College Football Preview: The 2015 East Carolina Pirates
East Carolina Pirates Preview
2014 Record: 8-5 (3rd in the AAC) Lost Birmingham Bowl to Florida 28-20
Odds to Win National Championship: +500000 See the Latest Odds
Overview: Ruffin McNeill has turned the East Carolina Pirates into quite a football program, as they’ve reached a bowl game in eight of their last nine seasons. The Pirates have won 26 games in their last three seasons and appeared in the AP Poll last year for the first time since 2008. With eight or more wins in six of its last eight seasons, East Carolina is one of the top programs in the AAC.
Offense: East Carolina lost a lot on the offensive side, including offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, quarterback Shane Carden and receiver Justin Hardy. Still, the Pirates will stick with their Air Raid offense and have a strong arm quarterback in Kurt Benkert who completed eight of his 10 pass attempts last season as a freshman. Isaiah Jones will become the No. 1 option at wide receiver after hauling in 81 receptions, and Trevon Brown had four touchdowns on 14 receptions. ECU’s ground game will be led by running back Chris Hairston, who averaged more than six yards per carry and had two touchdowns on 79 rushing attempts. East Carolina’s offense shouldn’t have such a drop off that most would expect, but it really depends on how quickly Benkert can get off the ground running.
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Defense: East Carolina finished last season ranked 38th in total defense and return a lot of their key guys to keep their defense rolling. Zeek Bigger is one of the top linebackers in the country after picking up 140 tackles and two interceptions. Montese Overton is another playmaker at linebacker, racking up 11.5 tackles for loss last season. Fred Presley led the Pirates with six sacks and Josh Hawkins holds down the secondary after breaking up 11 passes and coming up with five interceptions. The Pirates did, however, lose a top tackler in Brandon Williams and Terry Williams on the defensive line. Still, the East Carolina Pirates were a top-five defense last season in the AAC and could improve on those numbers with a lot of their top players returning.
Special Teams: Texas A&M transfer Davis Plowman will likely replace Warren Harvey at kicker. Worth Gregory returns at punter after averaging more than 43 yards per attempt on 49 kicks.
Outlook: The East Carolina Pirates have enough players in place to make yet another strong run at a bowl appearance and shine as one of the top programs in the AAC. Yes, there are some questions on the offensive side after losing a ton of production, but this squad should have no problem getting at least six wins for fourth straight season.