• 57°

Pirates kick off season today at No. 9 Virginia Tech, Wilson leans on talented cousin

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — From one coast to the other, C.J. Wilson and family have things under control on the football field.
Wilson, a sophomore, has made a name for himself with the East Carolina Pirates. The 6-4, 270-pounder who wears No. 95, led the Pirates with four sacks while recording 29 tackles last year.
He can compare notes with his talented cousin, senior linebacker Keith Rivers of the USC Trojans. Rivers, who wears No. 55, is an All-American candidate who led the Trojans with 85 tackles last year. He has been named to the 2007 Playboy Pre-Season All-American team and is on the Watch Lists for the 2007 Lombardi Award and Lott Trophy.
Wilson’s Pirates open the season Saturday at the No. 9 Virginia Tech Hokies. The affable Wilson said he knows the Pirates face a tall task in Blacksburg, Va.
It will be the first game at Virginia Tech since April 16,when a lone gunman killed 32 before turning the gun on himself. Along with ESPN’s Game Day broadcasting from the site, Wilson knows there could be several distractions. He’ll try to block everything out and focus on the game itself.
The Pirates faced a distraction earlier this week with the arrest of projected starting quarterback Rob Kass, who was charged with driving under the influence. Kass is suspended for the opener.
Wilson faced another distraction when he learned that the inside of his father’s church, Mount Olive Pentecostal Faith Church in Belhaven, was destroyed by fire. Pastor Amos Wilson, a member of Mount Olive Pentecostal for 32 years, has been the senior pastor there for six years.
Wilson will follow his pre-game ritual of “chilling” and listening to gospel music before he and his teammates storm onto the field in Blacksburg.
He’s hoping the team will leave the field with a big surprise.
Then he can have some bragging rights when he talks with Rivers, whose Trojans open play Saturday at home against Idaho.
Hokies to provide Holtz answers
By PETER WILLIAMS
Staff Writer
GREENVILLE — The only thing Skip Holtz knows for sure is that by Sunday morning he may have some answers to questions that he doesn’t have now.
The East Carolina University head football coach has a depth chart that is covered with question marks and young players who may have to take on the roles of veterans.
How they fare against Virginia on Saturday may set the tone for how the Pirate season progresses.
One question mark that Holtz hadn’t expected was the role of starting quarterback. Rob Kass has had the inside track all summer long. But his arrest for drunk driving last Saturday netted the sophomore at least a one game suspension.
Either quarterback Brett Clay or Patrick Pinkney will get the nod for Saturday’s game.
So an inexperienced Pirate offense will be facing last year’s top-rated defense on the Hokies home turn in the first game since the massacre that killed 32 Tech students. The Pirates will be playing in front of a sell-out crowd of 66,000 people, a full 25,000 more than the capacity of Dowdy-Ficklen.
Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer has been making his own preparations.
Beamer has made some of his own changes in the quarterback slot. On Aug. 21 he moved true freshman Tyrod Taylor to the number two slot on the depth chart for quarterback. Redshirt sophomore Ike Whitaker was moved from quarterback to wide receiver for the year.
Taylor was rated the number one dual threat quarterback in the country last year as a high school senior in Hampton, Va.