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View from the 'ville
Thursday, July 16, 2009

By Al Myatt

Opening at home not the norm

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

East Carolina hasn't opened a football season against a football championship subdivision opponent since 1996 when the Pirates defeated East Tennessee State 45-21 in Greenville.

That will change when ECU plays Appalachian State at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Sept. 5 at noon. The Mountaineers haven't appeared on ECU's schedule since a 38-21 Pirates win in Boone back in 1979.

Historically, the Pirates usually have opened the football season on the road against a formidable opponent. Since that relative breather against ETSU, which dropped football after the 2003 season, ECU has opened a season just twice at home — against Wake Forest in 2001 and versus Duke in 2005.

The Pirates topped the Blue Devils 24-21 in 2005 in Skip Holtz's first game as ECU head coach.

Since 1996, ECU is 1-7 on the road in its season openers, 2-0 at neutral sites with wins over West Virginia (1999) and Virginia Tech (2008) in Charlotte, and 1-1 at home.

ECU and App State used to play regularly but the two institutions went their separate ways in terms of competitive philosophy shortly after the Pirates won the Southern Conference championship in 1976 and opted to move up to the major college level in football.

The Mountaineers remained in the Division I-AA classification, as it was formerly called, and won three straight national titles from 2005 to 2007. Eventual 2008 champion Richmond knocked Appalachian out of the playoffs last season.

ECU is coming off of a Conference USA championship season in 2008, its first league title since its Southern Conference crown in '76.

Whitley, Palmer in workouts

Rising junior running back Norman Whitley and rising senior offensive lineman Doug Palmer have been taking part in voluntary summer workouts, a good sign that they will be welcomed back into the program when players return to campus for preseason camp on August 6.

Whitley was ECU's leading rusher with 698 yards last season. Palmer was a preseason All-Conference USA pick in 2008 but incurred a shoulder ailment that required surgery and kept him out of 2009 spring practice. Both Palmer and Whitley had personal issues that left their status for the upcoming season in doubt.

Not involved in summer workouts apparently is running back Jonathan Williams, who ran for 380 yards in seven games last season before running afoul of the law on assault charges last October.

The boys of summer

ECU strength and conditioning coach Mike Golden has been conducting summer workouts for the football players from 2:30 to about 5 p.m. The sessions basically are broken down between skill position players and linemen, who lift at different times. Everyone does the running drills together at the end.

"We go in the afternoon to try and get our guys acclimated to the heat," Golden said. "You don't know what your going to get (in terms of weather conditions) the first couple of games. The more they're in the heat, the better."

Golden said the workouts have progressed well.

"It's been going excellent," said Golden, who migrated to ECU from South Carolina with Holtz in 2005. "We have a very good senior class. We have great leadership. This whole team's work ethic is just bringing it day by day.

"They're not looking ahead. They're not looking behind. It's just one day at a time. They're trying to do the best job that they can every single day."

Golden said the Pirates are not resting on their C-USA title laurels.

"It's like last year never happened," he said. "To this team, the way they work, it's like they never won a game. They're just so hungry and working so hard. It's totally different from what you would expect.

"They're using it the way they should use it. You've got a target on your chest, you've got to work a little bit harder."

Workouts continue through July 28. The players get a week off before returning for preseason camp.

Stadium expansion evaluation

Plans called for the East end of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium to be enclosed at the conclusion of the 2009 season, raising capacity from 43,000 to approximately 50,000 seats.

A determination on whether the project was feasible in light of the present economic downturn was to be made next month. The recent announcement that football season ticket sales had already exceeded 20,000 would seem to indicate that there will be financial support for the addition.

ECU has edge in QB experience

[Editor's note: This segment of Myatt's column contains some inaccuracies and an article by Myatt setting forth a correction and clarification was subsequently published. View the correction and clarification.]

East Carolina will not face a returning starter at quarterback until the third game of the 2009 season when the Pirates play North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Starter T.J. Yates played in just seven games during the Tar Heels' 8-5 season in 2008 due to an ankle injury sustained against Virginia Tech.

Appalachian State will turn to DeAndre Presley, who showed promise as a run-throw threat in limited playing time behind Armanti Edwards last season. Edwards threw for 2,902 yards and 30 touchdowns. He ran for 941 yards and 11 scores as a senior.

ECU will face West Virginia in its second game of the 2009 season but the Mountaineers will be without the considerable talents of Pat White at quarterback. White didn't have a great day in a 24-3 loss in Greenville last season but he finished the season with 1,842 yards passing and 21 TD's. He also ran for 974 yards and eight touchdowns. WVU will rely on a defense that returns eight starters from a unit that was 11th nationally in scoring defense in 2008.

ECU, of course, returns sixth-year senior Patrick Pinkney at quarterback, thanks to a favorable medical hardship ruling from the NCAA. Pinkney passed for 2,675 yards last season with 13 touchdowns and should give the Pirates a significant advantage in terms of experienced offensive leadership early on in 2009.

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Al Myatt's archives.

07/19/2009 06:15:58 AM


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