East Carolina ready to kick off spring football

Published 9:30 am Tuesday, March 17, 2009

By Staff
Purple-Gold game will be held April 19
Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — The defending Conference USA champions are ready to hit the football field.
Coach Skip Holtz, who guided the Pirates to a 9-5 record and a trip to the Liberty Bowl last year, will lead his team into spring practice this week. Holtz discussed his team’s plans during a press conference Monday morning.
The Pirates will scrimmage April 4 and April 8 before playing the annual Purple-Gold game on April 19.
Holtz said that the Pirates are into Phase 2 of their plan, with the first phase being winter workouts. The fifth-year coach noted the importance of spring practice.
Holtz said the staff will also break down tapes and begin to “dabble” with schemes.
The injury bug has bitten the Pirates. Up to 19 players are going to miss at least a portion of spring practice.
Offensive linemen Willie Smith and Doug Palmer had surgical procedures. Ben Herlocker (FB), Will Towery (OL/TE), Josh Clark (OL) and T.J. Terrell (WR) will also miss practice time. Others who will miss action are Nick Johnson (LB), Cliff Perryman (LB), Matt Pick (LB) and Jay Ross (DT).
Those who will be limited in practice are Dominique Lindsay (RB), Dwayne Harris (WR), Alex Taylor (WR), Josh Jordan (QB), Chris Mattocks (LB), Darryl Reynolds (DB) and Dustin Lineback (LB).
Positions will be up for grabs during spring ball. Holtz will look for his veterans to lock down some positions, while he’ll also be looking at his freshmen and other younger players to fill in some gaps.
While Patrick Pinkney will return at quarterback for the Pirates, that doesn’t mean he’s got the starting job locked down. Rob Kass and others could give Pinkney a run for his money.
Holtz is also hoping Josh Jordan, a redshirt freshman, and Dwyane Harris can get into the mix.
Holtz said his biggest concern entering spring ball centers around the running back position. The status is unknown for Jonathan Williams, who is facing legal issues, and Norman Whitley, while Dominique Lindsay is nursing an injury.
Brandon Jackson, a sophomore transfer from Kentucky, will get plenty of opportunities this spring. Others who will compete for the job are J.R. Rogers, junior-college transfer Giovanni Ruffin, Darnell Ballard and Justin Brockmeyer.
Running back Norman Whitley’s status for the season is a question mark. Holtz is hoping that the senior running back will be on the field for the 2009 campaign.
Running back Jonathan Williams and receiver Jamar Bryant, both suspended last season, have been practicing with the team. Holtz said both players have stipulations.
Along with the running back position, Holtz said he has some concerns with the receiving game.
Joe Womack, Reyn Willis, Darryl Freeney, Dwayne Harris, Alex Taylor and Jamar Bryant have all demonstrated they can catch the ball.
Holtz is anxious to see what Jacobi Jenkins, a redshirt freshman from Rocky Mount, can do on the field.
Holtz will also take a good look at players such as Javon Brumsey and D.J. McFadden.
Though Holtz has concerns with certain positions, he does feel good about the offensive line.
Sean Allen, Terence Campbell, D.J. Scott and Willie Smith are proven veterans.
Stephen Heis, Doug Polochak, Grant Harner and C.J. Brown will be counted on to help shore up the line.
The front line, with the likes of C.J. Wilson, Scotty Robinson, Linval Joseph, Robert Jones and Jay Ross, should be strong once again.
The defensive backs, led by the likes of Van Eskridge, Emanuel Davis, Dekota Marshall and Travis Simmons, all saw plenty of action last season.
Holtz noted his biggest concern on the defensive side of the ball centers around the linebackers.
Players like Melvin Patterson, Steve Spence, Austin Haynes, Matt Thompson and Kyle Tudor will get a chance to show off their skills during the spring.
The team has 40 walk-ons this year.
As Holtz embarks on his fifth season as head coach of the Pirates, he likes what he’s seen so far. However, he is far from satisfied.
After winning its first Conference USA championship last year, the bullseye rests squarely on the ECU jerseys this season.
Holtz said the Pirates are looking to reach its fourth bowl game in four years, and is hoping to repeat as conference champs.
The Pirates are growing accustomed to winning. After a long stretch of mediocrity, Holtz is happy to see his players feeling confident.
While Holtz is pleased with the team’s performance from the past few years, he believes the team can do even better.
The Pirates kick off the 2009 season Sept. 5 at home against Appalachian State. ECU will be on the road at West Virginia on Sept. 12 and at North Carolina on Sept. 19 following the season opener.
ECU’s other non-conference game falls Nov. 5 in a home contest against Virginia Tech.
The Pirates open defense of their Conference USA championship at home Sept. 26 against UCF.
Three games will be televised on ESPN this year (Oct. 27 at Memphis, Nov. 5 at home against Virginia Tech, Nov. 15 at Tulsa).
Sept. 12 – at West Virginia
Sept. 19 – at North Carolina
Sept. 26 – *UCF
Oct. 3 – *at Marshall
Oct. 10 – *at SMU
Oct. 17 – *RICE
Oct. 27 – *at Memphis (ESPN/Tue.)
Nov. 5 – VIRGINIA TECH (ESPN/Thurs.)
Nov. 15 – *at Tulsa (ESPN/Sun.)
Nov. 21 – *UAB
Dec. 5 – C-USA Championship Game (ESPN)
Home games in ALL CAPS; *Conference USA game