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All eyes on Pirates’ backfield

By By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — The Pirates will kick off the 2008 football season against Virginia Tech in a little more than four months.
And ECU fans still have no idea who’ll be the team’s starting quarterback or running back.
The two most-hyped spring competitions still remain unresolved, leaving Pirates’ fans to ponder, “Whose hands will be on the ball next season?”
Patrick Pinkney and Rob Kass’ battle for the starting quarterback spot lingers on. The duo went back and forth as ECU’s starting QB a season ago, with Kass starting seven games and Pinkney under center for the opening whistle five times.
ECU head coach Skip Holtz kept fans — and opponents — guessing week to week, which guy would be under center. Kass started the final seven regular season games for the Pirates, but a month later, in the Hawaii Bowl, it was Pinkney taking snaps.
The duo brings two different styles, with Kass the more traditional pocket-passer and Pinkney serving as the team’s dual-threat quarterback.
While the duo served well as a two-headed attack — combining for 20 touchdowns and just eight interceptions in leading East Carolina to an 8-5 record and its first Bowl win in seven years — Holtz is hoping one guy will emerge as ECU’s starting quarterback.
Kass was penciled in as the No. 1 quarterback after last spring but never regained complete control of the job after losing it on the eve of the season opener following his arrest for a DUI. This year —although a No. 1 guy hasn’t been named — Patrick Pinkney, appears to be the favorite for the starting job. Last week, the Pirates’ coaching staff named him the Most Improved Quarterback of the spring.
Pinkney too feels like he’s on track to win the job this summer.
Though Pinkney had an impressive spring, Holtz said that East Carolina’s quarterback competition will resume again this summer.
ECU also continues its search for a starting tailback.
With Chris Johnson awaiting his fate in next weekend’s NFL draft, the Pirates search to replace him moves on.
Johnson rushed for 1,423 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2007 and also caught 37 passes for 528 yards and six scores.
With that kind of production coming from the running back slot, Holtz thinks it’s going to take more than one player to replace his NFL-bound star.
Dominique Lindsay, Brandon Simmons, J.R. Rogers, and home-grown talent Jonathan Williams will all get touches next season.
With spring practice in the books, the Pirates look ahead to the summer. When summer camp opens August 1, all eyes will once again be on the backfield. And for Pirates’ fans, you likely won’t who the opening game starters will be ‘til summer’s end.