Pirates ready to face in-state rival|ECU juggles it lineup around

Published 7:03 pm Tuesday, September 28, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — After suffering its first loss of the year, a 49-7 defeat at the hands of Virginia Tech, East Carolina spent its bye week working on discipline with hopes that it will lead to a victory over a North Carolina that has spent a lot of time being disciplined.
The Pirates (2-1, 2-0) head into its battle with in-state rival UNC (1-2) having an extra week to prepare, and first-year coach Ruffin McNeill used that time to make sure his team will be as fundamentally sound as can be when they head to Kenan Stadium on Saturday.
“I liked the way our team bounced back on Sunday after the loss, we had a really sharp practice,” McNeill said. “We gave them off Monday then had two really long work days on Tuesday and Wednesday. They were long, physical days. We spent more time on the field correcting fundamentals and technique and execution. We also added some things like having officials there for two days to monitor our penalty situation.”
McNeill and his staff also used the open week to take stock on his players and personnel.
“We had chance to evaluate ourselves after three games as a football team and then individual and personnel-wise,” McNeill said. “We wanted to find out who was above the line, and above the line means a winning performance and winning capabilities. After three games we were able to analyze each group and each person and see what guys were above that line and what guys need to be pushed over.”
One guy who was apparently above the line was sophomore linebacker Lamar McLendon, who will get his first start of the year in place of Wes Pittman, who is now third on the depth chart behind Matt Thompson.
McNeill cited McLendon’s athleticism as a key factor in his rise to the top of the depth chart.
Freshman defensive end Derrell Johnson will make his second start of the year and will be bracketed by sophomore DE Marke Powell, who has made two starts this season and has jumped ahead of Matt Milner. This Saturday will be the first time Powell and Johnson start together.
East Carolina has also tinkered around on the offensive side of the ball.
“On offense you may see some adjustments up front,” McNeill said. “(The possibility of moving RG) D.J. (Scott) to tackle for example. We have Will Towery and Jordan Davis at guard and they are competing there at left guard. Not that (RT) Grant Harner has done a bad job, but we are just trying to develop depth there. … The point of emphasis is that we saw some guys that are willing to step up and grow.”
McNeill also has made some subtle changes at the backup receiver positions.
“Mike Price is a person that really had to learn how to practice and learn how to participate and compete at practice; he has started to doing that,” McNeill said. “He will be moved (from the third on depth chart at the X position) to the Z position behind (starter) Andrew Bodenheimer. … Joe Womack (who was No. 2 behind Bodenheimer) will still figure in but Mike Price deserves to have opportunities too because of his work habits, because that’s what we base everything on.”
The Pirates’ opponent on Saturday knows a lot about lineup juggling as it has lost several key players due to recent scandals.
UNC is coming off of its first win of the year as it topped Rutgers 17-13 thriller on Saturday.
After three games the Pirates injury list still remains relatively small as only (OL) Anthony Garrett (knee), (DB) Dekota Marshall (leg) and DT Kemory Mann are listed as out for Saturday. DT Jimmy Booth is listed as questionable due to a knee injury.
The last time East Carolina battled North Carolina was Week 3 of last season when the No. 24 ranked Heels beat the Pirates 31-17 at Kenan Stadium.
The last time the Pirates were able to top its in-state rival was Sept. 8, 2008 when they edged out the Heels 34-32 in Greenville.