#96 East Carolina Football 2017 Preview

East Carolina Pirates
Overall Rank: #96
#10 American
Coach Scottie Montgomery’s debut season at East Carolina did not go well. After beating Western Carolina and North Carolina State and hanging tough with South Carolina to begin the season, the Pirates fell apart. Outside of a late October victory over Connecticut, ECU was never even competitive against the rest of the AAC. However, injuries were a big problem last year and this team does have the potential to turn things around quickly. But it also remains to be seen if the talent is there.
2016 Record: 3-9, 1-7
2016 Bowl: None
Coach: Scottie Montgomery (3-9 at East Carolina, 3-9 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tony Petersen
Defensive Coordinator: Kenwick Thompson
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Anthony Scott, RB, 384 yards
Passing: Gardner Minshew, QB, 1,347 yards
Receiving: Jimmy Williams, WR, 818 yards
Tackles: Jordan Williams, LB, 77
Sacks: Jordan Williams, LB, 1.0; Colby Gore, DB, 1.0
Interceptions: Colby Gore, DB, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Devin Anderson, WR Quay Johnson, DB Travon Simmons, DE Yiannis Bowden
Key Losses: RB James Summers, QB Phillip Nelson, WR Zay Jones, LB Dayon Pratt, DB Terrell Richardson, LB Cam White, DB DaShaun Amos, P Worth Gregory
Quarterback Gardner Minshew took over for Philip Nelson last season and made seven appearances where he threw for 1,347 yards and eight touchdowns. He did a pretty good job of keeping up the pace for the nation’s sixth best passing attack. The job is not Minshew’s though with Duke transfer Thomas Sirk pushing hard for the starting job. Whoever is under center has experience and has some very good receivers to work with. Zay Jones is gone after catching 158 passes for 1,746 yards, which is a big blow, but Trevon Brown and Davon Grayson return after both missed the 2016 season with injuries. Two years ago they combined for 74 catches. Jimmy Williams will be a main target too. He is a big play threat who averaged over 18 yards per catch and found the end zone eight times. For the passing offense to be as good as it can be, the ground game needs to improve. Anthony Scott is a good pass catcher out of the backfield, but Tennessee transfer Derrell Scott could actually give East Carolina a legitimate rushing threat. Of course, the Pirates will still spend most of their time throwing the ball.
It was the complete collapse of the defense that sent ECU into a tailspin in 2016. They were basically terrible at everything. That was at least partly due to injuries and the program can hope that they now have depth since so many younger players were forced into action last year. The addition of a handful of junior college transfers and Tim Irvin, an Auburn transfer, will not hurt either. Linebacker Jordan Williams is the most productive returning player, tallying 77 tackles. But the important thing for this defense will be to stay healthy and hope that the newcomers can come in and grab a starting spot and keep it.
The Bottom Line:
East Carolina took a hit from most people when they fired Ruffin McNeil and brought in Coach Montgomery. Year one really did not show us much of anything though. The injury issues were too much for anybody to overcome. If East Carolina fails to make a bowl game this year though, the folks in Greenville, North Carolina will not be happy. With another tough non-conference slate that includes games against West Virginia, Virginia Tech and BYU, reaching six wins will be a tough task. But even without six wins, expect ECU to at least be competitive and win another game or two in 2017.
Projected Bowl: None
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 132.4 (110th in nation, 10th in conference)
Passing Offense: 334.7 (6, 1)
Total Offense: 467.1 (23, 3)
Scoring Offense: 27.0 (75, 9)
Rushing Defense: 228.5 (111, 12)
Pass Defense: 224.3 (62, 5)
Total Defense: 452.8 (100, 9)
Scoring Defense: 36.1 (110, 11)
Turnover Margin: -1.33 (126, 12)
Sacks: 0.67 (128, 12)
Sacks Allowed: 2.58 (96, 8)