East Carolina Football Preview: Is This the Year of the Purple and Gold?

Eddie GriffinSenior Analyst IJune 19, 2008

The 2007 season was one filled with exciting games for East Carolina, as the Pirates won and lost games late, some in the most miraculous of endings.

Star RB Chris Johnson put up big numbers with 1,423 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns.  The defense was led by leading tackler FS Van Eskridge, MLB Fred Wilson, LB Pierre Brown, and star CB Travis Williams.

The Pirates finished the season with an 8-5 record, ending the year in spectacular fashion by upsetting No. 24 Boise St. in the Hawaii Bowl, 41-38.


Coach: Skip Holtz (Fourth year at East Carolina, 20-17)

2007 record: 8-5, 6-2 CUSA

Starters returning: 16 (Seven offense, nine defense)

Top returnees: QB Patrick Pinkney, QB Rob Kass, RB Dominique Lindsay, WR Jamar Bryant, RG Doug Palmer, LG Cory Dowless, RT D.J. Scott, RT Terence Campbell, DE Zack Slate, DT Linvall Joseph, DT Khalif Mitchell, DT Jay Ross, FS Van Eskridge, MLB Pierre Bell, LB Quentin Cotton, CB Jerek Hewitt, P Matt Didge

Key losses: RB Chris Johnson, FB Jay Sonnhalter, WR Phillip Henry, WR Steven Rogers, LG Matt Butler, OT Josh Coffman, MLB Fred Wilson, CB Travis Williams


2008 Schedule

Aug. 30 Virginia Tech (Neutral: Charlotte)

Sep. 6 West Virginia

Sep. 13 @ Tulane

Sep. 20 @ NC State

Sep. 27 Houston

Oct. 11 @ Virginia

Oct. 18 Memphis

Nov. 2 @ UCF

Nov. 8 Marshall

Nov. 15 @ Southern Mississippi

Nov. 22 @ UAB

Nov. 28 UTEP


Key Game: Nov. 2 @ UCF.  This early November battle between the Pirates and Knights should determine who takes the C-USA East Division crown.  Both are solid, very talented teams, and both teams seem to have easy roads to the end of the season.

East Carolina and UCF have very similar ends to the season as they both play Marshall, Southern Miss, and UAB in three of their final four games.  This is East Carolina’s most important and toughest road game of the season.


2008 Outlook

East Carolina will benefit from having 16 starters return and two veteran QBs, which perfectly complement one another’s style.  Pinkney is the more mobile of the two and will likely be the starter out of the gate.  Pinkney only started five games last year, but still led the team in passing yards (1,358), touchdowns (11), and completion percentage (60.5).  He also had 306 yards rushing.

Pocket passer Kass (1,164 yards passing, nine TDs) has had some up and downs in his time at East Carolina, including a DUI last August.  The rising junior returned against West Virginia, where he saw his first game action after Pinkney struggled.  After coming in the second half versus Houston and leading the Pirates to a comeback win, Kass took over the starting role, though Pinkney eventually won it back.

They lose star running back Chris Johnson, who was drafted 24th overall by the Tennessee Titans, but RB Dominique Lindsay, who put up 205 yards rushing and five touchdowns as Johnson’s backup, is poised to assume starting duties.  Backing him up will be sophomore RB Jonathan Williams, who has blazing speed.

Last year’s top wideout, WR Jamar Bryant (704 yards, six TDs) is back.  Sophomore Dwayne Harris will move into the No. 2 receiver role with the departures of Henry and Rogers.  Harris (246 yards receiving, 197 rushing, three TDs in ‘07) is an all-around threat.

The Pirates also boast the best offensive line in the conference, with possibly eight players returning, seven of which have full-time starting experience.

The majority of players are back on what should be a strong defense.  Nine starters are back for another year with numerous others with starting experience on the bench.  They only really lose MLB Fred Wilson and CB Travis Williams, although they were stars on last year’s team.

Six seniors will be back on defense, including DE Zack Slate, MLB Pierre Bell, and LB Quentin Cotton, among three others.  Junior FS Van Eskridge led the Pirates in tackles last year with 104.

Skip Holtz has brought in several talented recruits, including DB Adrian Jones, DL Anthony Garner, and QB Josh Jordan.  None of the recruits appear to see much playing time, if any, with this very talented, veteran squad.

If that is not enough, the Pirates also have the easiest schedule of any of the C-USA East contenders.  They get to play three of the league’s weakest four teams on the road and get their best opponents on home field.

While having Virginia Tech and West Virginia in their first two games will prevent them from having a perfect record, there is a very good chance that the Pirates run the table the rest of the way.

This is the year for the purple and gold of East Carolina.  The Pirates appear to have everything in place for a C-USA title run and a third straight bowl game.