Keith out of Pirates’ QB competition
GREENVILLE — East Carolina did not announce who its opening day starting quarterback will be after the team’s final scrimmage of fall camp Saturday, but one player you can cross off the list of competing candidates is redshirt freshman Cody Keith.
The Pirates entered the preseason with senior Brad Wornick, junior Rio Johnson, sophomore Shane Carden and Keith all competing for the No. 1 spot but after last week’s scrimmage ECU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley decided that the best place for Keith to be right now is with the scout team.
“We cut Cody’s reps a little bit this week. It was a hard because we all feel Cody’s going to be the future here at quarterback,” Riley said. “The No. 1 thing on our minds was his development. We’re going to kind of make him a 3/4 (on the depth chart) because we want him to be around the team but he needs those live reps that you get against a defense (on the scout team). … We told Cody in the beginning that we didn’t want him to be our third quarterback because whoever the three is will be with us but he’s not getting many reps and that’s were the least development is. He was either going to be the four or the one or two.”
Riley said that the young quarterback evokes images of another talented passer he presided over when he was at Texas Tech.
“He reminds me a lot of Graham Harrell when Graham was a redshirt freshman,” Riley said. “He probably was our best quarterback at Texas Tech but he just wasn’t quite ready for it yet. Cody really reminds of me that, he just needs a little more seasoning.”
Saturday’s scrimmage took on a different format as head coach Ruffin McNeill pitted his first and second string players versus the third units on both sides of the ball to provide a change of pace from the constant ones versus ones at practice.
Of the quarterbacks, Johnson had the best day as he went 7-of-9 for 104 yards, while Wornick hit on five of his seven attempts for 64 yards, which included a six-yard TD pass to Danny Webster.
Webster led all receivers with three catches for 24 yards, while Jabril Solomon had two receptions for 46 yards and Reese Wiggins had one catch for 41 yards.
Carden finished the exhibition completing one of his three pass attempts for eight yards and Keith connected on one of his four attempts for four yards and was intercepted by Jacobi Jenkins.
The Pirates got some punch from their rushing attack as Reggie Bullock broke free for a 46-yarder and finished the scrimmage with 54 yards on three carries.
Chris Hairston scored the lone rushing touchdown of the scrimmage an ended the day with 28 yards on three attempts.
Placekicker Warren Harvey connected on a 22-yard field goal but missed on a 36-yard attempt.
The defensive effort was highlighted by Jenkins’ interception of Keith which was returned 38 yards. Robert Huckabee and Doug Mayo-Tapp led the Pirates with three tackles each, while Detric Allen had four pass breakups.
Overall, it was another good performance by the Pirates defense and one that left coordinator Brian Mitchell feeling confident about his unit.
“I feel good. I feel like we’re headed in the direction that we need to be going,” Mitchell said. “The body of work has been excellent this camp.”
While the QB competition has been the most notable one of the summer, another battle of interest taking place right now is at right tackle where junior two-year starter Grant Harner is trying to fend off senior defensive lineman-turned-offensive tackle Robert Jones.
“Right tackle is a great battle,” Riley said. “Harner’s been here and played so much and is really experienced and tough. Then you have Robert Jones who is one of the most talented offensive linemen that we have here in the program and is really, really physical and athletic and has done a nice job picking up the offense. They probably couldn’t be more different but that’s been a great battle.”
Riley also said that promising 6-7, 250-pound redshirt freshman Isaac Harris has shown signs of potential in camp and is pushing presumed starting left tackle Adhem Elsawai for playing time.
On the other side of the ball, Mitchell said the competition for starting boundary corner between Jacobi Jenkins, Adonis Armstrong, Kristopher Sykes and Rocco Scarfone has been a fierce one.
“Right now we’ve had three that that have been very productive all camp and I think today a few have separated themselves,” Mitchell said. “Jacobi Jenkins had an interception today but all of it starts with the pass rush. Derrell Johnson got the pressure on the quarterback and made him throw it high. (Safety Damon) Magazu was on his No. 2 read and affected the catch and Jacobi was where he was supposed to be.”
The Pirates will begin playing for real on Sept. 1 when they host Appalachian State in the season opener.