RB/KR Chris Johnson

2006 Statistics

Coach: Skip Holtz
12-12, 2 years
2006 Record: 7-6
at Navy LOST 23-28
at UAB LOST 12-17
SMU WON 38-21
at Southern Miss WON 20-17 (OT)
at UCF WON 23-10
at Rice LOST 17-18
at NC State WON 21-16
South Florida LOST 7-24

2006 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2007 Outlook

The first two years of commander-and-chief Skip Holtz’s tenure have seen a steady turnaround for this quiet program. The son of legendary father Lou, Holtz has an offensive pedigree to go with his genes, but it has been with defense that the Pirates have made the biggest headway under his guidance. There have been high points, like going 2-2 against BCS-aligned schools last campaign (wins against ACC welterweights Virginia and N.C. State) and going to a bowl last year for the first time in five years. Low points have been minimal, the most disappointing being three losses in ’06 by less than a TD, wins that would have made 7-6 into 10-3 and East Carolina into a possible league championship candidate. These are the kinds of lessons a determined first-time head coach like Holtz takes to heart and turns into future success(es)…just watch. The three main elements holding this year’s Pirates up will be (1) finding decent QB play (2) forming a cohesive offensive front for the new QBs to operate behind and (3) getting the same high-quality results from their reformed secondary. These are some big question marks to have, but the offensive coordinator, newly-hired Todd Fitch, rejoins his buddy Skip to “coach up” two of these marginal areas. Still, if anything, the line and the new QB(s) will be what cost ECU their shot at another bowl. The defensive backfield dilemma shouldn’t be as daunting for DC Greg Hudson seeing the quality newbies with which he has to work. But the one thing we note is the trend of predictability with Holtz’s Pirates – in his two years, ECU has beaten only one winning program and lost to just one sub-.500 foe. ‘Just pick the East Carolina game every time in the poll’ seems to work - they beat the lesser teams and lose to the better ones. Suffice to say that something has to give along these lines if this team is to take any “next steps”. Respectably, this year again (like a majority of the last 15) starts off with two tough non-conference foes hailing from a major conference (the ACC…Virginia Tech and big brother North Carolina). Moreover, all four non-cons are similar this way. Learning from the West Virginia game is a must since it could get ugly early…a wipeout is probable. Having to travel to Houston, Memphis and Huntington (Marshall) is no easy road, either, so East Carolina earns anything they get in 2007. This team is capable of beating at least a few of these programs. But in their current state, they will likely lose to a few also-rans, too, making nothing more than a break-even season a likelihood. Considering the defense’s turnover next season isn’t too large, this team should take the baby steps available this season so they can really make a run in 2008 once these marginal/problem areas are resolved. Things are going well in Greenville, and patience is again a virtue for Pirate pigskin fans as their school celebrates its 100th birthday.

Projected 2007 record: 6-6
LB Quentin Cotton
QB - 2.5 DL - 3
RB - 3 LB - 3.5
WR - 3 DB - 3
OL - 2.5 ..

Passing: Rob Kass, 14-30-1, 184 yds., 0 TD

Rushing: Chris Johnson, 78 att., 314 yds., 4 TD

Receiving: Phillip Henry, 34 rec., 484 yds., 2 TD

Scoring: Chris Johnson, 5 TD, 30 pts.

Punting: None

Kicking: Ben Hartman, 3-5 FG, 9-9 PAT, 18 pts.

Tackles: Quentin Cotton, 68 tot., 34 solo

Sacks: C.J. Wilson, 4 sacks

Interceptions: Travis Williams, 2 for 0 yds.

Kickoff returns: Chris Johnson, 21 ret., 23.0 avg., 1 TD

Punt returns: Travis Williams, 5 ret., 11.8 avg., 0 TD


OFFENSE: James Pinkney-QB, Kort Shankweiler-FB, Pat Dosh-FB, Brandon Fractious-RB, Aundrae Allison-WR, Kevin Roach-WR, Bobby Good-WR, Eric Graham-OT, Tom Wingenbach-C, Robert Lee-K
DEFENSE: Kasey Ross-CB, Kyle Chase-SS, Pierre Parker-DB, Jamar Flournoy-FS, Ryan Dougherty-P

The hiring of ex-coordinator Don Yanowsky at Boston College forced Holtz to reunite with Todd Fitch, an accomplished OC whom he coached with for a combined 10 years at South Carolina and Connecticut. Most recently, Fitch took Brett Meyer to the All-American level, setting Iowa State QB records in every category after just three seasons. Fitch has his work cut out with Rob Cass, a 6’4 physical specimen who stands in the pocket and seems the best choice of the three available candidates…none has any starts under their belts. Cass has yet to show his feet are weapons, but his sporadic successes this spring in the passing game give promise of what could eventually come forth in the sophomore. Pat Pinkney seems like the best runner, but Brett Clay’s quick release has him ahead of Pinkney for now. Clay is at about the same developmental level as Cass, but Cass’s real game experience gets him the nod, for now. None was spectacular this spring, so look for a QB rotation until one stands out via consistency. One distraction the hurlers will benefit from is Chris Johnson. Johnson is an ex-sprinter (10.38 seconds in the 100m) who should be back at tailback after off-season neck surgery, though, he will again be seen in the pattern quite often (ala Reggie Bush) as mismatches are exploited for this all-conference “difference maker”. Dominique Lindsay should also garner a bulk of carries since Johnson’s poignant impact last year was predicated upon another oft-sued Pirate RB (now-departed Fractious) being employed to keep foes guessing. Walk-on transfer Brandon Simmons should do well as the primary fullback, but he will have to hold off bigger bodied Kevin Gidrey, who had a great spring. But all of this talk surrounding the rushing attack may be moot with the line still struggling to come together. Senior tackle Josh Coffman has the footwork and speed to go with his worthy size, so his move to the outside after starting at guard should go well. All-American JUCO-transfer Willie Barton bumps into the critical left outside slot, and Terence Campbell has both/either of their backs with starting experience at both tackle spots. Still, it has been the middle components that need bolstering – Matt Butler slides back over to LG after starting at center, and former starter Cory Dowless didn’t beat out rising soph Doug Palmer for the nod on the right. Individually, they are all strong players, but their ability to gel is what is still missing. The backups represent an even larger drop off, so the OL is a serious concern that could retard production. One area not longing for experience or depth is at tight end, and we expect most of the five candidates will see the field with so many question marks concerning the line’s integrity. The receivers only return one starter, deep threat Steven Rogers, though Jamar Bryant stole that moniker with his big 77-yard TD grab in the final spring scrimmage. Soph Alex Taylor uses his 6’4 frame well, and the entire corps is well-sized and ready to establish itself again with so many new faces. The biggest task is to find the person who can get the rock to all of this talent. Ergo, how much better their 85th-ranked rushing attack and, therefore, the Pirate’s No.54 total offense can become under Fitch is hard to say with new signal callers learning as they go. Expect a serious effort early to get the running game up and going so it can stand on its own. If they can’t make that happen, it will be another inconsistent campaign for the offense as the QBs learn hard lessons more applicable towards 2008 than saving 2007.


OT Josh Coffman


Returning Starters in bold
QB Rob Kass-So (6-4, 250) Patrick Pinkney-Jr (6-0, 195)
Brett Clay-So (6-0, 207)
FB Jason Simmons-Jr (6-0, 227) Kevin Gidrey-Fr (6-2, 250)
RB Chris Johnson-Sr (5-11, 200) Dominique Lindsay-Jr (5-10, 212)
WR Jamar Bryant-So (6-2, 205) Alex Taylor-So (6-4, 215)
WR Phillip Henry-Sr (6-0, 180) Dwayne Harris-Fr (6-0, 190)
WR Steven Rogers-Sr (6-0, 186) Juwon Crowell-Sr (6-2, 190)
TE Davon Drew-Jr (6-4, 247) Jay Sonnhalter-Sr (6-5, 262)
OT Willie Barton-Jr (6-5, 350) Travis Melvin-Fr (6-6, 265)
OG Matt Butler-Sr (6-4, 309) Cory Dowless-So (6-5, 313)
C Stephen Heis-So (6-5, 292) Fred Hicks-Jr (6-0, 306)
OG Doug Palmer-So (6-3, 315) Sean Allen-So (6-3, 303)
OT Josh Coffman-Sr (6-7, 300) Terence Campbell-So (6-5, 332)
K Ben Hartman-So (5-11, 195) Murphy Paderick-Fr (5-11, 200)



The improvements here since Greg Hudson took over in 2005 have been noticeable, if not impressive. Run stopping continued to improve last year (gave up 72 yards per game less last year than in ‘05) as the pass defense upheld its impressive standard once again. The entire front seven rotation returns, but the new-look secondary sees only one worthy starter return. DE Marcus Hands is the key element up front – he runs surprisingly fast for his size and forces teams to double-team him, or else. That is what made Zach Slate explode last year, and Scotty Robinson and C.J. Wilson also built modestly impressive stat lines as freshmen due to all of the quality distractions their DL brethren create(d). All the ends here are 6’4 or taller, and Hands/Wilson posing as hybrid DE/DTs allows them to slide anywhere there is a gap and still be effective. One big difference up front will be Khalif Mitchell, a North Carolina transfer whose 6’6, 320-pound frame earns the start ahead of incumbent, productive senior Wendell Chavis. Robinson starting ahead of Setzer at the other tackle spot allows that internal competition to also further the level of play from the healthy rotation(s) inside. This should be the premier DL in the C-USA, and having all three well-sized starting LBs back assures such since these guys know how to fill open running lanes, especially stout MLB Fred Wilson. Backup ex-sprinter Nick Wilson was promising as a true frosh, but the other reserves aren’t nearly as experienced as him (with Eskridge moved back). Both junior OLBs, Cotton and Bell, are particularly strong against the pass and recover well on fakes/play-action. Look for junior Jarrett Wiggins to explode onto the scene with his finish as the top tackler in the spring game. This corps knows how to play together and is the main reason this defense will perform so well. Van Eskridge bumps back from OLB to safety so as to lend some experience to the new faces, and the DBs are generally a rebuilding project after losing three of their top four players. The lone holdover is starter Travis Williams, a senior who can be left on an island but has also been toasted while taking risks. This forced two new starters to be inserted during spring drills, and the play of Leon Best and Jerek Hewett will dictate much as to how far ECU will go in ’07. Eskridge is joined by Chris Mattocks, a heady sophomore who should grow into a strong presence at strong safety. Reserves Millbrook, Marshall and (Gainesville-native) Patterson all look like decent prospects who could become great contributors, and they join the new corners as wait-and-see projects who need to excel for the Pirates to remain intimidating stoppers. This team was 7-2 last year when they held foes to 21 points or less, a trend that should continue. But the line has to get more than 18 sacks and 61 TFLs to effectively hold up foes’ play development and therefore give their revamped secondary the needed time to develop into a cohesive unit. Otherwise, resultant trends would become more reverting than progressive, and finishing over .500 becomes much more of a challenge.


DE Marcus Hands


Returning Starters in bold
DE Marcus Hands-Jr (6-5, 277) C.J. Wilson-So (6-4, 265)
DT Khalif Mitchell-Jr (6-6, 320) Jay Ross-So (6-3, 315)
Wendell Chavis-Sr (6-2, 280)
DT Mark Robinson-Sr (6-3, 286) Brandon Setzer-Jr (6-6, 303)
DE Zach Slate-Jr (6-5, 227) Scotty Robinson-So (6-4, 247)
OLB Quentin Cotton-Jr (6-2, 224) Jeremy Chambliss-So (6-0, 222)
MLB Fred Wilson-Sr (6-2, 250) Nick Johnson-So (6-1, 226)
OLB Pierre Bell-Jr (6-2, 238) Dalvon Mack-Jr (6-0, 243)
CB Jerek Hewett-Jr (5-11, 184) Dekota Marshall-Fr (6-1, 189)
CB Leon Best-Jr (6-0, 200) Travis Williams-Sr (5-10, 182)
SS Chris Mattocks-So (6-0, 206) J.J. Milbrook-Jr (5-9, 203)
FS Van Eskridge-So (6-0, 206) Melvin Patterson-Fr (6-3, 215)
P Nathan Przestrzelski-Fr (6-5, 175) Matt Dodge-So (6-2, 203)




The field goal kickers and punters look strong if the spring game says anything. Punter Nate Przestrzelski has a bigger leg than Matt Dodge, but Dodge’s control would speak for itself in those tight, low-scoring games. Ben Hartman’s edge over Murphy Paderick is also minimal; both did well enough in the Purple-and-Gold to buoy hopes here. The Pirate’s return game has no needs – seniors Travis Williams and Steven Rogers are great options on punts, and Chris Johnson back on kicks means three first-team talents give ECU an advantage here. Special teams look like continued strengths across the board.