Linebackers lead East Carolina defense

Published 9:15 pm Saturday, September 6, 2008

By By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — Quentin Cotton is excited about East Carolina’s linebacker corps.
He likes the group’s speed, their athleticism, their experience, their intelligence and their heart.
And he’s willing to tell anyone who will listen just how good he thinks ECU’s linebackers will be in 2008.
After last Saturday’s victory against Virginia Tech, who can argue?
Cotton himself got the Pirates’ linebackers off to a hot start against the Hokies. With Virginia Tech moving down field with ease on the opening drive, Cotton stepped in front of a Sean Glennon pass and intercepted at the ECU 9-yard line, haulting the scoring threat.
On the Hokies’ next possession, it was Bell’s turn to shine.
Virginia Tech was once again on the march, driving 51 yards on 10 plays to the ECU 5-yard line when Bell and safety J.J. Millbrook put an end to another Tech Scoring chance. On 4th-and-1, Hokies’ coach Frank Beamer opted to forego the field goal attempt and try to pick up the first down. But Bell broke through the middle of the line and along with Millbrook, drilled running back Darren Evans at the line of scrimmage, forcing the Hokies to turn the ball over on downs.
In the second quarter, top reserve Nick Johnson provided the defense’s biggest play of the game.
The Pirates trailed 14-0 thanks to a couple of turnovers that the Hokies converted into touchdowns, and all the momentum was in Tech’s favor after ECU kicker Ben Ryan pushed a 39-yard field goal wide right, when Johnson changed the course of the game.
With less than four minutes left in the opening half, Johnson intercepted Glennon’s 3rd-and-16 pass attempt and returned it 19 yards to the Hokies’ 1-yard line. Three plays later, the Pirates got on the scoreboard after Jonathan Williams plunged in from a yard out to make it 14-7 at the half.
In all, ECU’s linebackers were credited with 25 tackles, 1.5 tackles-for-a-loss, two interceptions, and a half a sack.
The foursome had a terrific year in ‘07.
Bell led the unit with 97 tackles and had five-tackles-for-a-loss, and two interceptions, while Cotton had 66 tackles, a team-best 11 tackles-for-a-loss, 1.5 sacks, and an interception in just six starts. Chambliss made four starts a year ago and finished with 42 tackles, four tackles-for-a-loss and an interception, while Johnson made 26 tackles, and 1.5 tackles for a loss as a top reserve behind Fred Wilson.
Each one of them believes they’ll be even better in 2008.