NCAA Football

2010 NCAA Football Preview: East Carolina Pirates

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2009 Record: 9-5 (7-1 in C-USA)
2009 Bowl: Liberty Bowl (lost to Arkansas 20-17 in OT)
Final 2009 AP Ranking: Not Ranked
Head Coach: Ruffin McNeill (1-0 as a Head Coach)
Non-Conference Schedule: at Virginia Tech (9/18), at North Carolina (10/2), N.C. State (10/16), Navy (11/6)

2009 Offensive Statistics
Scoring: 27.0 points per game (7th in C-USA)
Rushing Yards/Game: 152 (4th in C-USA)
Passing Yards/Game: 217 (6th in C-USA)
Total Yards/Game: 369 (8th in C-USA)

2009 Defensive Statistics
Scoring: 21.9 points per game (1st in C-USA)
Rushing Yards/Game: 120 (2nd in C-USA)
Passing Yards/Game: 258 (7th in C-USA)
Total Yards/Game: 378 (3rd in C-USA)

2009 Misc Stats
Turnover Margin: +0.86 per game (1st in C-USA, 9th in Nation)
Penalties: 60 yards per game (7th in C-USA)

Returning Starters
Offense: 5
Defense: 3
Kicker/Punter: 0

Top Returning Statistical Leaders
Passing: QB Josh Jordan, Soph (5 of 7 for 61 yds)
Rushing: WR Dwayne Harris, Sr (31 carries for 149 yds, 5 TD)
Receiving: WR Dwayne Harris, Sr (83 rec, 978 yds, 7 TD)
Tackles: CB Emanuel Davis, Jr (69)
Sacks: DT Josh Smith, Sr (4)
Interceptions: CB Emanuel Davis, Jr (2)

2010 Pre-Season Rankings
Athlon Sports: #91
Pre-Snap Read: #91
Sporting News: #65

2010 Pre-Season C-USA East Prediction:
Athlon Sports: #4
Phil Steele: #5
Sports Illustrated: #2

East Carolina has won back-to-back Conference USA titles but Skip Holtz has moved on to a new challenge and has left ECU with the least amount of returning starters in all of college football. ECU turns to former Texas Tech Defensive Coordinator Ruffin McNeil to rebuild a program that has just won back-to-back conference titles. We caught up with Michael Perry, the sports editor for the ECU student newspaper The East Carolinian, to find out about the 2010 Pirates.

What are the major strengths and biggest weaknesses of ECU?

This is a new team in a new era for Pirate football. The new philosophy of Coach McNeill is a fast-paced aggressive team on both sides of the ball. The stay at home defense and play it safe "Big 10" offense of the Holtz era is gone.

The biggest strength this squad has is attitude, this is a team of proven winners who are confident in their new coaching staff, which is crucial in a transition year. A front runner for quarterback seems to be the big question early on and may pose problems as the Pirates look to implement a "Texas-Tech" pass heavy offense. Also the youth on both sides of the might provide challenge especially in the first few game of the season. If inexperience is a problem I see it hurting the new defense mentality that will look to blitz often, which obviously might leave opponents open for the big pass.

What team on the schedule do you want to beat more than any other?

Is this my personal opinion as a student or a journalist? Coach Ruff would tell you they look to beat every team they play, but the non-conference schedule is crucial to keeping the morale of this team up. As a student I would say protecting home turf from N.C. State is really big, but as a journalist a win on the road at pre-season favorite UNC or even VT would cause some noteworthy buzz.

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

Best player on the team, by far, WR Dwayne Harris. Harris has already est. himself as a playmaker and if the new offense can execute and get him the ball he is as good as any other top receiver in the downfield.

Who is the best offensive player on the team?

I would again mention Dwayne here, but also make note of young receivers Darryl Freeney and Andrew Bodenheimer, these two both showed promise last year and the new pass mentality will rely on guys like this.

Who is the most impactful defensive player on the team?

Defense, this is tough one, these guys are young and they are trying to fill the shoes of probably the best defense in ECU's history (Van Eskridge, CJ Wilson, Jay Ross, Linval Joseph, Nick Johnson). Marke Powell and Steve Spence are two names to mention with this new defense, but based only on a personal hunch I see walk-on Dustin Lineback contributing greatly to this defense.

What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach it's full capability?

Which ever quarterback they decide to go with. Brad Wornick and Rio Johnson are the front runners for the position, but Coach Ruff is extremely adamant that he has no favorite (which many in the ECU community believed Holtz did). The quarterback is important to every system, but to lead a team that relies on its ability to pass makes the position and the leadership qualities of that person all the more important.

Who is the top newcomer that can make an impact this year?

I really hope that its Steve Spence on defense and Andrew Bodenheimer on offense. Spence is big and fast and he's everything you would want in a pass rusher. Bodenheimer has the look of Jordan Shipley or at the NFL level Jeremy Shockey, he is a physical receiver that will not allow the defense to harass him downfield.

Gut feeling on the teams final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?

Gut feeling is...six or seven wins (hopefully eight) with a bowl game appearance. That is a drop in production from what ECU fans are used to, but that is a commendable record for a young team in a new system. I don't want to limit Coach Ruff cause he is really the kind of person who just makes you believe in him and what he's doing, but I'm trying to stay reasonable.

Previous Conference USA Previews: 
Houston Cougars 
Rice Owls 
SMU Mustangs 
Southern Miss Golden Eagles
Tulane Green Wave 
UTEP Miners

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