Holtz reinstates suspended players|ECU’s Roggeman battling cancer

Published 11:30 am Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sports Editor

GREENVILLE — Instead of running from his off-the-field problems, Jonathan Williams has been tackling them head-on and is hungry to do his running on the field. The East Carolina running back is ready to get back in the good graces of his coach, teammates and fan base.
“I’m good to go,” Williams said. “I’m glad to be back out here.”
Williams was one of five suspended players that Pirates head coach Skip Holtz reinstated to the team. Also back from suspensions are running back Norman Whitley, receiver Jamar Bryant , defensive back Emanuel Davis and offensive lineman Doug Palmer.
“They have met all the stipulations and everything that we requested of them with the academics, community service and everything we asked to be a member of this team,” Holtz said during Saturday’s Media Day. “It’s more about earning trust. They’re starting at the back of the line and they’re going to have to earn it. They’re not going to be given anything.
“It’s not going to happen in a day. It’s not going to happen after the first scrimmage. It’s going to happen because, day after day after day, they earned the respect back from the players and the coaches.”
Williams said he’s ready to move forward.
“I’ve already put it all behind me,” Williams said. “I’m not really worried about that stuff. I’m just worried about the future. I’m focusing on that right now. I’m just trying to stay positive.”
The former J.H. Rose standout, who encountered legal problems last year, is hoping fans will be able to perceive him in a positive light.
“There’s a lot of people that haven’t met Jonathan Williams, the person,” Williams said. “I feel like I’m a good guy. I feel like I represent myself and this team well.
“I just have to stay positive and not put this team in jeopardy. I can’t put myself out there and get a bad reputation.”
Williams was on his way to a likely 1,000-yard season last year before he got suspended. The 6-1, 196-pound speedster played in seven games, starting one of them. Williams rushed for 380 yards and five touchdowns.
Missing the last part of the season made Williams anxious to return to the field.
“It made me real hungry,” Williams said. “It made me appreciate a lot of things. I just appreciate getting the opportunity to get back out here.”
After missing the final half of the season, Williams is looking forward to being a part of the backfield this year.
“We have a great backfield,” Williams said. “We’re working hard.
“I just want to fit into the puzzle. I just want to get back out there. I feel like I have to work my way back to the top.”
Bryant likely won’t be available early in the season. The 6-2, 219-pound senior has played in 28 games, starting 18 of them. Bryant has hauled in 78 receptions for 1,028 yards and nine touchdowns in his career.
“There are still some things he needs to do (to play in a game),” Holtz said. “At this point, he’s done everything that he was supposed to do, but he still has some things that he has to get finished up before the suspension is lifted.”
Senior quarterback Patrick Pinkney doesn’t expect Bryant for the first few games.
“I feel like he’s not coming back until the fourth or fifth game,” Pinkney said. “Our other receivers are going to have to step up.”
Whitley, a 5-9, 186-pound junior, is currently rehabbing an injury. He has played in 22 games and started in five of them. Whitley has rushed for 742 yards and four touchdowns, while also catching seven passes for 83 yards and another score. He ran for 698 yards and played in all 14 games last season.
Palmer, a 6-3, 317-pound senior, is recovering from shoulder surgery. He started 12 of 14 games at right guard last year.
“(Whitley and Palmer) are at least two weeks away before they can join us,” Holtz said.
Two Pirates have switched positions for the 2009 season.
Rob Kass, who has played in 23 games and started eight of them at quarterback, is moving into a tight end/fullback role. The 6-4, 240-pound senior is no longer taking snaps in practice.
“We are moving Rob there full-time to give him an opportunity to earn a spot on the two-deep depth chart,” Holtz said. “As a senior, he is unselfish and wants to make this move. He was the one that approached me about it. He just wants a turn to step on the field and help this senior class and program in any way he can.”
Meanwhile, Cliff Perryman, a 6-1, 231-pound sophomore, has moved from linebacker to defensive end.
Four players have earned scholarships to the ECU program. Wide receiver Reyn Willis, running back Brandon Jackson, defensive lineman Josh Smith and defensive back Levin Neal were all awarded scholarship status.
Three players are out of camp for various reasons. The biggest blow is to senior kicker Ben Hartman, who is dealing with a recurring hip injury. Hartman’s status for the season is unknown as he seeks answers from a specialist. Sophomore Ben Ryan will likely handle kicking chores if Hartman is unable to return.
Defensive lineman Allen Crowder, suspended for the season, is due to join the team Aug. 25.
Running back Giavanni Ruffin is trying to finish up course work and get approval through the clearing house before rejoining the team.
Four players from last year’s ECU team are no longer with the team. Wide receiver D.J. McFadden, linebacker Lorenzo Osborne, defensive back Julian Carter and defensive back DeAndre Jones are no longer with the Pirates.
Seven players are currently going through rehab and are unable to practice with the team.
Offensive lineman Doug Palmer, running back Norman Whitley, linebacker Matt Pick, defensive lineman Robert Jones, wide receiver T.J. Terrell, fullback Ben Herlocker and offensive lineman C.J. Brown are limited to working with trainer Mike Hanley and strength coach Mike Golden.
Thomas “Rock” Roggeman, an assistant coach with the East Carolina Pirates, is battling non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. The highly-energetic coach, who has been with the Pirates for five seasons, is undergoing treatment under the supervision of the ECU Hematology/Oncology team at the Leo Jenkins Cancer Center.
“Similar to many who have to deal with cancer, the initial diagnosis was unexpected,” Roggeman said in a prepared statement. “However, I am fortunate that I am in the best of care and the doctors have recommended chemotherapy as a course of treatment at this time.
“My health, players and coaching responsibilities are my top priorities, so I would appreciate and respectfully request that the focus remain on the East Carolina football program and our preparations for the 2009 season.”
Roggeman, who joined head coach Skip Holtz’ staff in December 2004, has been heading the program’s defensive tackles for the past three years. During that time, he has tutored six All-Conference USA selections and two league all-freshman team choices.
ECU senior defensive end C.J. Wilson said that he and his teammates are praying for one of their defensive leaders.
“Coach Rock is a very intense coach,” Wilson said. “He has been a great inspiration to me. He’s the most intense coach I’ve been around.
“I just want to tell him to hang in there. I know he’ll give this his best shot. He’s got a strong spirit about him. We’re all taking it one day at a time and we’re all behind him.”
Holtz said that the entire program is supporting Roggeman.
“Needless to say, this news came as a shock to everyone, but I know Rock will fight this with the same vigor, intensity and attitude that he brings into the coaching profession,” Holtz said. “Everyone associated with the Pirate program, along with the countless of others he has touched, has Rock in their thoughts and prayers.”
Roggeman, 46, was a one-year monogram winner as a linebacker and nose guard at Notre Dame. He earned his first coaching position as a graduate assistant with the Fighting Irish under Gerry Faust in 1985.
After that job, Roggeman went on to have coaching stints with Alabama State, Alabama A&M, Louisville, Eastern Michigan, Nevada-Las Vegas and Murray State.