ECU's Wornick springs ahead of other QBs|RB competition still wide open

Published 10:11 am Sunday, April 11, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — The Pirates wrapped up their second scrimmage of the spring on Saturday and gave first-year coach Ruffin McNeill another 100 or so plays to evaluate his team and coaching staff.
McNeill, who has been trying to replicate game day as best as possible by bringing in officials and having coaches take their game day positions during the exhibitions, had to deviate slightly from his plans this week as the dress rehearsal took place on the Cliff Moore Practice Facility this time around due to the on-going renovations to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
Despite the subtle differences, McNeill said he was pleased with what he saw.
“One of the things I was really focused on today was tempo and sideline organization, but because we couldn’t get in the stadium I really couldn’t observe that,” McNeill said. “But tempo was the thing I wanted on both sides of the football. I asked them to focus on the fundamental technique parts at their positions. Then the last thing was to make sure we executed and that everybody did their job and was not trying to do somebody else’s. Those three things I thought we did a good job of.”
One person who continued to do his job was quarterback Brad Wornick. Once again the sophomore was the first quarterback to take snaps, and did nice job putting points on the board.
Wornick threw for a game-high 219 yards and accounted for two of the Pirates four passing touchdowns and connected on 12 of his 25 attempts. Dwayne Harris and Andrew Bodenheimer each snared scoring passes from Wornick, with Harris’ coming from 16-yards out and Bodenheimer’s from seven.
Bodenheimer had a big day leading all receivers with 90 yards on five receptions.
Wornick has been locked in a spring-long battle with sophomore Josh Jordan, last year’s backup to departed Patrick Pinkney, and freshman Rio Johnson to take the No. 1 spot.
Wornick, the 6-2, 185-pound former scout team QB appears to have separated himself from the pack, although come summer he is expected to have to fend off another competitor in transfer Dominique Davis.
As of now, Wornick appears to have risen to the top of the crop.
“He is similar to some of the good (quarterbacks that have run this offense) because he is so composed, that’s his best quality. He doesn’t ever freak out or panic he is just always really composed,” first-year offense coordinator Lincoln Riley said. “He may make a bad throw every now and then, but he is accurate, smart and composed and that’s pretty important. If we were to play today he would be the guy.”
Johnson showed flashes of good play and hit on 15 of his 21 pass attempts for 114 yards, including a three-yard TD pass to Dayon Arrington.
Jordan connected on 14 of his 24 pass attempts for 112 yards. The sophomore threw an 18-yard TD pass to Javon Brumsey, but was also picked twice.
Wornick wasn’t the only one to impress on the offensive side of the ball, 6-8 freshman wide receiver Justin Jones continued to wow at practice and scrimmages and caught five passes for 86 yards.
Jones switched from tight end to wide receiver to become more of a player in Riley’s spread attack, which doesn’t use a tight end as much as traditional offenses. So Jones has adapted very quickly to both the new scheme and position.
“With these new coaches coming in and brining in the Air Raid offense the choice I had to make was to get my speed right and become a receiver or go and play defensive end, so I chose receiver,” Jones said. “The play book is much easier. (Former ECU coach Skip) Holtz kept it complicated, there was a billion plays we had. In this offense the same play works over and over.”
Riley said Jones has all the makings of an impact player.
“He’s gifted, and he has shown some toughness that I wasn’t sure in the beginning that he had,” Riley said. “I was impressed with his toughness, he hasn’t had many bad practices and he has been fairly consistent for being a young gun. For being as tall and athletic as he is he can do some good stuff, we are going to find some ways to get him the ball. … He probably has better hands than body, he’s got one of the top two or three sets of hands on the team.”
While most of the first unit offense has begun to show itself, the running back battle to replace graduated 1,000-yard rusher Dominique Lindsay still remains clustered.
Senior’s Jonathan Williams and Norman Whitley are locked in a four-way battle with freshmen Michael Dobson and Alex Owah to see who will be the starting back in the Pirates’ lone back offense.
“Nobody (has distinguished them self from the others) and it’s not making me very happy,” Riley said. “I think we are not performing at that position like we need to. Both the freshmen are ahead of schedule. Both the freshmen have done some good things, but they’re just freshmen. Other then that, I don’t have a lot of good things to say about the running backs.”
Dobson led all rushers with 14 yards on six carries.
Whitley did not play in Saturday’s scrimmage due to a knee injury.
Defensively, first-year coordinator Brian Mitchell’s unit looked sharp and aggressive. East Carolina played mostly man defense and showed a bevy of blitzes.
Cornerback Emmanuel Davis continued to shine and show no problems deviating from the zone schemes that the Pirates ran for the last five years.
Defensive end Josh Smith looked good and continued to show his ability to get penetration, while linebackers Steve Spence and Melvin Patterson, along with safety Derek Blacknall led the defensive with five tackles.
The ECU defense wracked up four sacks and limited to the Pirates’ offense to one rushing yard.
Freshman linebacker Kyle Tudor had the play of the day on defense when he blitzed off the edge and crushed Owah in a goal-line situation.
Mitchell’s defense showed flair and displayed several ways to rush the passer. One of the more unique blitzes was when Mitchell went from four down linemen to three, and stacked two linebackers on top of each other at the line and blitzed both players.
The Pirates will close out their spring practice session with the Purple and Gold game next Saturday at 2 p.m.
Michael Dobson (6-14), Jonathan Williams (2-5), Alex Owah (7-5, 1 TD), Dwayne Harris (1-3), Josh Jordan (2-), Brad Wornick (2-), Rio Johnson (3-). Totals –– 23-1 (0.1 ypr), 1 TD.
Brad Wornick (25-12-0, 219 yards, 2 TD), Rio Johnson (21-15-0, 114 yards, 1 TD), Josh Jordan (24-14-2, 112 yards, 1 TD). Totals –– 70-41-2, 445 yards, 4 TD (58.6%).
Andrew Bodenheimer (5-90, 1 TD), Justin Jones (5-86), Dayon Arrington (7-78, 1 TD), Dwayne Harris (5-52, 1 TD), Javon Brumsey (4-36, 1 TD), Joe Womack (2-33), Kevin Gidrey (2-26), Reese Wiggins (2-16), Gray Mazzone (2-12), Jonathan Williams (2-11), T.J. Terrell (1-3), Michael Dobson (2-2), Alex Owah (2-0). Totals –– 41-445, 4 TD
Derek Blacknall 5 (INT/no return), Melvin Patterson 5, Steve Spence 5, Matt Milner 4 (TFL), Travis Simmons 4, Bill Wallace 4, Jimmy Booth 3 (sack/-12 yards), Emanuel Davis 3 (TFL), Maurice Falls 3, Jacobi Jenkins 3, Dustin Lineback 3, Leonard Paulk 3 (PB), Wes Pittman 3, Marke Powell 3, Matt Thompson 3 (sack/-4 yards, PB), Kyle Tudor 3 (TFL), Antonio Allison 2 (TFL), Bradley Jacobs 2, Kemory Mann 2 (sack/-7 yards), Rahkeem Morgan 2 (TFL, INT/no return), Diavalo Simpson 2 (sack/-5 yards), Justin Venable 2, Derrell Johnson 1, Maurice Mercer 1, Josh Smith 1 (FR/18 yards).