2007 East Carolina Football Preview
July 27, 2007
After a return to the postseason in his second year at East Carolina, head coach Skip Holtz has his aim set on building the Pirates' program, not just another winning team.
A challenging schedule will be the primary roadblock between ECU and a second consecutive postseason appearance, but Holtz has said since his arrival he would feel more comfortable when the team began featuring products of his own recruiting efforts.
The time is now, starting at quarterback, where Holtz signee Rob Kass will shoulder the responsibility of replacing program mainstay James Pinkney.
ECU's attempt at a second straight winning season -- the Pirates finished 7-6 in 2006 after a loss to South Florida in the Papajohns.com Bowl -- will begin with a daunting trip to Virginia Tech and also includes a non-conference tilt at West Virginia and a pair of home contests against in-state rivals North Carolina and NC State.
With star receiver Aundrae Allison off to the NFL after an explosive two seasons with the Pirates, the team he leaves behind needs some reliable new sets of hands. Sophomore Jamar Bryant could be the answer, but he'll need plenty of help from Phillip Henry and Steven Rogers in order to keep double-teams away.
In the backfield, Chris Johnson and Dominique Lindsay will be the lead runners. But improving last year's production of 115.5 yards rushing per game is a must.
Some serious mixing and matching occurred on the line last season, especially at center. Sophomore Stephen Heis is the leading candidate and should be helped by experienced guards Matt Butler and Josh Coffman.
Juniors Quentin Cotton and Pierre Bell will again flank senior middle linebacker Fred Wilson, which should give the Pirates the best linebacking corps in Holtz's three seasons. The trio finished second, third and fourth, respectively, in tackles last season.
The secondary will undoubtedly be an early target for opposing quarterbacks after three of the Pirates' four starters were lost to graduation. Senior Travis Williams hopes his second season as a starting corner will display continued development. Holtz wants Williams to become a leader in a largely inexperienced secondary.
"I'm encouraged because I think we are better in so many positions, but I'm still not satisfied because we're not ready to play," says Holtz, who is 12-12 with the Pirates entering his third season. "We're growing. We're making strides, but we're a long way away from being able to be competitive against the schedule that we have, especially early in the season."
ECU's opening month consists of games versus the aforementioned Hokies, Tar Heels and Mountaineers, along with battles against both C-USA divisional winners last season - Southern Miss and Houston.
Republished with permission of Nathan Summers, Athlon Sports correspondent