ECU looks good in first scrimmage|QB battle heats up

Published 9:04 am Sunday, April 4, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — The new look Pirates lined up inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for the their first official scrimmage of the spring under rookie head coach Ruffin McNeill on Saturday morning and looked reasonably crisp.
East Carolina scrimmaged for 100 plays as McNeill mixed and matched personnel looking to create a winning recipe.
On a sunny Saturday morning, the scrimmage was not only a dress rehearsal for the players, but for the newly formed coaching staff as well.
“The first thing I wanted to see was the whole team and coaching staff react to officials and a simulated game situation,” McNeill said. “Secondly, I wanted to observe sideline organization. I liked the way the (coaches) rotated groups and I liked the way we executed both offensively and defensively.”
Though there are several position battles this spring, all eyes were on the quarterback position where Josh Jordan, Rio Johnson and Brad Wornick are enthralled in a three-way fight to the top of the depth chart.
The trio combined to hit on 47 of their 71 pass attempts for 430 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Last season Jordan, a 6-4, 218-pound sophomore was the backup to Patrick Pinkney, while redshirt freshman Rio Johnson (6-2, 185) and sophomore walk-on Wornick (6-2, 185) both played on the scout team.
Wornick was the first QB trotted out to the field on Saturday and led his unit on two of ECU’s three scoring drives, with Johnson accounting for the other one.
Wornick knows he was largely viewed as a dark horse candidate to become this season’s No. 1 QB, but said he is just going to work hard and do the best he can.
“I view myself as the underdog in a way, but I’ve worked hard all winter coming into this spring so I think I am ready to go.”
Wornick, who finished the scrimmage completing 16 of his 25 pass attempts and at one point hit eight straight, played well Saturday, but all the quarterback’s had their moments and none jumped up leaps and bounds beyond the others.
Jordan went 16-for-23 for 170 yards, while Johnson looked sharp too, connecting on 15 of his 23 attempts for 114 yards.
The Pirates used four receiver sets for a majority of the snaps, with trips to one side of the field being the most popular alignment. Despite being a heavy shotgun offense ECU did go under center a few times.
Dwayne Harris led the Pirates receivers with six catches for 59 yards and two TDs. Dayon Arrington (3-19) caught the only other score. Justin Jones led ECU in receiving yards tallying 64 on five catches.
Running back Jonathan Williams had a solid day, as did freshmen Michael Dobson Alex Owah
Williams used his eight carries to rush for 31 yards, while Dobson showed explosiveness by rushing for 32 yards on two carries. Owah amassed 17 yards on eight attempts.
Defensively, the Pirates were aggressive as promised, blitzing from all over the field while mixing up their pass coverage in and out of man and zone.
Safety Derek Blacknall and linebacker Matt Thompson led the team with eight tackles each. Thompson also added a sack.
Emmanuel Davis picked up where he left off last season and led the defense with seven pass breakups.
Middle linebacker Steve Spence turned in a good performance accounting for three tackles, an interception and a forced fumble.
“I feel like a did a pretty good job but I’m not going to sit here and say this is the benchmark from which I need to compare the rest of my play to,” said Spence, a6-2, 225-pound junior. “Today was just a stepping stone and a starting point for me.”
The defense under McNeill and first-year coordinator Brian Mitchell is vastly different from the one run under Skip Holtz and Gregg Hudson for the last five years.
Under the old regime, ECU played zone a majority of the snaps and rushed linebackers occasionally. The new staff used a heavy blend of man and zone, and was much more pro-active in terms of blitzing.
“The biggest adjustment for us has been the tempo and the speed of our defense and a lot more man coverage,” Spence said. “We are not so much conservative and sitting back in a zone, we are manning up and blitzing; we are just getting off the edge and were going.”
Under the new system Spence will be matched up one-on-one with a running back a lot, which is something that Spence said is beginning to get used to.
“In a sense I’m hoping that the guys that are blitzing can just get there,” Spence said with a laugh. “But I am out there on an island and it’s difficult because they have us out there against guys like John (Williams) and some of the young guys we have who are fast and quick. It’s a challenge.”
Linebacker Wes Pittman (leg), safety Jack Schultz (ankle), center William Towey (knee), DE Josh Smith (leg), DT Michael Brooks and Norman Whitley (personal) did not participate on Saturday.
The Pirates will resume practice on Monday and will hold their second scrimmage on Saturday, April 10.
RUSHING: Michael Dobson (2-32), Jonathan Williams (8-31), Michael Bowman (1-25), Alex Owah (8-17), Darryl Freeney (1-5), Brad Wornick (1-4), Josh Jordan (2-). Totals — 23-98 (4.3 ypr), 0 TD.
PASSING: Josh Jordan (23-16-0, 170 yards), Brad Wornick (25-16-1, 146 yards, 2 TD), Rio Johnson (23-15-0, 114 yards, 1 TD). Totals — 71-47-1, 430 yards, 3 TD.
RECEIVING: Justin Jones (5-64), Dwayne Harris (6-59, 2 TD), T.J. Terrell (6-51), Jonathan Williams (3-40), Michael Bowman (3-37), Mike Price (4-34), Alex Owah (4-28), Darryl Freeney (3-20), Andrew Bodenheimer (2-20), Dayon Arrington (3-19, 1 TD), Joe Womack (1-17), Torrance Hunt (1-11), Jeremy Davis (2-10), Gray Mazzone (1-9), Reese Wiggins (1-7), Javon Brumsey (1-6), Michael Dobson (1-). Totals — 47-430, 3 TD
TACKLES: Derek Blacknall 8, Matt Thompson 8 (sack/-8 yards, TFL), Emanuel Davis 7 (PB), Melvin Patterson 6 (TFL), Bradley Jacobs 5 (2 PB), Justin Venable 5, Bill Wallace 5, Devon Wallace 5, Daniel Drake 3 (TFL), Jacobi Jenkins 3, Dustin Lineback 3, Kemory Mann 3 (TFL), Leonard Paulk 3, Steve Spence, 3 (INT, FF), Kyle Tudor 3, Antonio Allison 2, Jeremy Grove 2 (PB), Diavalo Simpson 2, Michael Byrd 1 (sack/-8 yards), James Craig 1, Derrell Johnson 1, Maurice Mercer 1, Matt Milner 1, Rahkeem Morgan 1, Justin Nunery 1, Travis Simmons 1 (FR, 3 PB), Kristopher Sykes 1.