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(ECU SID Images)
Though less than a week remains before
East Carolina opens its season against Tulsa, there is no indication as
to who will trigger the Pirates’ new aerial assault.
Whoever trots into the Pirates’ huddle —
be it one-time Boston College starter Dominique Davis or walk-on Brad
Wornick — one will soon become the most scrutinized player on the ECU
roster. The guy left holding the clipboard could be among the more
popular with fans.
That’s been par for the course for ECU
You won’t find a student-athlete at East
Carolina who endures more public nit-picking than the starting
quarterback. The position has been the school’s athletics calling card
since 1991, and the expectations for anyone who fills it are borderline
That’s one attribute that either Davis
or Wornick would just as soon not inherit when head coach Ruffin McNeill
and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley make the final call for the
season opener. But it is inevitable that one of them will, and whoever
that is would be wise to seek Patrick Pinkney’s counsel on the
Pinkney would be the first to tell them
that a demanding crowd awaits. He could probably even teach a class on
emotional survival under center at ECU.
All Pinkney did during his two-plus
years as the Pirates’ starting quarterback was deliver consecutive
Conference USA championships and start in three straight postseason
bowls. Along the way he overcame multiple shoulder surgeries, authored a
record-setting performance in a home win over North Carolina, and was
the triggerman in victories over five Top 25 opponents, including
historic wins over Virginia Tech and West Virginia to open 2008.
Yet you might not find a more criticized
starting quarterback in ECU history.
For every win Pinkney’s right arm helped
deliver, there was seemingly equal focus on each incompletion or
turnover. It took only one game last season for some to seek an
impeachment in favor of backup Josh Jordan, who coincidentally now finds
himself among the receivers on the ECU depth chart.
Such is the plight for the starting
quarterback at East Carolina. And it’s not like Pinkney was the first to
Paul Troth can attest to that.
When Troth sailed into Greenville, he
did so with more expectations than any other player in program history.
Labeled one of the nation’s elite high school quarterbacks, it was
assumed by many that he would rewrite David Garrard’s records and
elevate the Pirates to another level within the national power
Instead of a storybook career dotted by
marquee wins, Troth became a centerpiece in a political tug-of-war.
Those who sought the dismissal of former
head coach Steve Logan jumped at every opportunity to document each of
Troth’s errant throws. Meanwhile, Logan loyalists were quick to defend
him. That verbal battle waged into the first year of John Thompson’s
brief tenure when the coach chose Desmond Robinson as his starter.
Given the current climate, we’re
unlikely to witness what occurred during the Troth-Robinson days at ECU.
But because of the nature of the Pirates’ new offense, and the fact that
it produced unprecedented numbers at Texas Tech despite the absence of
elite quarterbacks, I’m guessing some will expect similar numbers to
what the Red Raiders produced.
"In this offense and what we do, a
strong arm is great,” McNeill said. “But, it's where to deliver the
ball, when to deliver it and how to deliver it that are the most
important. Both (Davis and Wornick) are doing a great job. I just have
to get the team focused. There is nothing we're trying to hide. Those
guys are battling each day.
you had a chance to watch the film, you would see one guy during
seven-on-seven complete great throws and then in team-on-team, the other
guy does the same thing. It has been back and forth.”
Whoever wins the QB battle shouldn’t be
surprised if he receives a constant back and forth response from the
Over the years, ECU fans have been
spoiled by splendid quarterback play from the likes of Jeff Blake,
Marcus Crandell, Dan Gonzalez, and Garrard. So this crowd knows a
quarterback when it sees one.
Perhaps that explains the incredibly
high demands Pirates fans place on their field general, and why poor
play is occasionally greeted with a verbal flogging.