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View from the 'ville
Thursday, April 19, 2007

By Al Myatt

Editor's Note: This is part two of a two-part series in which Al Myatt looks ahead to East Carolina's 2007 football schedule and sizes up the spring status of the Pirates' opponents. Part one was published on April 12 and can be viewed by clicking here.

Spring winding down for 2007 foes

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

In last week's column we examined how spring football practice was going for the first six teams East Carolina will face on its 2007 schedule.

Let's briefly revisit those first six programs for subsequent developments and take a look at the last six teams on the Pirates schedule in a little more depth:

At Virginia Tech (Sept.1)

Following the campus rampage on Monday which left 32 victims dead as well as the gunman from a self-inflicted shot, the Hokies canceled the remainder of their spring football workouts.

Virginia Tech utilized 12 of its 15 practices allowed under NCAA guidelines, scratching two workouts and the spring game which was to have been this Saturday.

North Carolina (Sept. 8)

The Tar Heels played their spring game on Saturday with redshirt freshman quarterback T.J. Yates completing 10 of 15 passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns before a crowd of about 10,000.

Yates tossed a 65-yard swing pass to Hakeem Nicks for the first score and added touchdowns of nine yards to former quarterback Joe Dailey and 32 yards to Richie Rich.

Southern Miss (Sept. 15)

Mother Nature kept Southern Miss from playing its spring game this past Saturday as Golden Eagles coach Jeff Bower called off the final scrimmage in favor of a practice session on Monday because of high winds and rain in Hattiesburg.

Most improved players of spring practice were wide receiver Ralph Turner and defensive back Michael McGee, according to presentations from Bower.

At West Virginia (Sept. 22)

Gold (offense) defeated Blue (defense) 58-30 in the Mountaineers' spring game on April 7. Gold got one point for a first down, six points for a touchdown and one point for a conversion. Blue got two points for a stop, three points for a three downs and out, and three points for a turnover.

Gold had 525 yards of total offense, including 380 yards passing. Pat White was 6 of 14 for 69 yards. Jarrett Brown completed 14 of 17 passes for 146 yards. Adam Bednarik, coming off shoulder rehab, completed 8 of 13 for 118 yards and a touchdown.

At Houston (Sept. 29)

Houston played its spring game on April 7. The Cougars' depth chart listed both sophomore Blake Joseph and redshirt freshman Case Keenum as first team.

Central Florida (Oct. 6)

Defense was dominant in the spring game last Saturday. The unit forced four turnovers, collected three sacks and allowed only 80 yards of rushing.

Senior linebacker Blake Carter and sophomore cornerback Emery Allen each had seven tackles. Carter also had one of two interceptions. Freshman Darin Baldwin had the other.

Now, let's take a look at the last six opponents on ECU's 2007 schedule:

At Texas-El Paso (Oct. 13)

ECU wasn't the only team accenting its tight ends this spring. In its most recent scrimmage, UTEP tight ends Jonny Moore and Jake Sears combined for nine catches for 101 yards as each scored a touchdown.

UTEP's dueling quarterbacks, James Thomas and Trevor Vittatoe, had comparable numbers with Thomas completing 7 of 8 for 75 yards with two TDs while Vittatoe connected on 11 of 14 for 92 yards.

Coach Mike Price believes strongly in airing it out on offense as his club ranked fifth nationally in passing last season and 116th (out of 119 teams) in rushing.

Still, tailbacks Terrell Jackson and Marcus Thomas combined to run for 119 yards on 27 carries last Saturday. But maybe that's because nine starters are gone on defense.

Wide receiver/returner Johnnie Lee Higgins was a big time talent who won't be easily replaced. The quarterback competition is for the sport left vacant by Jordan Palmer's departure.

UTEP's philosophy will be to outscore its opponents, including ECU which makes its longest trip ever for a conference game. The Miners defense allowed 31 points per game last season and may not be as good this season.

The Miners play their spring game on Friday night at the Sun Bowl.

N.C. State (Oct. 20)

ECU's second ACC opponent of the 2007 season will lack the coaching continuity of Virginia Tech. Tom O'Brien is the new man in charge in Raleigh and said the Wolfpack was a work in progress during the spring.

O'Brien continually addressed execution during the course of the offseason workouts but there were seven turnovers in the spring game last Saturday.

But based on the product O'Brien put on the field at Boston College, there is reason to believe that the Wolfpack will be more disciplined than in recent years.

Quarterback Daniel Evans started last season and threw a touchdown in the spring game with 16 seconds left to give the Red team a 35-31 victory. It was eerily reminiscent of BC's loss at State last season when O'Brien was on the other sideline.

Junior Toney Baker gained 163 yards and scored two touchdowns on 23 carries for the White team. Classmate Andre Brown, who split time between the Red and White teams, totaled 112 yards on his 11 carries. Jamel Eugene totaled 168 yards on 15 carries.

The Wolfpack will reportedly play more zone coverage in its pass defense in trying to improve on a 3-9 record in 2006 that included a seven-game losing streak to end the season. But six of those losses were by eight points or less.

The Chuck Amato era ended in similar fashion to that of his predecessor, Mike O'Cain — with a loss to ECU. The matchup in Greenville marks the Wolfpack's second trip to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Right now, the Pirates are farther along in the rebuilding process than the Pack, an advantage they will try to maintain during the upcoming season.

UAB (Oct. 27)

The Blazers are also making the transition to a new coach as Neil Calloway has followed Watson Brown as coach at UAB.

Although the Blazers handed ECU a heartbreaking loss the second game of the season, they went on to drop five games by a touchdown or less. Calloway moved the spring game from 1 p.m. last week up to 8:30 a.m. on Saturday to beat the approach of incoming foul weather.

Calloway was concerned about too many turnovers by the offense and too many big plays allowed by the defense. The No. 1 offense and No. 2 defense edged the No. 2 offense and No. 1 defense in the last scrimmage by a 22-16 margin.

The quarterback competition between Joseph Webb and Sam Hunt will continue into fall camp. Rashaud Slaughter ran for 97 yards on 12 carries in the spring game that included a 60-yard pick-up. His brother, T.J. Slaughter, ran 12 times for 49 yards.

UAB has had good success against ECU over the history of their matchup in C-USA. Regardless of the result in its rivalry with the Wolfpack the previous week, the Pirates will need to be refocused and ready for Calloway's first-year team the following week.

UAB leads the series with the Pirates, 4-2. The good news is that the 2007 game is not in Alabama, where ECU has never won a college football contest.

At Memphis (Nov. 3)

After losing at ECU last season, Tigers coach Tommy West dismissed defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn but there is still a lot of work to be done on that side of the ball.

Eight starters are back on that unit, however, and the Tigers have nine starters back on offense.

In Memphis' spring game, Martin Hankins completed 14 of 19 passes for 219 yards with two touchdowns. The Tigers scored on four of the spring game's last five possessions after the defense had been stronger in the earlier stages.

Henry Harris was the leading rusher with nine carries for 37 yards and a touchdown.

The Tigers were 2-10 last season. Although ECU leads the series 9-6, only two of the Pirates wins have come in the last six meetings.

At Marshall (Nov.10)

Marshall completes its spring practice with its annual intrasquad game on Saturday. The Thundering Herd has been searching for a replacement for Ahmad Bradshaw, who ran for 1,523 yards and had a total of 21 touchdowns last season.

Chubb Small ran for 193 yards on 42 carries as Bradshaw's back-up.

With quarterback Bernard Morris and wide receiver Emmanuel Spann back in green, the Herd may get more pass happy in 2007. Center Doug Legursky is highly regarded.

Defensive end Albert McClellan leads seven returning starters on defense.

ECU has beaten the Herd twice since losing 64-61 in double overtime in the 2001 GMAC Bowl and the Pirates lead the series 6-2.

Tulane (Nov. 24)

ECU's only open date in 2007 comes the week before the Pirates take on Tulane.

Bob Toledo took over the Green Wave program from Chris Scelfo and is expected to give the offense a boost. Scott Elliott has a degree of experience at quarterback and back Matt Forte can do a lot to take pressure off the passing game.

Toledo has said during the spring that the team needs to be able to maintain its intensity to improve on last season's 4-8 record. The Wave will also need to improve on a minus-11 turnover ratio.

Tulane returns to the ECU schedule after an absence since 2004. The Pirates lead the series, 6-2, with the Wave's wins coming during its perfect season in 1997 and during ECU's perfect mess in 2003.

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04/19/2007 03:39:52 AM


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