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Henry's Highlights
Monday, November 14, 2005

By Henry Hinton

Coach's greatest needs: Time and talent


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After Saturday’s thrashing by Tulsa at windy Skelly Stadium, the East Carolina faithful are left wondering how much has been accomplished in Skip Holtz’s first year.

The answer is quite a bit.

Bowl hopes are dashed for the Pirates after the second half fiasco that ended with ECU losing to Tulsa 45-13 on Saturday at Skelly Stadium.

With a losing season now assured, there are many questions that will be bandied about the Pirate landscape.

Has ECU gotten better this year? The answer to that is clearly yes. One can only wonder what the season might have been like if James Pinkney had not been cleared in the eleventh hour to take the field. Pinkney gave ECU a chance to win and in the first half of the season it looked like the Pirates might be competitive in Conference USA.

Nearly every team the Pirates have played week in week out has had better players. Tulsa clearly had the advantage. The best chance for ECU to pull out a victory would have been to force some turnovers, which did not happen.

However, with the exception of an unusually high number of turnovers of their own at inopportune times, this version of the Pirates has looked more likely to succeed than teams the previous two years. At the end of the day it appears the program just needs more horses.

Getting better in 2006 will mean having some younger players step up, particularly on the offensive line and the defensive side of the ball. The good news is that players in the key skill positions will return, including Pinkney, Aundrae Allison, Chris Johnson and Brandon Fractious.

The Pirates head to Marshall this weekend for another difficult road game. Early on the Thundering Herd looked like a shadow of its former self. Recruiting restrictions have tightened at the Huntington school and it has been evident on the field.

However, in recent weeks Marshall has played much better. The Herd lost to Southern Miss in overtime, and anybody in C-USA will tell you difficult it is to stick that close to the Golden Eagles. Marshall also has nice wins over UAB, Southern Methodist and Tulane.

Getting a victory in Huntington next Saturday, while not impossible, will be difficult for ECU. The Pirates will need a near flawless game.

ECU plays its final game of the season at home on November 26th against UAB, a team with which the Pirates have historically had trouble matching up.

The Blazers are currently 4-5 but have to play at Texas-El Paso this week. If Watson Brown’s team loses to the Miners, it will also be eliminated from bowl contention and the Thanksgiving weekend game here in Greenville will mean little more than pride. (I’ll refrain from the temptation to call it the Turkey Bowl).

It would be a cliché’ to say that Skip Holtz’s team has taken another step toward respectability at this point. However, it seems reasonable that this is the case. Getting the program back on solid footing is a difficult task. After starting 3-3, expectations were raised, perhaps unfairly.

Looking ahead to the schedules in the upcoming years is enough to make anyone shudder, but things can come together with a few good recruiting years. The coaching staff is in place to get the job done.

Skip Holtz is the right guy at the right time. Speaking of time… he just needs more of it to get the job done.

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04/21/2008 07:03:24 PM

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