Davis ready for Year 2

Published 7:55 pm Friday, August 12, 2011

East Carolina quarterback Dominique Davis (4) throws a pass during the Pirates spring game. Davis heads into his senior season looking to build on the promise he showed as a junior. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

GREENVILLE — There are no quarterback questions this season. It seems like so long ago now, but it’s been only 12 months since everyone wanted to know who would be leading first-year coach Ruffin McNeill’s offense: Would it be Brad Wornick, the little-known sophomore walk-on from Charlotte, or Dominique Davis, the much-hyped junior transfer whose previous stops included Boston College and Fort Scott CC.
Despite numerous attempts to solicit the information by the press, McNeill and first-year offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley kept the QB situation under wraps until the team’s season opener against Tulsa. After that, there would be no more questions about who would lead the offense.
The 6-3, 210-pound Lakeland, Fl., native made his mark in his Pirates debut as he completed 27 of his 46 pass attempts for 383 yards while his five touchdown passes would tie a school record.
Despite the gaudy stats, the fifth TD pass is all anyone would remember from that game as Davis launched a 33-yarder to 6-foot-8-inch freshman wideout Justin Jones as time expired to lift the Pirates past Tulsa 51-49.
“The best moment (of the season) was the first game,” Davis said. “It just kept going back and forth, back and forth and it came down to the last play. It’s just like every team talks about, you just have to keep playing until the last play.”
Looking back, the win was very symbolic of East Carolina’s 6-7 season: It was thrilling, the new Air Raid offense surpassed expectations and the defense was nowhere to be found.
It was a season of ups and downs for the Pirates as they began the year 5-2 with big wins over N.C. State and Conference USA rivals Southern Miss. However, the team faultered down the stretch as it mustered only one win in the final six games.
For Davis though, his toughest moment came long before Jones hauled that Hail Mary pass. Davis did not officially begin practicing with the team until 35 days before the opener and had a lot of catching up to do before he made his debut.
“(The toughest part was) getting up here during the spring and not competing and just having to watch. Coming into camp I just didn’t know what to do exactly,” Davis said. “It was a little overwhelming, but I got my feet wet and got things under control.”
The quarterback originally signed with ECU in December of 2009, but missed the start of the academic semester, which caused him to miss spring practice.
Davis was recruited by then-Pirates coach Skip Holtz, who in January of 2010 decided to leave East Carolina after winning back-to-back Conference USA championships to take over the reigns at USF.
With Holtz gone, and Davis not enrolled at East Carolina, there was speculation that the star signal-caller might not want to don the Purple and Gold. However, Davis maintains his desire to be a Pirate never wavered.
“Not at all, I was just waiting for a new coach to come in and I was a little nervous to see if that new coach still wanted me to come,” Davis said. “When I first found out Ruffin McNeill was coming from Texas Tech and he was bringing his whole staff my eyes got big. Everyone knows Texas Tech’s offense. I was just hoping ‘pick me, just don’t tell me you don’t want me.’ I was happy they came.”
Everyone else in Greenville was happy too, as Davis would post one of the most prolific years of any ECU quarterback in the school’s history.
The JUCO transfer from Fort Scott CC came in and set single-season records in passing yards (3,967), TD passes (37), completions (393), attempts (393) and passing yards per game (305.2). He would also tie the mark for most scoring passes in a game (5) three times. Davis, who was one of only four FBS quarterbacks to average over 300 passing yards per game, also set the school mark for total offense with 4,108 yards.
Entering his second camp with the Pirates, McNeill said his senior quarterback looks a lot more comfortable.
“He’s calmer, not that he was not before, but he really understands the system. Dominique is a very smart young man, not just on the field, but also academically. On the field he is a smart, smart football player. He understands the concepts,” McNeill said. “In this game, understanding the concepts is important and Dominique gets it. He understands what everybody’s job is, and what his job is, is to get us in right play and deliver the ball to wherever it needs to be delivered.”
What makes Davis so special is that he has all the ingredients that you look for in a starting quarterback.
“His leadership and intangibles are off the charts,” Riley said. “His physical stats, the way he would test out, it would be his strength, speed and jumping-wise, again would be off the charts. I think the thing that (scouts) would want to see from him, and the thing I would want to see from him, is that he develops going into year two. You have to develop and see that progress. Obviously I was impressed with what he did on such short notice last year but now it’s time; you got to get better. You have to show that improvement and make those other guys around you better.”
While the numbers in put up in the first-year of Riley’s offense have been staggering, the second-year offensive coordinator expects more this season.
“We are a group that realizes that we can be a lot better,” Riley said. “There’s so many little things that we can do better that can really, really make us a special offense, and that’s what we’re aiming for. … We have always had jumps from year one to year two with quarterbacks and I think we need to make that same jump.”