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College Sports in the Carolinas
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View from the East
Thursday, November 7, 2002

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Young Bucs can learn from James' perseverance

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©2002 Bonesville.net

Steve Logan endorses patience and it’s a valuable commodity for a football team that is playing eight true freshmen and had nine more players make their first starts in the season opener at Duke.

Among that youth corps is sophomore quarterback Paul Troth, who has shown promise while also experiencing his share of growing pains as the Pirates, coming off an open date, head for Houston on Saturday for a crucial Conference USA contest.

With ECU among five teams with one league loss, the remainder of the schedule will determine if the Pirates can realize a long-standing goal of getting to the Dec. 31 Liberty Bowl in Memphis as conference champions.

Senior Pirate Hosea James is a case in point when it comes to patience. The 6-foot-3, 270-pounder from Jacksonville, NC, will start at defensive end at Houston.

Waiting for James to become a productive player after eight or nine surgeries on his left knee — James apparently has lost count — is paying off for ECU. He leads the team in sacks with four and in tackles for loss with seven. James, who played at Jacksonville High and Hargrave Military before coming to the ECU program, made his first career start two games ago against South Florida.

Ja’Waren Blair, James’ teammate on the defensive front, kids James about the length of his responses in media interviews. But James just shares his thoughts — a lot of them — when he answers questions.

“We try to keep the kids in school and have done a decent job of it,” Logan said. “Keeping these guys around is a key. Hosea James, through a series of circumstances, played very little football here. Very little. It’s been frustrating for him and for us (as coaches). He was one of the best football players in the state of North Carolina coming out (of high school).

“Talking about staying steady. I just stayed steady with Hosea. There would have been a lot of coaches who maybe would have told him to go on, transfer, get out of here. ... But you don’t do that and so here we are in his fifth year and I’m going to tell you what. He is really playing great, great football. ... Finally.”

James in particular and ECU in general need to play some great, great football at Houston, a program that has gone from 0-11 a year ago to 4-4 thus far this season. The team that Cougars coach Dana Dimel will trot out into Robertson Stadium on Saturday won’t bear much resemblance to the group that ECU rolled past 62-20 in 2000 in Greenville.

“First of all, we know that they have an outstanding running back,” James said in evaluating the current Cougars. “I think he’s the leading rusher in Conference USA right now. He doesn’t give up. He’ll find a gap and try to stick his head up in there.”

That would be senior Joffrey Reynolds (5-10, 218) who wears jersey No. 1 and is averaging 120.1 yards rushing per game. Reynolds has scored six touchdowns. He had one score and 27 carries for 122 yards in last week’s 26-21 win at Memphis, an outcome that was sealed by a Houston interception with four seconds left after the Tigers had driven to the Cougars’ 5-yard line.

“We need to buckle down this week,” James said. “If everybody plays their technique and their assignments and their gap instead of everybody trying to make a play ... If we stay in our gaps, we’ll make a play in our gaps. If we do that, it’s going to be a real good game this weekend. I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to contain him (Reynolds) if we do that.”

One factor in ECU’s last game, a 44-20 loss at Louisville on Oct. 26, that concerned Logan was that the Cardinals, who had struggled with their ground game, accumulated 204 yards rushing on the Pirates, including 127 on 18 carries by Henry Miller.

“They didn’t pound us or anything,” James said. “They just pretty much did a cut-back scheme. We’ve got a lot of young guys at big spots (the inside linebackers) and everything. That was real hard on them because they were looking to flow and get to the ball. Then they got that quick cut back and that was kind of throwing them off a little bit.

“We came back and we worked on that and hopefully we can have that taken care of for this week. And stop that cut back.”

The Pirates also had to respect the throwing ability of Dave Ragone at Louisville, a dimension that isn’t as pronounced in Houston’s offense. Cougars quarterback Nick Eddy (6-4, 240, Jr.) is averaging 154.6 yards per game through the air with a 52.4 percent completion rate. He has nine touchdowns and eight interceptions.

“We really need to pick it up this week on offense, defense and special teams,” James said. “We come out and pick it up and do what we know we can do — hold them to less than 17 points on defense and put up about 30 points on offense and do real good on our special teams, it’ll be a real big accomplishment for us.

“Stop the run. That’s something that we always try to do is stop the run. If we can come out and do that it’ll be real good for us. That’ll give our young guys, most especially, the confidence to go out and play a whole lot better the rest of the season.”

James is a shining example for the younger players with his perseverance.

“I played one game my freshman year (1999) and the next game (Southern Miss) I tore my ACL (left knee),” he said. “It’s been a struggle since then. But great players and great coaches have kept on pushing me since then to keep on going hard in the weight room and rehab real good. They got me back this year and I’m playing some of the best football I’ve ever played. I’m getting out there and just having fun.”

James said he never considered giving up on football despite the adversities he has dealt with.

“I love football and I told myself if I was able to get out there and run and go 110 percent every time I was out there that I was going to keep doing it,” he said. “I wasn’t going to let a little knee injury hold me back. That’s just like being out on a job. You can’t let something small, that seems big, hold you back from going out and getting what you want. I just couldn’t put myself down and say ‘Hey, you’ve had too many surgeries on your knee. You don’t need to play football.’

“I wasn’t thinking like that. This right here was a challenge from God to make me a stronger man and I know He’s made me stronger by all this knee surgery. By me having those knee surgeries, every day I go out to practice I have something new to show everybody else and try to lead those younger guys and let them see, ‘Hey, this guy’s out here doing this, why can’t I do this?’ ... It makes me feel better that I’m out giving something to my team. I’m making those younger guys work just a little bit harder.”

Descriptive analogy

Billy Lee is starting his 18th season as men’s basketball coach at Campbell University. He was a graduate assistant at ECU earlier in his career and has always had an ability to express himself colorfully.

“Sometimes you’re the pigeon and sometimes you’re the statue,” Lee said. “If we don’t want to be the statue, we’re going to have to change our defensive emphasis.”

ECU plays the Camels at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville on Dec. 21 at 5 p.m. with an NBA Developmental League game involving the Fayetteville Patriots to follow.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

Click here to dig into Al Myatt's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 12:59:06 AM
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