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Notes, Quotes and Slants

Pirate Notebook No. 148
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

By Denny O'Brien
Staff Writer and Columnist

Paul Troth: Case study of a mismanaged QB


At this point in his career, Paul Troth should be cruising at a fairly comfortable rate. But midway through his junior season, the former high school All-American has been shifted into reverse.

Had he followed the normal path of an East Carolina quarterback, Troth's story would read like this:

One year spent learning the offense. A couple of visits to postseason bowls. Shattered records. Last stop, NFL camp.

That was a rite of passage under former Pirates coach Steve Logan, and Troth appeared to be following that pattern before making a U-turn when his mentor was sent packing last December.

"It's just difficult," Troth said following the Pirates' loss to Houston. "Last year, I thought I had enough stuff to build on. I came into camp and lost the job.

"My whole outcome of this season has been disappointment. But, at the same time, it has been what can I do to help the team win?"

Perhaps the better question at this stage might be whether or not Troth is emotionally capable of engineering a victory.

From the moment he stepped on campus, Troth has been the subject of more experiments than Pavlov's dog. It all started with Logan's decision — based on genuine motives — to not redshirt him, which essentially resulted in a wasted year of eligibility.

The thinking was to let the greenhorn QB gradually get his feet wet as the understudy to David Garrard, but that backfired when the Pirates' porous defense struggled to hold seemingly comfortable leads.

That was followed by the great weight gain of 2001, which boosted Troth to a stout, but slow 240. By the time he adjusted to his body and looked comfortable slinging the pigskin, the new staff ordered the QB to shed some pounds. He now is 220.

Troth was forced to run the option. Stuck under center. Moved to the shotgun. Rolled out and formationed to death.

It's almost as if he got caught in an inadvertent tug-of-war between Logan and John Thompson. The end result has been the unfortunate transformation of a one-time BMOC to an unassuming Mr. Irrelevant.

In many ways, Troth has become the symbol of a dividing line in Greenville as palpable as the Mason-Dixon Line. His strong association to Logan has prompted the former coach's detractors to launch an all-out campaign for Desmond Robinson under center, while Logan loyalists openly question Troth's benching and how the QB sweepstakes was handled.

During a fall camp in which neither QB separated himself from the other, it is somewhat understandable why a new coach would take a new direction. After all, that's a sure-fire way for a coach to stamp his identity on a program.

On the other hand, in a nip-and-tuck battle for a position, generally the more experienced, battle-tested player gets the benefit of the doubt and the opportunity to solidify — or lose — his job on the field.

But what's done is done.

The aftermath is a starting quarterback in whom the coaching staff has so little confidence that it took the air out of the ball against the nation's 106th-ranked pass defense. He is backed by a guy who once possessed a promising future, but whose confidence has been so shattered that he may lack the gumption to regroup and pull the offense out of its misery.

"I don't know how many snaps I'll get," Troth said following the Houston loss. "After tonight's performance (against Houston), I don't know.

"All I know is I have to go out in practice and do whatever I can to help the team win. The opportunity is there, I've got to take control of it. Hopefully there will be more opportunities like that."

Those chances are growing fewer by the day.

Out of place

Hindsight is 20/20. However, you can't help but second-guess Logan's decision last season to move Vonta Leach from defense to offense.

Leach never meshed with then-offensive coordinator Doug Martin's one-back offense and since has struggled in Rick Stockstill's two-back system. Through six games, the senior fullback has a paltry 49 yards on 23 carries, not to mention two costly fumbles.

His fumble in the third quarter against Carolina set up a 33-yard scoring strike from Darian Durant to Jon Hamlet to extend the Heels' lead to 21-10.

"There is nobody I trust more [with the ball]," Thompson said. "That (fumble) hurt us, but we've got to find a way to go back out there and stop them."

Had Leach not moved to fullback, the Pirates' linebacking corps would have been one of Conference USA's best. With Leach in the middle, Chris Moore would have shifted to the outside where his speed could have beene better utilized.

That could have gone a long way in helping the Pirates solve their defensive woes.

Possible switch?

With a lack of production from much of the receiving corps, running back Marvin Townes has emerged as a viable option in the passing game.

Midway through the season, Townes ranks second for the Pirates in both receptions (13) and receiving yards (106). His 26-yard touchdown grab against Carolina moved the Pirates to within striking distance at 21-17.

"He was my first option," Robinson said. "I was just looking to the right to look the safety off. He (Townes) made a great play. He boxed the guy out and I put the ball right there."

If Art Brown is able to return to full speed next season, Thompson may want to consider shifting Townes to receiver. With the loss of Copper, the Pirates will have no proven targets returning next season, and the emergence of Robert Tillman provides insurance in the backfield.

At 6'0", 195-pounds, Townes has the size to play the position, to go along with the breakaway speed to provide a much-needed deep threat.

Phantom returns

Two years. Two games. Four touchdowns called back by penalties.

That will be the most memorable storyline of the renewed series between the Pirates and Tar Heels. Much like in 2001, the most recent batch of yellow laundry had an impact on the game's outcome, but the question is whether or not officials were justified in tossing their hankies.

The second nullified score — a scoring sprint by safety Travis Heath, who was the recipient of a forward lateral from Kyle Chase — definitely was the correct call. Replays show that Chase, who recovered a fumble and was being slowed by Durant, advanced the ball forward into the waiting arms of Heath.

However, replays contradict an illegal-block-in-the-back penalty that eliminated a 64-yard scamper by Townes that would have tied the game. Copper was the only player who possibly could have been flagged on the play, and evidence showed the receiver and defender both fell forward and didn't make contact.

Though the botched call wouldn't have provided enough points to manufacture a victory for the Pirates, it would have been interesting to see how they responded to the emotional high that the explosion play produced.

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02/23/2007 01:53:24 AM


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