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Been There, Done That
Monday, January 8, 2007

By Kevin Monroe

More good defense in the cards for 2007

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Scouting Report: ECU Defense

< View Offensive Scouting Report >

East Carolina football fans were very hopeful after a strong finish in 2005 that the program had finally turned the corner. Then the team made the trip to Annapolis to play the Midshipmen.

The gimmick option attack that Navy runs is almost impossible to stop. The Middies run the ball 9 out of 10 snaps and you have to be prepared to stop the quarterback, the running back and the fullback on every snap. That is a difficult challenge for almost any team.

The Midshipmen put up 400 rushing yards against the Pirates and I heard sighs of “here we go again” from Pirate fans.

It wasn’t until 4th-ranked West Virginia came to town did it become apparent that the 2006 edition of the ECU defense had some potential.

The Pirates held the number one rushing offense in the country to under 200 yards rushing. The only other team to defend the Mountaineers as well as East Carolina was the Pirates' bowl opponent, South Florida.

The remainder ECU's 2006 season was one defensive show after another. The Pirates were in almost every regular season contest because of how well the defense played. The Tulsa game was a notable exception in which East Carolina just seemed to be outmatched defensively.

Let’s take a look at the players that carried this year’s team on defense and some of the stars for the future.

DEFENSIVE BACKS:  The defensive back position was a huge unknown before the 2006 season. Jamar Flournoy (senior) was coming off a redshirt season because of some offseason issues. Both Kasey Ross (senior) and Travis Williams (junior) were getting their first opportunities to start every game at corner, even though they both saw plenty of playing time in 2005. Starting free safety Zach Baker had graduated, leaving the job up to Pierre Parker (junior) and Kyle Chase (senior). All of the aforementioned players played well above expectations this season. Ross and Williams have truly become a great corner tandem and wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Ross had two fourth quarter interceptions for touchdowns; one of those interceptions sealed a victory in the Memphis game. Williams will return at one corner next year, and Leon Best (freshman) will probably be the favorite next season to replace Ross.

LINEBACKERS:  After losing Chris Moore, Richard Koonce, and Josh Chisolm to graduation in 2005, the Pirates really had some questions at linebacker. Some offseason acquisitions and youth in the program were forced to step in and make an immediate impact. Junior college transfer Fred Wilson took on the leadership role early in spring ball and helped bring along youngsters like Van Eskridge (freshman), Pierre Bell (sophomore) and Quentin Cotton (sophomore). Cotton has been the most consistent linebacker we have had on the field since Moore left a year ago. Another young player that has seen significant playing time and been very effective is Nick Johnson (freshman). The future looks bright for the Pirate linebacking corps.

DEFENSIVE LINE:  The D-line was supposed to be the most experienced group coming into the season with Shauntae Hunt (senior) and Marcus Hands (sophomore) coming back with Dontre Brown (senior) in the middle. As the season went on and injuries started to plague the defensive, new stars began to emerge. Brandon Setzer (sophomore) and Mark Robinson (junior) are a couple of the defensive lineman that played well for the Pirates; Robinson was second on the team in sacks with two. Zach Slate, (sophomore), Robinson and C.J. Wilson (freshman) really played well at the defensive end position. Wilson led the team in sacks with three. You can also include Wendell Chavis (junior) and Jay Ross (freshmen) in the mix of returning players next year that will see plenty of playing time.

PROGNOSIS:  The 2006 season was a a pleasant surprise on the defensive side of the ball. No longer can teams just run through the Pirates and not have to worry about ECU making changes that will stop them. In the past, running backs have used the East Carolina game to pad their stats, but that wasn’t the case this season. Rarely does the defensive staff get outflanked. Coach Greg Hudson and his aides do a great job of making the correct adjustments at halftime to dominate the opposing offense in the second half.

Next year's defense will have some big shoes to fill, but it has the right personnel and coaches returning to be just as good or better next year.

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02/23/2007 10:33:16 AM


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