2010 East Carolina Preview
East Carolina WR Dwayne Harris
East Carolina WR Dwayne Harris
Posted Jun 8, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - East Carolina Pirates

East Carolina Pirates

Preview 2010

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Ruffin McNeill First year: 0-0
Returning Lettermen
Off. 17, Def. 23, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 30
Ten Best East Carolina Players
1. WR Dwayne Harris, Sr.
2. CB Emanuel Davis, Jr.
3. RG D.J. Scott, Sr.
4. WR Darryl Freeney, Jr.
5. LT Willie Smith, Sr.
6. LG Cory Dowless, Sr.
7. DT Josh Smith, Sr.
8. NT Antonio Allison, Jr.
9. DB Dekota Marshall, Sr.
10. CB Travis Simmons, Sr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 5 Tulsa
Sept. 11 Memphis
Sept. 18 at Virginia Tech
Sept. 25 OPEN DATE
Oct. 2 at North Carolina
Oct. 9 at Southern Miss
Oct. 16 NC State
Oct. 23 Marshall
Oct. 30 at UCF
Nov. 6 Navy
Nov. 11 at UAB
Nov. 20 at Rice
Nov. 26 SMU

Skip Holtz got out of town at the absolute perfect time.

After turning down numerous offers in recent years, the former East Carolina leader and current South Florida head coach could not have leveraged his success any better. The Pirates are about to enter a difficult rebuilding stage, which means Ruffin McNeill could have the toughest job among first-year head coaches. Not only does the long-time Texas Tech assistant inherit a team losing 18 starters, but also one that's won the last two Conference USA championships. In other words, fans in Greenville are growing accustomed to winning. Everyone realizes McNeill is faced with a tall order, but he'll also have to guard against being down for a prolonged period of time.

The staff's offseason goals are predictable in these circumstances—get a better grasp on the personnel, develop a workable pecking order, and install two rather unfamiliar systems. On offense, Lincoln Riley is the caretaker of a wide-open passing attack that's similar to the one he had in Lubbock, but the antithesis of what they're used to in East Carolina. Defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell comes over from BYU, looking to foster an aggressive, attacking D that forces the action and creates big plays. He'll do so with just two returning starters. The Pirates have one sure thing on each side of the ball, WR Dwayne Harris and CB Emanuel Davis, and a slew of question that need to be answered.

East Carolina is about to enter a new era on so many different levels. The coaching staff is new, the systems are unfamiliar, and the depth chart will be dotted with former reserves and redshirts. Most of all, the expectations are about to go retro in Greenville, as McNeill looks to keep the momentum going under some unusually difficult circumstances.

What to watch for on offense: The transformation. The conservative, mistake-averse East Carolina attack is about to undergo an overhaul. With the arrival of a staff that cut its teeth at Texas Tech comes an "Air Raid" offense that wants to spread the field and pepper defenses with short passes. While the receivers are above average and the line should cooperate, there isn't a quarterback on the roster with much experience. Coming out of spring, sophomore walk-on Brad Wornick, a scout teamer, held the edge. In the summer, Boston College transfer Dominique Davis becomes eligible, setting up an intriguing battle to see who runs the potentially high-powered offense.

What to watch for on defense: The edge rush. East Carolina has gotten used to having one of the league's best defensive lines, but not anymore. Like everywhere else, the Pirates are starting from scratch after losing all four starters, three to the NFL. Brian Mitchell will not be shy about blitzing, but would prefer not to do it out of necessity. For that to happen, he'll need two unproven and undersized underclassmen to bring the heat on a consistent basis. Marke Powell and Matt Milner may look like linebackers, but they've been installed as the starting ends coming out of spring.

This team will be far better if … the offense catches opponents by surprise this year. The Pirates best chance of exceeding expectations this season will be to get the passing game up and running faster than anyone anticipated. Since the defense and special teams won't be nearly as reliable as they've been in the past, it might be up to the new-fangled attack to bail out East Carolina in higher scoring games.

The Schedule: It's not bad early on, starting out with winnable Conference USA games against Tulsa and Memphis to provide a nice base, and then things get nasty in a hurry with three road trips in a road to Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and Southern Miss, and only three of the final nine games are at home. Missing Houston from the West is a nice break, and getting SMU in interdivisional play at home is a plus. Also helping the cause is getting conference road games at UCF, UAB, and Rice; that's a recipe to win a division with.

Best Offensive Player: Senior WR Dwayne Harris. Harris is one of those rare offensive playmakers you want to just get the ball to and let him operate. One of the most versatile wide receivers in America, he'll hurt you as a receiver, a runner out of the "Wildcat", and as a kick returner. Ranked in the top 25 nationally in all-purpose yards, he was the Pirates' money receiver, leading the team in receptions, first downs and touchdowns through the air.

Best Defensive Player: Junior CB Emanuel Davis. Although it would be easy to assume that Davis is now a big fish in a shrinking pond, it would also be inaccurate. He earned a spot on the All-Conference-USA first team for a reason, routinely shutting down the other team's receiver. Not bashful about getting physical in run defense, he had 69 tackles to go along with two picks and a team-high dozen pass breakups.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Brad Wornick. Or Dominique Davis if he proves to be the guy in the summer. Basically, East Carolina needs a capable hurler to run a new system that's going to lean heavily on the forward pass. Plus, the team needs to take full advantage of the skills of receivers Dwayne Harris, Darryl Freeney, and Dayon Arrington. If the offense can't get out of neutral this fall, the overall decline is going to be more severe than anyone imagined.

The season will be a success if ... East Carolina qualifies for a bowl game…any bowl game. Even after winning back-to-back league championships, the bar has been lowered considerably in 2010 due to the changes on the field and the sidelines. If the reshaped Pirates can find six or seven wins out of a schedule that includes tough games with Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and Navy, it'll qualify as a very successful debut for McNeill & Co.

Key game: Oct. 16 vs. NC State. This is an underrated rivalry game, which the Wolfpack took last year, 30-24. State is experiencing problems of its own these days, which might make it a good barometer and measuring stick for East Carolina. If the Pirates can handle an ACC opponent during a rebuilding year, it could become a launching point for the second half of the season.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Rushing yards per game: East Carolina 152.1 – Opponents 120.3
- Sacks: East Carolina 28 – Opponents 12
- First quarter scoring: East Carolina 99 - Opponents 50

- 2010 East Carolina Preview | 2010 East Carolina Offense
- 2010 East Carolina Defense | 2010 East Carolina Depth Chart
- East Carolina Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006