Safeties led ECU’s pass ‘D’

Published 1:01 am Friday, September 26, 2008

By By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — Van Eskridge and J.J. Millbrook have become really close friends off the field.
East Carolina’s two starting safeties began rooming together at the end of last season and have continued to do so this year.
Over the past 10 months, they’ve learned a lot about each other; from the girls they like, to their clothing preferences, to the classes they take, and their shared passion for football.
And they credit their friendship with helping them both become better football players.
Eskridge and Millbrook certainly have done their parts through the first four games of the season.
The pair is one part of East Carolina’s vastly improved pass defense that ranks 36th in the nation after finishing 2007 as the 114th ranked pass defense.
Last season, Millbrook led the Pirates’ pass defense with three interceptions, while Eskridge had one pick.
Last week against N.C. State, Eskridge came up with his second career interception and returned 23 yards for his first career touchdown. It was the first interception by a defensive back this season.
Though the duo has just one interception thus far, their impact has been much greater.
Eskridge, who had a team-best 104 tackles a season ago, has made 28 tackles, two forced fumbles, two pass break-ups and three pass deflections this season. Millbrook has made 21 tackles, with a pass deflection and a break-up to his credit. Both are among the top-5 Pirates in tackles.
While Eskridge and Millbrook are happy to see East Carolina’s pass defense jump 78 spots in the national rankings after giving up just 176 yards per game through the first four contests this season, they know they’ve got their stiffest test to date awaiting them this week when an air-it-out Houston squad visits Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday.
The Cougars have fourth best passing offense in all of college football, averaging 399 yards through the air. Their 17 passing touchdowns are the most in college football this season.