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View from the East
Friday, August 13, 2004

By Al Myatt

Townes: Another rebuilding year not an option

 

 

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• KEITH LECLAIR on ECU's Field of Dreams

• BETH GRANT: Actress Still a Pirate
 

 

Back To School Savin

©2004 Bonesville.net

It may sound like East Carolina running back Marvin Townes is borrowing his personal theme for the 2004 football season from Pirates basketball coach Bill Herrion.

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 last season.

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 mistakes.

"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
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