#77 East Carolina Football Preview

East Carolina Pirates

Overall Rank: #77
#6 Conference USA

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2010 Record: (6-7, 5-3)
2010 Bowl: Military Bowl vs. Maryland (L 20-51)
Coach: Ruffin McNeill (6-7 at East Carolina, 7-7 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Lincoln Riley
Defensive Coordinator: Brian Mitchell

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Dominique Davis, QB, 141 yards
Passing: Dominique Davis, QB, 3,967 yards
Receiving: Lance Lewis, WR, 1,116 yards
Tackles: Bradley Jacobs, S, 80
Sacks: Matt Milner, DE, 3.0
Interceptions: Bradley Jacobs, S, 4

Other Key Returnees: S Derek Blacknall, WR Andrew Bodenheimer, DT Michael Brooks, WR Michael Bowman, CB Emanuel Davis, C Dalton Faulds, OT Grant Harner, DE Derrell Johnson, WR Lance Lewis, LB Lamar McLendon, DE Matt Milner

Key Losses: G Cory Dowless, WR Dwayne Harris, LB Dustin Lineback, LB Melvin Patterson, G D.J. Scott, CB Travis Simmons, DT Josh Smith, OT Willie Smith, RB Jonathan Williams

Dominique Davis had a superb season for East Carolina, leading the Pirates back to yet another bowl game. Even on a team with a horrible defense, Davis did enough to win six games. Davis threw for 3,967 yards and 37 touchdowns and rushed for nine more scores. He should put up numbers like that again during his senior season.

Davis has plenty of help on offense. The loss of receiver Dwayne Harris is big, but there are plenty of other options. Lance Lewis caught 89 passes for 1,116 yards and 14 touchdowns last season and should be Davis’ go-to-receiver this time around. Players like Darryl Freeney, Michael Bowman, Andrew Bodenheimer and Justin Jones are more than capable of stepping up and filling in for Harris. The offensive line has some retooling to do, but Davis is very elusive. The bigger question for the line will be helping establish a ground game. This is a team that rarely ran last season as it was, but now they lose their only two experienced backs in Jon Williams and Giavanni Ruffin. That puts the rushing attack in the hands of a lot of inexperienced players. Junior college transfer Reggie Bullock, freshmen Alex Owah and Chevelle Blue and explosive former wide receiver Torrance Hunt will all get their opportunities.

ECU scored nearly 37 points per game in 2010, but they gave up 44. The defense ranked absolutely last in the nation, giving up 478.77 yards per game. Things may not get much better without their two top tacklers from a year ago, Dustin Lineback and Melvin Patterson. The young front three have some potential, but Matt Milner and Derrell Johnson have to do a better job of getting consistent pressure on the quarterback. That would make the defense much better, although they cannot get any worse. The group of linebackers is relatively young and inexperienced as well and that will not help a front seven that allowed way too many average rushers to run right through them.

The Bottom Line:
Thanks to cornerback Emanuel Davis, the secondary is not too bad. Davis is one of the best corners in Conference USA. However, it is pretty easy for the opposition to avoid Davis by simply running the ball or throwing to the other side of the field. He can only do so much and Derek Blacknall and Bradley Jacobs have to help out. East Carolina has the offensive fire power to beat anybody in the conference, but the defense must improve if they have any hopes of reaching the Conference Championship game. And it appears that the defense does not yet have the bodies to improve that much and that means another average season for the Pirates.

Projected Bowl: Hawai’i Bowl

2010 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 118.92 (99th in nation, 10th in conference)
Passing Offense: 318.69 (8, 2)
Total Offense: 437.62 (25, 4)
Scoring Offense: 36.77 (16, 4)
Rushing Defense: 226.69 (117, 12)
Pass Defense: 252.08 (107, 9)
Total Defense: 478.77 (120, 12)
Scoring Defense: 44.00 (119, 12)
Turnover Margin: -.54 (98, 9)
Sacks: 1.08 (109, 11)
Sacks Allowed: 1.15 (20, 4)

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