A 180 in 365 Days
by Brian North

A year ago, the ECU Football program was at one its lowest points. November 27th, 2004 the Pirates were coming off an embarrassing 52-14 loss to NC State to conclude the John Thompson era. There were just three victories in two years and team morale was at an all time low. The coaching staff was fired, some players quit going to class, and there was talk that it would take years to resuscitate the program.

But 365 days later, Skip Holtz and his staff have breathed new life into Greenville. The Pirates won five games (the most since 2001), including back to back victories to end the season (first time that's been done since 2000), and there is plenty of optimism going into the 2006 season.

James Pinkney is coming off a stellar season in which he threw for 2,773 yards and 14 touchdowns while being picked off eight times. Not bad numbers considering he didn't start practicing with the team until August and he had to learn a new offense for the fourth time in four years. Just think how much better he will be after going through spring practice.

Pinkney will have all six of his leading receivers back as well. That includes all C-USA first team wide receiver Aundrae Allison. Aundrae is the first ECU wideout to have over 1000 yards receiving in a season (83 catches for 1,024 yards and 8 td's). Also returning are Phillip Henry (28 catches, 428 yards and 1 td), Robert Tillman (16 catches, 186 yards and 1 td), Bobby Good (15 catches, 292 yards and 3 td's), and Kevin Roach (11 catches 145 yards and 0 td's). Plus running back Chris Johnson will enter his junior year (684 yards rushing, 356 yards receiving, and 8 td's total), and Brandon Fractious (265 yards and 2 td's) and Dominque Lindsay (210 yards and 1 td) will be back to run the ball as well.

The Pirates do lose three senior offensive lineman starters (Gary Freeman, Guy Whimper, and Chris Sellers), and two great linebackers in Chris Moore (4th all time ECU leading tackler) and Richard Koonce, but depth has been developed, and a second straight year under the same offensive and defensive systems should allow replacements to have a better chance to succeed.

It certainly looks like the future is bright for ECU football. But the Pirates have to realize they haven't arrived yet and they can't beat people just by stepping foot on the field. They have to continue to lift and practice with the chip on their shoulders that they had 365 days ago that led to this years modest success. And the coaches have to recruit better players and get the top talent in North Carolina and Virginia Beach. But compared to a year ago, the program is headed in the right direction, and there is optimism in the air again. And that makes watching (and covering) the Pirates fun again.

Brian North