Holtz encouraged by depth

Published 5:03 pm Sunday, August 5, 2007

By By PETER WILLIAMS, Staff Writer
GREENVILLE — Skip Holtz has never enjoyed this much depth on the East Carolina University football roster. He’s also never had the opening schedule quite like the one he’s facing now after three years at ECU.
Both issues, good and bad, were at the forefront of Holtz’s comments Saturday afternoon during media day outside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
On offense the Pirates have at least four players vying for the starting job of quarterback, with Rob Kass leading the field. Kass saw limited time last year behind starting senior James Pinkney, but finished the season with 138 air yards in the Papajohns.com Bowl.
Kass also started this season at 240 pounds, down from 247 last year, which pleased the head coach.
The Tech game looms on everybody’s mind at ECU. The Hokies finished at 10-3 last year, and 6-2 in the ACC. In April, the hearts of the nation and the world went out to Virginia Tech fans when a lone gunman killed 32 people and wounded another 25 before turning a gun on himself.
Holtz said Saturday he remembers the day of the shooting in the same way he remembers 9/11 when terrorist planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Yet as much as Holtz feels for Tech fans, he said, “when the memorials are over, and the ball is put on the tee, we’re going to have play football.”
After Virginia Tech, the Pirates host in-state rival North Carolina and new coach Butch Davis. The third game will be against Southern Miss, a conference team that is picked to win the eastern division of Conference USA.
The schedule doesn’t let up after that. The fourth game is at West Virginia, a team that went 11-2 last year and finished 10th in the AP rankings. Even then, the calendar doesn’t quit because the Pirates have to travel to conference foe Houston, which had a 10-4 season last year. The season won’t get any easier even later when the Pirates host N.C. State, a team Holtz said had some of the best athletes of any team ECU played last season.
The 2005 season, by comparison, had Duke and Wake Forest as the first games on the schedule. Duke finished 1-10 that year and Wake finished 5-5. The 2006 season had Navy and the University of Alabama Birmingham. This year, two of the first four games are against teams ranked in the Top-10 of the USA Today poll.
With 26 days left before the Virginia Tech game, Holtz also knows the heat now could be his biggest opponent. The Pirates may move their practices to later in the day because the heat index is expected to hit 113 degrees on Wednesday and Thursday.
Dougherty signs with Packers
GREEN BAY, WI — Former East Carolina punter Ryan Dougherty has signed a free agent contract with the Green Bay Packers.
The Orlando, Fla., native was a three-time All-Conference USA selection, with a career average of 42.7 yards per punt for the Pirates. The four-year standout had 68 punts inside the 20, playing 47 career games.
Dougherty, a three-time Ray Guy Award Watch candidate, re-wrote the C-USA annuals becoming the all-time leader in punts (237) and punting yards (10,112) a year ago, while also setting the school record for punt yards. He also served as the team's kickoff specialist his junior and senior seasons, accounting for 47 touchbacks.
The 6-foot-1, 233-pound player will wear No. 8.