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The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, September 29, 2010

By Bethany Bradsher

Order Before They're Gone: 2010 Bonesville The Magazine

Fine-tuning still underway for ECU offense

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

North Carolina’s opponents have averaged just 128 passing yards so far this season, which means a new challenge Saturday for a team already beset with them.

The Tar Heels (1-2) will line up against an East Carolina squad (2-1) that is covering almost 300 yards per game in the air. No doubt the game preparation in Chapel Hill has majored in strategies for stopping the new Pirates’ spread offense that is unlike any scheme they have seen lately.

It’s still a work in progress, say quarterback Dominique Davis and his receivers, but every day the ECU unit gets more comfortable with the fast, air-heavy attack that gives talented wide receivers opportunities at every turn. When they finally iron out all the wrinkles, they say, opponents are going to wish they had never heard of a spread offense.

“We haven’t gotten all of the pieces put together yet, but as soon as we do it’s going to be exciting,” said Davis, who has thrown for 890 yards in three games he has started behind center. “It’s going to be hard to stop us.”

Andrew Bodenheimer, a sophomore from Winston-Salem, is slated to get his second start against North Carolina, and he is convinced that the bye week helped ramp up the intensity for the Pirates. You could almost hear the pieces falling into place, he said, and the process will continue in the heat of competition.

“I think each game we’re going to get a lot better right now,” Bodenheimer said. “We’re not at the potential, but we will be. We’re starting to click, and I think soon we’re going to play a full game of football. We haven’t done that yet.”

One key to ECU’s offensive evolution is the deepening relationship between the wide receiver corps, Davis and the offensive line. Each position is leaning on the others more as the weeks go by, said wide receiver Michael Bowman. He and his pass-catching mates consider Davis and the lineman like brothers.

The wide receivers are installed in their ideal offense — plenty of routes, and when the ball isn’t coming their way the chance to open a lane for one another.

“It’s a wide receiver’s dream to be in this spread offense,” Bodenheimer said. “Even if you’re not getting the ball, you’ve got a chance for a big block to spring somebody else. Each play, you’ve got to do your job, and you’re counted on.”

When they take the field Saturday determined to override the missteps of the Virginia Tech defeat, the Pirates will certainly see a defense that isn’t accustomed to their level of offensive productivity. But that’s no reason for false confidence, head coach Ruffin McNeill said. The Tar Heel coaches are well versed in the spread, and McNeill knows that Butch Davis and his assistants are characterized by meticulous planning.

“I have a lot of respect for that staff,” McNeill said. “I know the majority of those guys. They’ve seen a lot of things, and I know they’ll have their kids prepared.”

Dominique Davis has another reason why his teammates shouldn’t let their guard down for a minute. As a former Boston College quarterback, Davis has competed in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and as the Virginia Tech game proved, the ACC brings everything to the table.

Even with 12 players still out pending an NCAA investigation — and Johnny White and Quan Sturdivant potentially out with injuries — Davis will remind his teammates that the Tar Heels still have plenty of depth and desire.

“The ACC has it all: Speed, strength, talent, they have it all,” he said. “It’s going to be a dogfight going in there Saturday. We’re just going to go out there and do what we need to do to win the game.”

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10/20/2010 01:01 AM

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