A Look Ahead
by Kevin Monroe

After Saturday’s victory versus UAB, the Pirates have a lot to look forward to next season.  The Marshall game gave us a brief look at what the running game could look like when run efficiently.  Chris Johnson was the star of that game with 108 yards and three touchdowns.  Brandon Fractious averaged nine yards on four carries and Dominique Lindsay averaged six yards on 11 carries.

The UAB game gave us a look at the passing game that has carried the Pirates all season long.  James Pinkney had one of his best games of the season (21-33, 286 yards, 2 TDs), even though star wide receiver Aundrae Allison only played in the first half.  Bobby Good stepped in and had a career day with five receptions for 105 yards and two touchdowns.  Now that the season is over, we can take a look at what next season will look like. I will break down the offense this week, and we will take a look at the defense and special teams next week.

Offense – Every wide receiver that had 75 yards or more receiving this year is returning.  Led by standout Aundrae Allison, the Pirates return freshman stud Jerek Hewett, Phillip Henry, Bobby Good, Kevin Roach, Steven Rogers, and Robert Tillman.  This group has the potential to be the best core of guys since 1997 (Troy Smith, Larry Shannon, Jason Nichols, Linwood DeBrew, Lamont Chappell, & Marcellus Harris).  

The quarterback position is set, with returning starter James Pinkney who will be one of the top returning passers in Conference USA.  His backup will be a mystery.  Kort Shankweiler will return, but I am sure Coach Holtz will be grooming a younger player to take over after Pinkney and Shank graduate.  Will it be Patrick Pinkney, Davon Drew, or Rob Kass? Only spring ball and the off-season will tell us that.   

The running back position will be interesting.  I personally think with the emergence of Dominique Lindsay and Brandon Fractious that the Pirates should move Chris Johnson to wide receiver.  He has the speed and the hands to be a huge threat down field especially with Aundrae Allison on the other side.  Fractious and Lindsay both had more yards per carry than Johnson and will be very suitable replacements.

The offensive line will be the biggest question mark on the offense.  ECU returns left side starters in tackle Eric Graham and guard Matt Butler, but lose their center (Gary Freeman) and both right side starters (tackle – Guy Whimper and guard – Chris Sellers).  Hunter Wood, who was Freeman’s backup, was also a senior.  Recruiting will be huge for the offensive line, with returning starters at every skill position, the coaches are going to want to bring in guys that are ready to play and will be effective immediately.  Junior college offensive lineman could be that quick.  The immediate future looks great for the Pirates, but recruiting will be huge to get them past the 2006 season.

Kevin Monroe