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Pirates to hold first summer scrimmage

East Carolina quarterback Rio Johnson (7) looks to take a step toward winning the starting QB job today during the Pirates first summer scrimmage. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

GREENVILLE — It’s audition time for the Pirates as they will hold their first scrimmage of the summer today and the East Carolina coaching staff will have their eyes fixated on several key position battles.
The most notable competition will take place at quarterback as senior Brad Wornick, junior Rio Johnson, sophomore Shane Carden and redshirt freshman Cody Keith will all vie for the starting signal-caller spot left vacated by the departed Dominique Davis.
Though it is widely speculated that Johnson and Carden enter today’s scrimmage as the top two candidates for the job, ECU third-year offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said that the race is still up for grabs.
“The day that we cut reps, then it’s not wide open anymore,” Riley said.
That day could come as quickly as Sunday as Riley stated that he is looking to drop one passer from the competition.
“It’s getting time to narrow it down to three, they know that and we know that,” Riley said. “The reps have been about dead-even for everybody throughout camp. … They have been playing well and it’s going to be difficult to cut somebody (from the competition).”
Riley said the key for the QBs will be to come in and do the basics while limiting mistakes.
“They need to carry over what they have been doing in practice,” Riley said. “I want to see that they have good tempo, take care of the ball and make good decisions.
“We’re only running about 50 to 60 plays tomorrow so you’re talking about 10-15 snaps per player so they are going to have to be ready.”
Johnson, who was the No. 2 QB on the depth chart last season, said his main goal is to make sure his drives do not stall out.
“I just have to move the offense and get everybody playing on the same page,” Johnson said. “I don’t particularly have goals for myself but as long as the offense scores points I’m happy.”
Carden, who missed out on the Purple and Gold game due to a broken right index finger, said that he can’t wait to see some action.
“I’m excited to get back in the stadium, last time I had to sit and watch the rest of my boys play and that was hard to do,” Carden said.
Aside from the QB spot, the Pirates’ biggest battle is at the RB position where they have a plethora of running backs pushing each other for the starting job. Competing for carries will be senior Reggie Bullock, juniors Michael Dobson, Torrance Hunt, Hunter Furr, Zico Pasut and JUCO transfer Vintavious Cooper, along with Freshman Chris Hairston.
Bullock (95 att, 428 yards in 2011) won the competition last season but was hampered all year by a thigh injury that limited him to only six games. Hunt (109 att, 489 yards) is the team’s top returning rusher, however, it is Dobson (63 att, 221) who has seemed to rush past the competition.
“Dobson’s had the best camp. I can say that without hesitation,” Riley said. “He’s just like a new guy. It’s like someone transferred in here and took over his body and his mind. It’s great. I just couldn’t be happier with what he’s done. … He’s certainly been one of the turnaround stories. He’s changed his mindset and he’s change his whole lifestyle, he’s just a different guy. It’s fun seeing guys like that who have been in this program for three years start to take off and start to reach their potential.”