience. Matters became even more complicated when Towery and Faulds got dinged in the spring, costing both valuable reps with the offense.
Outlook: Depending upon how you approach it, the glass is either half-empty or half-full for the Pirate offensive line. Smith, Scott, and Dowless provide an outstanding foundation, but the question marks at right tackle and center could limit the potential of the group in 2010.
- 2010 East Carolina Preview |
East Carolina Offense
2010 East Carolina Defense |
East Carolina Depth Chart
- East Carolina Previews