CAROLINA & CONFERENCE USA
View from the East
Friday, May 11, 2012
By Al Myatt
Casting a wary eye on 2012 opponents
A Look at the Foes:
Part III of IV
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In the third installment
of our examination of East Carolina's 2012 football opponents, we'll be
looking at the Homecoming game with Memphis on Oct. 13, a trip to
Alabama-Birmingham on Oct. 20 and Navy's visit to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium
on Oct. 27.
Two of the three Pirate
foes in the third quarter of the upcoming regular season will have new
coaches, which usually means adjustments in terms of systems and
Let's proceed with the
Memphis at ECU, Oct. 13
Seven has been a lucky
number for East Carolina. That's seven, as in the seventh game of the
season, which is the schedule slot the Memphis Tigers occupy on the
Pirates' docket for the upcoming campaign.
ECU has won six straight
seventh games. The last loss on the seventh playing date of a season
came in 2005 during Skip Holtz's first year as Pirates coach when the
same Memphis program
topped visiting ECU 27-24 at the
The seventh game last
season produced a memorable conquest with ECU
winning 38-35 at Navy as
Dominique Davis completed an NCAA record 26 consecutive passes. The
Pirates were able to extract some payback for
a 76-35 trouncing at the hands
of the Midshipmen in the ninth game of 2010.
Another indicator for
potential Pirate success is ECU's record in Homecoming games. Since
1955, ECU is 47-10 at the alumni gatherings, an 82.5 winning percentage.
Memphis is a program in
transition, having dismissed Larry Porter as coach after going 2-10
overall and 1-7 in Conference USA in 2011.
The Tigers brought in
Justin Fuente from national power Texas Christian. Fuente had been
working as quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator for the
Horned Frogs. From 2008 to 2010, TCU was the only program in the country
that finished in the Top 10 in both the Associated Press and USA today
polls. Fuente worked with Frog quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Casey
Pachall. TCU was the only program in the nation to have two different
signal callers ranked in the top 10 in passing efficiency over the last
Jacob Karam, a transfer
from Texas Tech, and Tigers returner Taylor Reed split snaps at the
quarterback position in the spring game. Karam, a junior, completed 7 of
16 for 159 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Reed, a
sophomore, connected on 8 of 16 passes for 58 yards.
Fuente will continue the
teaching process in preseason practice. He wants a heightened tempo on
offense and has been concerned about the tendency of the defense to give
up big plays.
The Tigers start the
Fuente era at home against Tennessee-Martin. They'll visit Arkansas
State, host Middle Tennessee State and travel to Duke before initiating
their last season in C-USA at home against Rice the week before their
junket to Greenville. The Tigers' schedule provides the potential to
gain some momentum before playing the Pirates.
ECU's game before tangling
with the Tigers will be on Thursday night, Oct. 4, at Central Florida,
which will give the Pirates a little extra preparation time before the
2012 Homecoming matchup.
Alabama-Birmingham, Oct. 20
Five years under former
ECU assistant Neil Callaway produced an 18-42 record for the Blazers and
led to his resignation as head coach after a 3-9 season in 2011.
The Blazers hired Arkansas
offensive coordinator Garrick McGee as his successor. McGee played
quarterback at Oklahoma, throwing for 2,449 career yards. He spent four
years at Northwestern from 2004 to 2007, the last two as offensive
coordinator before joining the Razorbacks staff.
McGee's philosophy on
offense will be to put as much pressure as possible on the defense
through different personnel groups and varying formations for base
The approach depends on a
high level of execution from the quarterback position where Jonathan
Perry returns. McGee watched the Blazers defeat eventual league champion
Southern Miss 34-31 on Nov. 17, an indication perhaps of UAB's
Perry completed 174 of 300
passes for 2,042 yards with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions last
season. He split time with Bryan Ellis in
a 28-23 loss to ECU in
Greenville last season. Perry completed 9 of 16 for 106 yards in that
contest as the Pirates overcame seven turnovers for their first win in
2011. Perry also possesses running ability, having netted 294 yards on
the ground last season with three scores.
Perry connected on 12 of
19 passes for 238 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Green team to a
43-8 win over the White in UAB's spring game on April 24. Jamarcus
Nelson had three catches for 117 yards and two TDs. Josh Greer completed
6 of 10 passes for 137 yards.
McGee felt the program was
on the right track in terms of attitude and energy after spring
practice. Skill personnel projects as a team strength but there are
voids on the offensive line to deal with as well as the need for
improvement on defense.
McGee wants to play an
attacking style on defense. The Blazers allowed 36.8 points per game
last season. UAB faces adjustments for a defensive unit that was among
the worst nationally in 2011.
The Blazers have struggled
to develop significant fan support in a state which divides the bulk of
its allegiance between Alabama and Auburn. There is very little in the
way of tradition for McGee to build on.
The Pirates have won five
straight against UAB to lead the series, 7-4. The Blazers have won three
of five at home against ECU.
Navy at ECU, Oct. 27
The Midshipmen absolutely
shredded an injury-riddled ECU defense
on their last visit to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in 2010. The Pirates
adjusted their scheme from a four-man front to a 3-4 after posting
woeful defensive numbers in Coach Ruffin McNeill's first season at the
helm. Depth and the talent level of personnel also have been improved on
that side of the ball.
There are voids for the
Pirates to fill, particularly with the departures of Derek Blacknall and
Emanuel Davis at the corners, but by the ninth game of the season,
hopefully ECU will have those potential issues resolved.
A 38-35 setback from the Pirates
in Annapolis was the fifth defeat in a six-game losing streak for Navy
last season. The Midshipmen went 5-7 but still managed to end the season
on an up note with a 27-21 triumph over arch rival Army. Five of the
losses were by a total of 11 points.
Navy had gotten used to
winning for nine straight seasons and obviously there is a desire to
atone within the program for the 2011 downturn.
The Midshipmen are one of
the few run-first offenses the Pirates will encounter. Defending the
triple option flexbone poses a substantial challenge.
The Midshipmen averaged
312.2 yards rushing per game last season and are perennially among the
national leaders in that phase. There were graduation losses to deal
with in spring ball. Among those were quarterback Kriss Proctor, some
top ball carriers and three starters on the offensive line. Jabaree
Tuani, who had 13.5 tackles for loss in his senior year, is another
Fullback Noah Copeland had
66 yards on nine carries in the Navy spring game and a returning corps
of linebackers should be a strength on defense.
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo
didn't protect his quarterbacks from contact at the outset of spring
ball. He weighed the risk of injury but said his field generals and
defense needed the work. The Navy quarterbacks run and read a lot more
than they throw anyway. Trey Miller backed up Proctor last season. Josh
Hendrick and Cody West project as Miller's backups.
Noseguard Travis Bridges
had a promising spring but the Mids don't see the type of passing
offenses they face during the season while involved in intra-squad
Navy will start the 2012
season against Notre Dame in Dublin, Ireland, on Sept. 1. That kickoff
will be at 9 a.m., Eastern time.
Perhaps the Pirates will
be able to scout some of that clash on game day of their own season
opener with Appalachian State.
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05/11/2012 01:57 AM