College Sports in the Carolinas
Watch for Al Myatt's
profile of new ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in this summer's
from the East
Friday, August 13, 2004
By Al Myatt
Townes: Another rebuilding
year not an option
GOES ON SALE
PAT DYE: Short on Tenure, Long on Impact
INSIDE PIRATE FOOTBALL
Tracking the Classes
NCHSAA & ECU: Smooth Sailing Again
HIGH HOPES FOR HOOPS
New Leader Takes Charge
SCOTT COWEN: Busting Down the Door
KEITH LECLAIR on ECU's Field of Dreams
BETH GRANT: Actress Still a Pirate
It may sound like East Carolina running back Marvin Townes is borrowing his
personal theme for the 2004 football season from Pirates basketball coach
ECU's hoops theme last season was to the effect that "the time is now."
Townes is saying much the same thing as he prepares for his final go in
purple and gold.
"We want to turn everything around," Townes said. "Everybody knows we went
1-11 last year. Everybody knows that's not East Carolina football. We've got
to come out focused and handle our business, especially the seniors. We've
got to step up to the plate and lead the younger players."
If the team steps up its performance like Townes did last season, the bottom
line will look a lot better than the one win the Pirates posted in John
Thompson's freshman season as a head coach. Townes overcame the recurring
muscle cramps that had plagued him earlier in his career.
After running for 304 yards on 76 carries as Art Brown's stunt double in
2002, Townes became a workhorse last season. His 258 carries were the most
by an ECU back since Scott Harley ran 307 times in 1996. Townes accumulated
1,128 yards rushing as a junior and scored eight touchdowns, which entitles
him to a few minutes of oratory on the ECU soapbox.
Don't count him among those who are calculating that Coach Thompson needs at
least three years to restore the program's talent level.
"For me, I'm a senior," Townes said at this month's Conference USA football
media kickoff in Memphis. "I'm pretty much speaking for all the seniors and
the whole team. It's got to be this year. I can't wait around. I'm going to
do all I can, do all I have to do and get all the young guys behind me."
Townes' numbers last season are all the more impressive when you factor in
the lack of mystery in the 2003 offense. The return of Brown will allow
defenses to key much less on the 6-foot, 194-pound Townes.
New offensive coordinator Noah Brindise has identified his weapons and
packaged them like Monte Hall on Let's Make a Deal, leaving it up to
defenses to guess what's behind doors Nos. 1, 2 and 3.
"The offense is real different," Townes said. "It's a whole lotta stuff
wide open. Last year's offense was so simple, the defense could tell what we
were going to do. This year it's wide open."
It's pretty exciting for Pirate fans to think about ECU sophomore
quarterback James Pinkney stretching the field with a deep ball to Demarcus
Fox or Kevin Roach and following that by sending Brown or Townes churning
through spaces generated by a retooled offensive line. The vertical passing
game was a concept the Pirates pretty much left on Thompson's chalk board
Brown missed 2003 with a knee injury after gaining 1,029 yards on 214
carries with 14 TDs as a junior. Both Brown and Townes are threats coming
out of the backfield as receivers, too. Brown had 26 catches in 2002 and
Townes had 23 last season.
"I don't know if Art or Marvin will each get their hands on the ball 25 or
30 times a game," said Thompson, who plans to work more closely with the
defensive unit this season, his domain as a coordinator at Florida, Arkansas
and Southern Miss.
But Brindise's packages will get Brown and Townes on the field at the same
time and defenses will have to be aware of either one all the time. That's a
pair of aces in the hole for the Pirates.
"We're going to be in the game at the same time, maybe the same backfield,"
Townes said. "Art may be at running back and I may be at slot. There are so
many things we can do."
The Pirates may have turned a corner in their mental approach under
Brindise's guidance in the spring. The offense is thinking about making
plays instead of the mantra that developed last season don't make
"Receivers got their hands on balls last season and didn't catch it," Townes
said. "Or somebody fumbled. The bottom line is that we've got to go out and
make plays. It's not going to come to you. We've got to go out and get it."
The Pirates were caught in a transition year in 2003. A program previously
known for offensive innovation stagnated with predictability. A defensive
mind took control in place of an offensive one and there was a major
personality overhaul at the top as well. Thompson's involvement was in stark
contrast to the perception of Steve Logan's detachment. It was as if the
program moved 180 degrees in an about face. Thompson even changed sidelines
at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
Townes was among the players who bought in to the new approach.
"The thing about Coach Thompson that really separates him is that he's into
it," Townes said. "He's every emotional, very into it. He preached to us. He
let us know after every game regardless of the outcome that he loved us, he
was proud of us and he was going to stand by us.
"He was hard on us even though he didn't know us. With him, there's no 'I
can't.' It's always, 'You will.' "
Thompson has said ECU will be better this season and it's difficult to
conceive that the Pirates won't be significantly improved. The returning
players know the coaches better and vice-versa. Systems are in place.
Brindise may emerge as another Logan, with some vintage 1991 wizardry. With
an influx of junior college players filling some voids some true tight
ends, some help in the secondary ECU could be poised for a big turnaround.
That's what Marvin Townes is talking about.
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02/23/2007 12:46:15 AM