the days continue to be marked off the summer calendar, it means only
one thing. Time needs to go faster. The latter part of July seems to
creep with the anticipation of the new season. But with a new regime at
the helm, there are still a slew of questions that need to be answered
prior to opening date.
1. Which sideline will the
Pirates reside on?
Skip Holtz probably hasn’t given the sideline debate much thought.
Instead, he’s been spending quality time with his family before
football will consume his life for the next five months. But, the head
coach is ultimate decision maker who is responsible for every aspect of
the team. Holtz’s answer could potentially influence season tickets,
momentum of a critical game and deflecting conflicts with opponents.
Different coaches have had different opinions regarding which side they
wanted their team on. Pat Dye, Ed Emory, Art Baker and Steve Logan
inhabited the north stands (upper deck side) while Bill Lewis and John
Thompson led their teams from the south stands (press box side).
Logan started his first season on the south stands. He changed
sidelines following the 1992 season, his first as head coach. Thompson
switched back to the south stands in 2003.
The two schools of thought have advantages and disadvantages. Holtz
will have to weigh his options to decide which choice works best for
him and his team.
Weather becomes the prevailing factor in favor of the south stands.
Teams on the north stands have to deal with the brutal setting sun in
the afternoon games. There is an approximate 10 degree difference
between the sun and the shade inside Dowdy-Ficklen. A difference of 10
degrees over a course of three hours will take their toll on players
who are sweating in heavy pads. The Pirates however could conserve
their energy by being in the shade.
The south stands allow for a smoother transition for the entrance. Both
teams would be closer to their respective locker rooms. Also, it would
be quieter for players to meet with coaches to discuss strategy.
The students would be busy heckling the opponents. A voice aimed at a
player has to carry so far that students end up yelling obscenities
that nearby fans can easily overhear. While not all students are
busying berating the opposing team, a few can ruin the fun for the
Over the years, it has caused some funny banter between the student
section and opposing players. But, with Terry Holland trying to create
an enjoyable environment for the opponents, it might cause more
problems than anything else.
It didn’t make for a good situation when UNC players were taunting
students in 2003. A select few retaliated by throwing objects near the
opposing bench. The same situation has happened more dramatically at
other places including N.C. State and West Virginia.
Energy is the main reason why the Pirates chose the north sideline for
most of the 1990s. Instead of having the students and rabid alumni
rooting against the opponents, they root for the Pirates.
The students and marching band can ignite spurts and sometimes even
helped to change the momentum of the game. An enthused student section
energizes the team. When the players need a boost on a third-down play,
they wave their arms towards the north stands. All the bench players
would have to do is turn around rather than attempting to conjure up
fan support from 50 yards away. But the same goes for the students. The
team needs to do something to keep the students involved.
However, the entire team would be staring into the sun for the majority
of the game. With only two night games this year, the sun be a factor
when it beams directly into the north stands
Will Holtz try to employ something similar to Thompson’s version of the
Pirate Walk? The tradition is so popular at other schools never caught
on under Thompson. Maybe Holtz can implement his own version.
2. Will the academic
problems finally be resolved?
It seems like the Pirates would be better off in a classroom than a
practice field. It would be the fastest way for improvement. Josh
Chilsom, Guy Whimper, JJ Millbrook, Jamar Bryant, James Pinkney,
Quentin Cotton, and Marcus Hands all have the common academic thread
Millbrook, Cotton and Hands all sat out last season along with Brandon
Setzer in order to gain the grades possible for eligibility. Most, if
not all, appear to be on track to qualify. All are potential starters
for the upcoming season.
Chilsom, Whimper and Pinkney are all still uncertain about their
academic eligibility. All were once starters and had to take at least a
semester off in order to restore order in their lives. Whimper has
beefed up his 6’5” frame in order to make the adjustment to offensive
line. Whimper’s height could possibly bump the shorter Chris Sellars to
offensive guard instead of tackle.
Jamar Bryant did not want to deal with Georgia’s admission office and
elected to become a Pirate instead. Bryant did make qualifying scores
and should be eligible this season. However, signed recruits such as CJ
Wilson will probably attend prep school because of academic issues.
3. Who are going to be the
Last season, Thompson let the players vote from game to game who the
captains would be. Former underclassmen such as Chris Moore, Ryan
Dougherty, Richard Koonce and James Pinkney often surfaced.
This year, Holtz has not publicly named how he will yield the captain
duties. Through spring ball, Holtz reiterated the importance of the
seniors especially for leadership. The seniors have stepped up to
define what type of team they expect the 2005 version to be.
They collectively set lofty goals of becoming Conference USA champions,
state champions and BCS champions. None seem likely to prognosticators,
but the seniors don’t care about probabilities.
Defensively, Chris Moore has earned respect from his teammates through
his work ethic. The same goes for Jamar Flournoy and Richard Koonce.
However, the most vocal leader on defense is Lorenza Pickett. As the
ultimate team player, he would be well served to be a permanent
Offensively, an eligible James Pinkney is a leader. Other players such
as Jermarcus Veal, Eric Graham and Chris Sellars have asserted
themselves. Though, offensive guard Gary Freeman might be the best fit
for offensive captain.
4. Who is going to be the
Even if James Pinkney becomes eligible, there is no certainty that he
instantly becomes the starting quarterback. Holtz tried really hard to
name Davon Drew the starter in the spring, but he left the door open.
Instead, Holtz has said that he will continue to evaluate.
The continued evaluation doesn’t bode well for Drew, who is suited
nicely for the new offense. His athletic ability gives him an advantage
over the other candidates. However, Drew’s decision making and accuracy
must improve for him to be the starter.
James Pinkney undoubtedly has the most experience. His uphill battle
academically makes him the sentimental favorite among the fans.
However, Pinkney didn’t experience spring ball and his decision making
was questioned at times. In Holtz’s offense, Pinkney will have to make
quicker decisions and be more mobile than last year.
The other Pinkney, Patrick, is the most intriguing prospect. Pinkney
dazzled the previous coaches last fall and also in the JV game.
However, Holtz and his staff have not seen the younger Pinkney at full
speed due to his prolonged shoulder injury. Pinkney is now fully
recovered and should be back to the form that nearly shot him up to
second on last year’s depth chart as a true freshman.
A combination of either Robert Kass or Brett Clay starting remains very
unlikely. Both are very raw and aren’t used to the speed of the college
game. But, the advantage both have is that they have five years of
eligibility left. Also, unlike the others, they were recruited by Holtz.
5. What will the Pirates
do on the first coin toss?
Hopefully, the Holtz era will not begin as Thompson’s second year did.
Knowing Holtz and his attacking style, if the Pirates were to win the
toss, there is little doubt that he would take the ball. A scoring
drive on the first possession could set the tone for the entire season.
However, with a 1 pm kickoff, the sun will play a factor and the
Pirates just might want to showcase a defense with nine starters