#84 East Carolina Football 2012 Preview

East Carolina Pirates

2012 Overall Rank: #84
# 6 Conference USA
East Carolina College Football 2012 Preview
East Carolina Team Page


East Carolina was almost like a tale of two teams last year.  In certain phases of the game the Pirates were really solid.  In other aspects, they were dreadful.  Unfortunately, the negatives outweighed the positives for the Pirates and they finished below .500 for the second straight year.  Head coach and alumnus Ruffin McNeill is hoping to turn things around in his third season with the team.  They move on from star quarterback Dominique Davis this season.  Perhaps a fresh start will be enough to jump start things for East Carolina moving into 2012.

2011 Record: (5-7, 4-4)
2011 Bowl: None
Coach: Ruffin McNeill (11-14 at East Carolina, 12-14 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Lincoln Riley
Defensive Coordinator: Brian Mitchell

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Torrence Hunt, RB, 489 yards
Passing: Rio Johnson, QB, 157 yards
Receiving: Justin Hardy, WR, 658 yards
Tackles: Jeremy Grove, LB, 122
Sacks: Derrel Johnson, LB, 3
Interceptions: Damon Magazu, DB, 4

Other Key Returnees: RB Reggie Bullock, WR Andrew Bodenheim, LB Daniel Drake

Key Losses: QB Dominique Davis, DB Derek Blacknall, LB Cliff Perryman

East Carolina was nothing if not a passing team.  Just about all of their offense was through the air.  They were top-20 in the country in passing and racked up nearly 400 yards per game, 286 of those yards were in the passing game.  Davis was a cocksure quarterback who could sling it all over the field.  On the other side of the field, the defense was pretty good at stopping the pass as well.  Led by Damon Magazu, an interception machine, the secondary was able to hold opponents to just about 200 yards per game, which was good for second in the conference.  A benefit to East Carolina is the fact that they are in Conference USA in an era where teams are jumping to the next best thing.  Conference USA remains a conference that is up for grabs.  Other than Houston, the Pirates were within two wins of every other team in the conference.  A few improvements here and there could vault them into the running for the Eastern Division.

The Pirates will have to improve their running game significantly if they want to get on the other side of a losing season.  They were dreadful on the ground, gaining only 109 yards per game.  Returning leading rusher Torrence Hunt had less than 500 yards.  In their conference, passing is valued a little higher because of the offense Houston runs.  But in order to maintain possessions, East Carolina will need to run the ball.  They were second to last nationally in turnover margin.  All that throwing led to 19 interceptions by Davis.  They were also one of the worst special teams units in the country.  They were dead last in net punting (less than 30 yards per game) and almost at the bottom in kickoff returns.  That phase of the game does not help in terms of field position nor does it help in trying to stop offenses from getting into the end zone.  If football is a game of inches, East Carolina is losing on that front.

The Bottom Line:
East Carolina is going to have to replace one of the most dominant players they have had since Chris Johnson in Dominique Davis.  His dual threat attack was valuable to the team by scrambling and avoiding sacks.  They will need to find his solid replacement fast.  Several of their special teams players have moved on via graduation, so new blood might be just what the doctor ordered for that unit.  Coach McNeill gets some talented players into Greenville, but he just has not been able to get over the hump yet.  It does not look like 2012 will be the year for him to turn the corner.  They will be competitive, but will probably finish right around where they ended up this year.  A bowl win or even a bid would be great for McNeill’s tenure and future.

Projected Bowl: None

2011 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 109.08 (105th in nation, 11th in conference)
Passing Offense: 286.08 (20, 2)
Total Offense: 395.17 (50, 5)
Scoring Offense: 26.25 (66, 6)
Rushing Defense: 174.17 (81, 8)
Pass Defense: 202.17 (33, 2)
Total Defense: 376.33 (56, 4)
Scoring Defense: 32.25 (97, 8)
Turnover Margin: -1.17 (119, 11)
Sacks: 1.92 (T59, 7)
Sacks Allowed: 2.50 (92, 11)