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View from the 'ville
Thursday, January 1, 2009

By Al Myatt

Pinkney a senior with an asterisk

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

As many players as East Carolina has lost this season, it would seem to be poetic justice that the Pirates would get a star back.

One of the more intriguing aspects of the Liberty Bowl is that it may not be the last game for East Carolina senior quarterback Patrick Pinkney. ECU has made a formal appeal to Conference USA to grant Pinkney another year of eligibility based on medical hardship.

As a freshman in 2004, Pinkney played in a junior varsity football game against Hargrave Military Academy. The former Fayetteville Pine Forest star completed 10 of 22 passes for 127 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 19-7 ECU win at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Former Pirates coach John Thompson assured everyone at the time that playing in that game would not cost Pinkney anything in terms of eligibility. Pinkney had surgery on the shoulder already scheduled in the days following that game when he played against Hargrave.

Pinkney sat out the 2005 season when he was again beset by shoulder problems. An ECU official has stated that Pinkney's competitive clock began running when he played in the junior varsity tilt in 2004.

“To get your fifth-year waiver, you have to have two years of non-competition,” ECU athletic compliance director Tim Metcalf told the Greenville (NC) Daily Reflector. “That one jayvee game is what's messing up the two years of non-competition. If he hadn't played in that one game, if he was too hurt and we had medical documentation, that's one year. Then he gets hurt the second year and we have the medical documentation for that, and that's the second year.”

Metcalf said he will petition the NCAA on Pinkney's behalf, regardless of the C-USA ruling.

"We don't know yet," Pinkney said after practice on Wednesday. "Right now I'm not really focused on that."

Understandably, Pinkey is gearing in more immediate terms — Friday's bowl game with Kentucky.

Pinkney started every game this season except Central Florida, stepping aside for Rob Kass on Nov. 2 in Orlando, but he still played a significant role in a 13-10 overtime win over the Knights.

Pinkney has completed 205 of 327 passes this season (62.7 percent) for 2,379 yards and 11 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He essentially split time with Kass in 2007 but earned the starting position for the 2008 season during spring practice.

Musical chairs with personnel

One of the remarkable things about East Carolina's 9-4 season and run to the Conference USA championship is that it has been accomplished despite injuries and suspensions to players across the depth chart.

Only five players have started every game for ECU out of 22 positions on offense and defense. The group that has started every game includes left guard Cory Dowless and tight end Davon Drew on offense. On defense, the 13-game starters are tackle Jay Ross, end C.J. Wilson and strong safety Van Eskridge.

Offensive coordinator Todd Fitch of the Pirates said continuing adjustments in personnel affected ECU's consistency. After starting 3-0 and rising in the national rankings, the Pirates experienced a three-game losing streak before regrouping for the run to the C-USA title.

"We probably lost our top five skill guys on offense for the second half of the season," Fitch said. "I give a lot of credit to our players because they've adapted well."

The skill group that is missing in action includes receiver/returner Dwayne Harris, receiver T.J. Lee, receiver Jamar Bryant, running back Jonathan Williams and receiver T.J. Terrell.

One bit of good news for the offense is that tackle Stanley Bryant may be sufficiently recovered from a knee injury to play against the Wildcats.

Hoops challenge ahead

East Carolina jumped out to an 8-1 start in basketball but a 63-55 loss at Coastal Carolina on Sunday extended a losing streak to three games as the Pirates (8-4) prepare for a 4 p.m. game at Clemson on Saturday.

"Consistency is what we've had to focus on from the very beginning," said Pirates coach Mack McCarthy. "Against some competition early in the year, it didn't rear its ugly head as much because we were more talented than some of the teams we played.

"As the competition picked up, our weaknesses were exposed — execution on offense, stopping penetration, defensive rebounding. Those are things that we mentioned all along were problems but some nights we were able to overcome them because we shot the ball well or we were fairly efficient on the offensive end or we got big stops at certain times.

"Those are things that we knew would be problems as teams got better and, of course, as you go forward into the season you also run into more prepared teams because they have more information about you. Everybody knows everybody's strengths and weaknesses."

Like ECU in football, the hardwood Pirates have dealt with some personnel issues. McCarthy said the inside game has been more productive than last season despite the transfers of Gabe Blair to Wichita State and John Fields to UNC-Wilmington.

The problem in the frontcourt has been depth. An injury to 6-foot-7 DaQuan Joyner has compounded difficulties. McCarthy said Joyner is projected to return by the Texas-El Paso game at home on Jan. 17.

McCarthy said the Pirates would face much of the Clemson personnel that provided an 82-67 win over ECU in Greenville last season.

The atmosphere at Clemson's Littlejohn Coliseum may not be as raucous as usual with students on break and some fans displaced by the Tigers' Gator Bowl game today with Nebraska in Jacksonville.

"They'll still have a good crowd," McCarthy said. "You play an ACC team on the road and you know they're good."

The Tigers, ranked No. 20 nationally, improved to 13-0 with a 98-87 win at South Carolina on Tuesday night.

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01/01/2009 06:25:25 AM


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