Skip Holtz is busy on the recruiting
trail, seeing players who can help East Carolina continue the resurgence
in college football so thankfully received by the Pirate fan base over
the last two seasons.
accompanied by defensive line coach Donnie Thompson as he made a series
of stops to see potential performers in purple on Tuesday.
"The next three weeks are going to be a
little bit crazy, traveling and doing all that stuff you have to do,"
said the Pirate skipper.
Holtz has had some time to gain some
perspective on the 2006 season and the trip to the Papajohns.com Bowl in
Birmingham as well as plan ahead for the program's continued
Apart from a 24-7 loss to South
Florida, Holtz felt the inaugural "Pizza Bowl" at Legion Field was a
"It was a first class bowl," Holtz
said. "They did a great job putting it on, especially for being a first
year bowl. It was a great opportunity for us to line up and play against
a Big East opponent. It was a great reward for our seniors who had
worked so hard and put so much into this for us to get to where we are
"It was also a great building block for
the future because of all the practice we got in. Probably the only
regret that I have is that we didn't play better as a football team. I
wish we had been able to put a little better foot forward. I don't think
we put our best effort out there on the field. That's probably my only
"Everything else I thought was a home
An early turnover appeared to set the
wrong tone for the Bucs in the bowl matchup.
"I definitely don't think it helped
us," Holtz said. "There was a couple of things that happened early.
Obviously, the second play when you fumble ... then three plays run in
the game and you're down 7-0. That's not the type of start we wanted.
South Florida is a very good football team and they're not a team that
you can spot a lot of points to."
Holtz isn't sure if his players may
have had some jitters. None of the Pirates had ever played in a bowl.
The Bulls got their first bowl experience in a 14-0 loss to N.C. State
in Charlotte in 2005 and appeared to be motivated to atone for that
"Whether we were nervous, whether we
were too tight, I don't know, but we made some uncharacteristic
mistakes," Holtz said. "A bad snap. I mean, heck, I don't believe we've
had a fumbled snap all year. All of a sudden you get in a bowl game and
the second play, it's a bad snap and rolling around down there on the
"We've had some bad snaps but we've
been able to control it. This was one we couldn't even control. We made
some mistakes. There's no doubt that affected us but not that play
alone. We made a few mistakes in the first half and were in too big of a
hole to climb back out of.
"We didn't play a very good game in the
second half. We moved the ball around a little bit but we weren't very
effective in the red zone. When you look at it — turnovers and red zone
— if we could have held onto the ball and scored when we got in the red
zone, that would have been a heck of a game."
One silver lining is that the
quarterbacking situation of the future may have gotten some definition
in Birmingham. Obviously, James Pinkney has led the program through some
difficult times and he departs having gotten the Pirates turned around
in his senior season with some great career numbers.
But Rob Kass, playing after Pinkney was
banged up in the bowl game, had an effort that helped answer some
questions about the void Pinkney's departure creates. Kass completed 10
of 19 attempts without an interception for 138 yards.
"Rob did a very nice job stepping in
there and getting the most playing time he's had," Holtz said. "I
thought he responded very positively. He went in there and he played
The Pirates played in jerseys adorned
with their names — just for the bowl game.
"We will not wear names on the back of
the jerseys next season," said the ECU coach. "Those will remain off.
When we win a bowl game, we'll wear (names) the next year."
The Pirates will have a degree of
anonymity against a high profile schedule in 2007 that includes North
Carolina and N.C. State in Greenville.
"It's going to be exciting," he said.
"I mean I know the electricity in the atmosphere that was at home
against West Virginia and the Virginia game, and even the Memphis and
Marshall games and the way the Pirate Nation supported this program with
the crowds that came out at home were awesome.
"We set a single season attendance
record and it was really exciting to see the way the people supported
the program. When you went to N.C. State, to see the electricity at N.C.
State and to know that you're having that type of electricity — not
once, but twice — at Greenville. It's a great opportunity for East
Carolina, for its fan base, to really put on a big time environment and
I'm really looking forward to it."
The Pirate Nation might not be as
excited about a schedule next season that also includes trips to
Virginia Tech and West Virginia as well as the demands of Conference USA
if ECU hadn't gotten things turned around from a 1-3 start in 2006.
"We had talked about being more
talented than we were a year ago, we just didn't know if we would be
able to be a better football team than we were a year ago," Holtz said.
"A lot of that was because of our youth and our inexperience. A lot of
that youth and inexperience played early in the season against Navy, UAB,
"Playing in so many of those games
early really was a huge asset. To watch 'em get better as each week went
on just excites me for the future. As a football team it would have been
real easy to kind of throw their arms up in the air and say, 'You know
what? We're not doing very well. Boy, wait 'til next year.'
"The football team started to mature.
They started to age. Some of the younger players stepped in and were a
huge part of our success.
"When you look at the way that defense
improved as the year went on, when you looked at the Scotty Robinsons
and the Zach Slates, the C.J. Wilsons and so many guys who had not
played previously — Rod Wilson, Nick Johnson, Quentin Cotton — a lot of
those guys who had not played very much.
"To see them step up and to see the key
role they played as the year progressed, they were a huge part of our
success and to know that they come back is really exciting for me as a
And Holtz is working diligently to add
to the talent pool in the ECU program.
"Recruiting has gone very well to this
point," Holtz said. "The reception has been tremendous. We've got a
phenomenal staff. They've done a great job of building relationships
with so many of the players who we've been recruiting. When the players
have had the opportunity to come to campus and get around our players
and see the positive attitude and everything, I think it's infectious.
"Right now, it's really been rewarding.
It's really been exciting and I'm excited to get to Feb. 7 (signing
After the Pirates finalize the 2007
signing class, the focus will shift to spring practice.
"I believe we begin Feb. 28 and the
spring game is April 14th," Holtz said.