Where will James
Pinkney rank among all-time ECU quarterbacks? Will Aundrae Allison be
the best wide receiver ever to don an ECU uniform? Will Skip Holtz’
coaching status rival the likes of Pat Dye and Steve Logan, eventually
raising him to a Greenville legend?
Is it too early to tell? Bluntly, yes. Give or take a few decades, but
who’s counting? Despite the lack of perspective, let’s have a little
What better time than during fall camp, with expectations continually
rising as the season approaches, to play fortune teller? Like most
preseason magazines, if the predictions become accurate, the expert
becomes validated. However, if not, the guess-timators still cashed
checks based on your entertainment. It’s a win-win.
These predictions are based on all parties either meeting expectations
for 2006 or posting comparable numbers to 2005. Ask any coach; either
meeting fans’ demands or rekindling a previous season isn’t easy.
However, I say, it’s not too much to ask.
So where exactly will Pinkney rank among the best ECU signal-callers?
Believe it or not: second. Assuming Pinkney doesn’t get injured, which
could potentially ruin a promising 2006 season, the senior quarterback
will likely finish second in career passing yards, completions and
total offense. Pinkney also could eclipse his second-place ranking for
the top passing performances in a season by becoming the first to throw
for more than 3,100 yards.
The Delray Beach, Fla. native, who a year ago, was relearning yet
another offense under a new head coach. A year later, the coaching
staff has added more weapons-depth at running back and wide receiver-
and a scheme conducive for Pinkney’s style. Heady and athletic, Pinkney
has the tools to become a fringe NFL quarterback. He rarely makes
mistakes, has superior arm strength, touch and the ability to scramble.
The knock on Pinkney is his lack of leadership and inability to captain
a successful season, namely a bowl. Instead of Jeff Blake’s magical
11-1 year, Pinkney has undergone the inverse, starting four games in
miserable 2003. Another negative includes briefly getting booted from
the team because of poor academics. And yes, the spread schemes have
been contributing factors to the 6-3, 220-pounder’s success.
Despite the pessimism, Pinkney’s statistics don’t lie. He will have
started four consecutive years under center, automatically placing him
in Marcus Crandell and David Garrard’s tier. He’s more talented than
Crandell and makes better decisions than Garrard, who had trouble
looking off his first receiver. Whether it’s Jeff Blake, who doesn’t
have the career numbers or Garrard, who posted his most impressive
season as a sophomore, ends up atop the chart, Pinkney won’t be far
Aundrae Allison will graduate, being, yes, the best-ever ECU receiver
in spite of only suiting up for two years. Despite his junior
college-shortened career, Allison realistically could end up with
numerous ECU receiving yards, including the prestigious career
receiving yards. How ridiculous is that?
Consistently, Allison can’t compete with Mitchell Galloway, Jason
Nichols or Troy Smith’s career receptions numbers. He’d also be
hard-pressed to double his touchdown total in 2005 (7) to reach Larry
Shannon’s 21 touchdown career. Another product of the pass-happy
offense, which Terry Gallaher didn’t see in the wishbone, Allison has
already outflanked the Logan-era receivers. As the only true option on
a decent team, Allison set the school record in receiving yards in a
season (1,024) and would have outdone Terrance Copper’s single-season
receptions record had he not torn his MCL in the season finale.
Barring another leg or knee injury, he will be a first-day draft pick,
likely becoming a higher selection than Larry Shannon. Midway through
last season, Holtz credited Allison with being one of the best
receivers he’s ever coached, a list which includes “Rocket” Ismail and
Judging by pure talent, Allison doesn’t have the physical tools as a
Shannon or Smith, but does have the ability to add yards
after-the-catch. Only Dion Johnson and Keith Stokes, both sparkplugs,
were arguably better with the ball in their hands. But having the best
combination of size and strength, getting off the line, the ability to
haul in tough catches and touting soft hands belongs to Allison.
The man whom recruited Allison to ECU, Skip Holtz has a chance to join
legend status in the archives of ECU head coaches. And I’m not
referencing the feature on EA Sports newest NCAA 2007 video game.
Holtz’ 2005 team showed promise, albeit small, that big wins are headed
to Greenville. The question remains whether Holtz will stay long
enough, either by his own decision or those made by administrators, to
make enough of an imprint on the program.
Time is a Holtz ally. At 42 and in peak physical condition, Holtz has
enough energy to man the sidelines for another 20 years. Anything
beyond his mid-60s, will be on his accord. If his bloodlines are any
indication, with Lou being a job jumper, the younger Holtz won’t be in
a Pirate hat too much longer.
Of course, Holtz needs to win. With five wins in 2005, he created
enough wiggle room to have job security for the next four years. For
now, Holtz seems content with living in Greenville, instilling roots at
a philanthropic level. He has younger children, who are impressionable,
and being a coach’s son himself, it has made Holtz aware of the
negatives associated with constant family up-rooting.
Call it a gut feeling. But Holtz has made it clear his goals are to
step out of his father’s shadow. Living in it for so long, Holtz has an
opportunity to prolong his own legacy, something he had trouble doing
as a player. Aside from the obvious will to win, Holtz is determined to
shake the ‘Lou’s son’ moniker. To do it though, Skip will have to be in
a larger profile job with more media attention.
For that reason, I say, the younger Holtz stays five years before
landing a bigger job. He will be remembered in the same breath as Dye,
who left ECU eventually landing an SEC gig. The difference is that
currently, Holtz has the financial support of the athletic department,
including athletic director Terry Holland. Having Holland in place with
current Chancellor Steve Ballard, makes Holtz’ job much easier.
Now, as any other coach has to do, all Holtz has to do is tally wins.
With a brutal non-conference slate for the next couple of years, it
remains critical that Holtz’ teams develop enough confidence to pull
out close wins. Holtz’ resume will depend on how quick the winning
swagger is developed. Holtz probably won’t near Logan’s win total or
the amount of respect that Clarence Stasavich has in building the
program, but he is a far cry from John Thompson.
Unlike most of this column, that much is certain.