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View from the 'ville
Friday, August 28, 2009

By Al Myatt

Attrition sometimes spins off benefits

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

Pinkney, Jackson products of personnel issues

East Carolina quarterback Patrick Pinkney is the most experienced of the Pirates' prominent skill position players and running back Brandon Jackson, a transfer from Kentucky, is among the newest.

Pinkney is a rare sixth-year senior, a status bestowed upon him by virtue of a successful appeal to the NCAA based on medical hardship following a pair of shoulder surgeries dating back to the John Thompson coaching era at ECU.

Jackson joined the Pirates for spring drills after ECU claimed the Conference USA championship weeks earlier.

Despite the contrast in their tenures in the program, the circumstances that have them projected as major players going into the 2009 season are much the same. Personnel attrition at their positions gave them a chance and thus far they've each made the most of their respective opportunities.

Pinkney might have left the scene without much fanfare had Rob Kass, who had won the starting job in the preseason of 2007, not been charged with DUI after the final scrimmage before the season opener at Virginia Tech. Pinkney was third on the depth chart at the time, behind Kass and Brett Clay.

Clay was ineffective against the Hokies and coach Skip Holtz turned to Pinkney, a Pirate legacy, whose dad, Reggie, was a defensive back for ECU in the mid-1970's before moving on to the NFL. After showing promise in a 17-7 loss in Blacksburg, Pinkney earned his place in Pirate lore by completing 31 of 41 passes for 406 yards and three touchdowns the following week in a 34-31 win over North Carolina in Greenville.

The Pirates are banking so heavily on Pinkney at this point that Kass has moved to tight end and the backups at quarterback have yet to take a college snap on the varsity level.

Jackson emerged in the hunt for ball carriers after Dominique Lindsay was injured and personnel issues separated Jonathan Williams and Norman Whitley from the program.

Jackson produced progressively better numbers during the spring, rushing for 55 yards on 15 carries and catching a 6-yard scoring pass in the Purple-Gold game.

"I just think my role is to come in and bring a different energy to the game," Jackson said. "I just need to bring something different whether it be coming off the bench, starting or coming in third or fourth. My greatest asset is just the energy that I bring."

While Pinkney shapes up as the man at quarterback, the Pirates have ample numbers at running back now that Lindsay is healthy and Whitley and Williams have been reinstated.

"We have experience," Pinkney said. "Everybody knows what they're doing. Everybody's on one accord right now."

Nine returning starters on offense give unit coordinator Todd Fitch the flexibility to utilize virtually the entire playbook.

"We don't have a fear that we can't throw it here, we can't do this or we can't do that," Fitch said. "I think we'll have a lot of confidence to spread the ball around and let them play fast."

The depth at running back, boosted by Jackson's spring performance, is a potentially productive situation.

"What it will do for us is when you have your opportunities, you know you have to be at your best," Fitch said.

The Pirates have encountered some significant adversity in terms of personnel losses in recent years, but one player's misfortune is oftentimes another player's opportunity. Pinkney and Jackson exemplify players who have stepped in and stepped up when the door for career advancement has opened.

Fortunately, the Pirates have stayed pretty healthy thus far in the preseason. Making good decisions off the field is important, too. Holtz has expressed the hope that no one will embarrass themselves or the program in terms of their conduct as measured against team standards, even though the silver lining in such situations has produced a poised quarterback and a promising running back as the 2009 season approaches.

Apps offense a bit of a mystery

ECU defensive coordinator Greg Hudson may have to make adjustments on the fly when Appalachian State visits on Sept. 5 in the season opener at noon. The status of returning Mountaineers quarterback Armanti Edwards remains undetermined after a lawn mowing accident severely cut his right foot. The recovering Edwards began limited throwing in practice this week.

ASU reportedly is working on a new offensive wrinkle — a pistol set in which the quarterback takes the snap in shotgun formation with a running back lined up behind him.

Brad Glenn, Apps quarterbacks coach, told the Winston-Salem Journal that the set is limited at the moment.

"It's a real small package right now," Glenn said. "We've started out just wanting to look at it really, run some inside zone with it, nothing else. It's kind of just an experiment … but I think there are some things we can expand upon."

Get your designated driver

When ECU plays Memphis at the Liberty Bowl on Oct. 27, there will be beer sales at the stadium. The Memphis Commercial-Appeal has reported that the city of Memphis, which owns the stadium, will add the sale of suds as a means of increasing needed revenue.

The stadium — which the city recently spent $5 million to renovate — was projected to lose $261,000 in general operating expenses, according to the newspaper. A Memphis official said beer sales could net the city $200,000 to help offset the anticipated losses.

It may also improve the postgame taxi business.

Holland on Hall's scope

ECU athletic director Terry Holland deflects the credit for Sonny Randle's selection to the university's athletic hall of fame. Randle won two Southern Conference championships in three seasons as head coach of the Pirates. His limited tenure at ECU didn't meet traditional requirements for admission but an exception was made.

"Those who played under Sonny felt strongly that he was qualified to be admitted and argued their case to the committee," Holland said in an e-mail response. "The committee and the Board of Trustees agreed that a waiver procedure for certain requirements was appropriate and the selection committee is still considering whether or not to waive the requirement that HOF members must have made their contribution as either a student or employee of ECU.

"Kay Yow (former N.C. State women's basketball coach and a graduate of East Carolina) and many outstanding high school coaches are excluded from the ECU Athletic HOF but can be and are recognized by the Outstanding Alumnus and Top 100 Women At ECU Awards (both honored Kay Yow) and high school coaches are recognized in the high school HOF in the state where they are coaching. That requirement is a tougher call and no recommendation has been forwarded to the athletic administration or the Board."

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08/28/2009 02:16:21 AM


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