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    [2022] ECU preseason look

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    ECU Preseason Look

    Pirates Prepare for Tough Season


              The Pirates are beginning the long, tough road that will be the 2022 season. Coach Weeze, entering his 3rd full season, fourth season over all, described the coming season as "Growing pains". The Pirates will be feeling those pains for sure. For the first time in four years, the pirates will have a new man under center. A lot is expected of the home grown, five star recruit. But quarterback is not the only position where we will be seeing some change. Every player on the offensive line, expect for center Levi Hickey, will be new starters at their respective positions. They'll have a new runningback in JuCo transfer Amir Turner Jr. Only the receiving corp, and the Tight end group remains virtually the same from last season. Defense will see some turn over, but a lot of the players will be the same, some just with larger roles. The Secondary should be vastly improved with some experience, and more talented players. Especially at the safety position.



    (Fr) QB Kyler Wilson 6-0 224 Hertford County (Ahoskie NC) 5.0* (Pocket)


              Kyler Wilson was the biggest recruit in the state of North Carolina during the 2020 season. It was a huge win for the Pirates getting him to sign. After sitting for a season and learning with former ECU quarterback Liam Carver, Coach Weeze said he came into Camp looking sharper, more comfortable, and like a mature player who had been playing in the system for years.
    "It's hard for a 19 year old kid to come in, and really take charge of a team. Especially when that 19 year old has not taken a single rep of game time football. But he has done that. He's smart. He is lining up the receivers where they are suppose to be. He is calling out defenders and recognizing the blitz. The difference from last year to this year is eye popping. We have a special guy..a guy who will be playing on Sundays if he can keep up the same level of dedication that he has already shown." The headcoach and the offensive coordinator knew Wilson had the physical tools to play the position at a high level. It was all a matter of did he have the mental tools to play the position. So far they think he does. The playbook under coach Weeze is pass heavy. Lots of quick plays that require reading the defense and taking exactly what they give you. A lot of the early season struggles for this pirate offense last season was around trying to force the run game to be what it wasn't. Forcing Carver to make plays to receivers that just weren't ready for deep plays, and the complicated passing offense. The Receivers have matured, but the quarterback is young. If he can be the guys everyone thinks he is, this offense should far exceed what it was last season. As a side note, the last time the Pirates had a freshman quarterback leading the offense, the manage to get to the AAC title game...



    Jr RB Amir Turner Jr. 5-8 195 Louisburg College (Louisburg NC) 4.0* (Speed)


              Amir Turner Jr. was considered as big a catch last season as Kyler Wilson was the season before. The Pirates, since their promotion to the FBS level, have never had a 4* runningback. Which is surprising considering before coach Weeze took over the team in the middle of the 2019 season, the Pirates ran an extremely run heavy offense. Even the majority of the 2019 season was ran under a run first mindset. What is more amazing is that the coaching staff manage to land two 4* recruits last season. Running back Amir Turner Jr. as we already mentioned, and of course Samuel Baldwin III. A NC native recruit who committed to ECU fairly early in the process. The duo was expected to share carries, with Turner carrying the majority. However Baldwin has been dealing on and off with a hamstring injury through most of camp, and is expected to just be redshirted to allow him time to learn the offense and rest the injury. Though the headcoach has said nothing is certain until the season opener. Turner Jr is now expected to be the primary rusher, being backed up by redshirt freshmen Miles Giordano. The third down back is expected to be last years starter, Jr Xavier Stanley. Compared to last season, the run game looks to be a vastly different. There is a confidence there that wasn't did exist before. Eli Tuitama left a gaping hole at the position when he left for the NFL. The Pirates finally have an answer with multiple backs. It is the hope of the coaching staff that Wilson won't have to carry the game on his back. He should simply be able to manage the game, and focus on shorter, easier distances. Something Liam Carver was not able to have last season.



    Jr WR Leon Burris, So WR Jared Talbert, (Fr) WR Kenneth McCormick


              The Wide receiver corp remains virtually unchanged from last season. A few new faces who won't see much game time, but one new face among the starting three will be Kenneth McCormick. A redshirt freshmen, the speedy receiver was recruited out of Goldsboro North Carolina. Coaches say Kenneth is a very smart player, and is very fast. However he asked for the redshirt last season knowing he wasn't as ready to play as some of the other freshman who came in. His dedication to put the team above himself seemed to pay off big as he quickly made his way into the starting rotation as the slot receiver. His coaches believe he does have the talent to one day be a number one receiver for this team. Like the runningback position, ECU has never had much luck with recruiting NFL hopeful talent at wide receiver. But he could be a start in the right direction. For this season, the outside receivers are expected to be Burris and Talbert. The duo had a successful season late in the year, with Talbert actually breaking all the freshman records that Burris set one year previously. the Two are very competitive and wanna show they are better than the other. Burris ended the season with more yards, but Talbert ended the season with more touchdowns. Both ended the season close to a thousand yards, and both were near the top of the conference in yards. The group is maturing, and the QB is more of a pass focus player than what Carver was. While they may not scare most defenses, it is a group that will surprise you if they are underestimated. 



    (Jr) LT Bill Purvis, (Sr) LG Joshua Goodwin, (Jr) C Levi Hickey, Jr RG Leo Reece, Jr LT Yahir Fuentes-Valle


              How quickly things change in a year. The strongest unit on the offense last season is suddenly perhaps the weakest. Every player except for the center will be starting for the first time. Levi Hickey, is one of four players that have more than 1 year starting experience on this offense. Everyone else is starting for the first time, or played only for a year(some not even a whole). He will have a big role in not only keeping his quarterback safe, but also helping him, and the rest of the o-line to read the defense. Levi was also voted as offense team captain. Loud, strong, and a bruiser, this man has earned his teams respect. So much so he was given an honor that doesn't always go to a man at his position. The group as a whole, isn't strong, but it should be serviceable against most teams in the AAC. That being said however, the Pirates also have probably one of the harder schedules in the conference. @NAVY, @SMU, Temple, USF, @UCF, all very good teams. All teams who can take advantage of you if you don't protect the qb, and provide the running lanes. Something that can be said about this group however, is they all have plenty of experience, together. the four new starters are all 2nd team players from the last two seasons. they are all big men as well. Almost all five of the guys are near three hundred pounds. They are big, they are strong, and they have experience, together. That can not be understated. One of the biggest problems last season with the underwhelming o line is that they didn't have a lot of time together. One was a JuCo transfer, one was playing opposite of where he use to play, and another started for the first time. Individually, that group was the best this team had ever seen. As unit they were probably the worst. Expect to maybe see a more cohesive group who can at least overcome anothers mistake.



    (Fr) LDE Theo Guinn, Sr DT Liam Childers, (So) DT Justin Sprague, So RDE Aiden Daniels


              The Defensive Line sees a couple new faces making starts for the first time. Theo Gunn, a 4* Defensive end, a highly sought after recruit will make his first start this season after sitting behind long time vet, and school sack leader, Isiah Townsend. When Townsend left, he issued a challenge to Guinn and the rest of then defense to break his record. he wants to come back to homecoming and see someone shattering his record. Guinn in speaking with the media says he plans to do just that. Liam Childers, the only four year started on the pirates team, enters his senior season looking to leave a lasting legacy and feels like the defensive line is really starting to build itself into something special.

    "Guinn, McLaughlin, Daniels, Rossi, Jack...a lot of guys who play at a high level. We've never had this much talent in our front seven before. I think back to 2019 and how we fell a game short of a conference title appearance. 2018 when we were in the conference title game..if we could put our front seven with that secondary we had back then..we could have won that game. Our secondary surprised people last year and played better than most though. We disappointed, but we've been playing with a fire under us. We are back and better than ever. We about to make a F***ing statement this season. Count on that." Childers has been a disruptive tackle on the interior and should help lead his young teammates.

    "They might be young, but they all play at a high level. Daniels has a lot of play time experince already, Guinn has been restless and going off in practice. Sprague has been that rotational guy, but is ready to step into a lead position. Its gonna be a great year to be a pirate."



    (Fr) LOLB Richard Jack , So ILB Logan Bird, Sr ROLB Arthur Rossi


              If there is one thing that can be said about the defense for ECU, is that it has a lot of youth. The front seven last season was abused. It had one of the worst rushing defenses in the conference. For a group that had as many experienced players as they did, the atrocity that was the run defense was very unexpected. It was thought that the front seven was going to be the saving grace, but it turned out it was the achilles heel. The Linebacker unit will see two new players take over. Logan bird, the starting inside linebacker takes over for former senior Kaden Richmond. The former pirate had a decent season, but looked out of place. When he was recruited to ECU, they ran a 3-4. Coach Weeze turned the defense into a 4-3, and Richmond just wasn't ever able to adjust to a true mike middle linebacker. Bird comes in having never played in anything other than a 4-3, and had plenty of time to study film and build his knowledge of a college level defense. His coaches say he looks like a natural at the position. He is strong, he is dedicated and he can make the quick read. If there is something that can be picked at its simply not having experience at this level. However he is a quick learner, and has been working closely with senior linebacker Arthur Rossi. The Starting outside linebacker on the right side, has a similar role to Sr DT Childers. He has to be the example for his young linebacker corp. The Linebacker group probably has the most talent of any other position on the Team. The only problem is how young they are. Rossi spoke with the media about how he spent a lot of time this past summer working with Bird, and Jack and some of the other guys teaching them how to study film. How to take care of your body. How to read the offense and figure out what they are doing. Richard Jack, a future NFL player to be sure, has spent a lot of time working out with Arthur Rossi, and is expected to take over for him at the Right side next season, going back to his natural position. For now, he will be working the left side.



    Jr CB Jonah Epps, (Fr) CB Javier Landry, Jr NCB Paul Fountain, So FS Da'Quan Eason, (Fr) SS Joshua Hollis


                One paper, from last year to this year, the secondary is the most improved position group. However, it will be hard to know that for sure until the season starts because the secondary for the Pirates surprised the coaches, and probably the conference as a whole. Outside Week 0 against Duke, the Pirates did not give up a ton of yards on average through the air. That group on paper looked awful. Probably one of the worst secondaries the team ever had. But they played well in games. They didn't create a lot of turn overs, but they did what the pirates needed them to. While no one with the team will confirm it, rumors have spread that the play of the secondary was the saving grace for the Defensive coordinator given how bad the run defense was. Jonah Epps comes into this season as a leader in the secondary. He is a 3 year starter along with Paul Fountain, the nickel corner. Epps is expected to make a big step forward this season as his play has been ok, but not great. He has had two seasons to grow and learn, but as a junior, its time for him to be a leader. Opposite of Epps is Javier Landry. A speedy, aggressive corner, he red shirted his first year due to a lingering injury. The Coaches however expect him to bring his aggressiveness to the field, and help create more turnovers. Eason, a sophomore Free safety, appeared to have won the starting job going into the season from junior Andrew Oliver. The two battled last season during camp, with oliver winning the job really more because of his experience at the college level. Joshua Hollis, a redshirt freshman, stepped up and easily won his job with the departure of Jayden woods. The coaches expected him to earn the starting job, but have been very impressed with how well he has done.
    "He reminds me a lot of Ashton Best. He is quick, he plays the ball, and he isn't afraid to lower his shoulder and hit somebody." Coach Weeze said of Hollis. Best, a former SS for ECU, remains one of the best tacklers in ECU history, ranking fourth all time, as well as tied for third all time in interceptions. If they can get the same level of production out of Hollis, the Pirates might start to see a resurgence of a dominate secondary like we saw only a couple years ago. But we also have remember the majority of this group is young. They have a tough schedule and will have to be baptized by fire so to speak.




    (Sr) K Douglas Cisneros, (Jr) P Jaeden Amaya


              Transfer Kicker Douglas Cisneros seemingly answered the coaching staff prayers last off season when he announced his transfer to ECU. The Pirates at the time didn't expect to land such an outstanding kicker Brian McLane. The five star kicker out of Raleigh NC. McLane is a very accurate kicker, but lacks some of the power he needs to really shine at this level, and his coach told us he will be working hard this season on achieving that power. For now Cisneros will be taking field goals, and kick off duties. Punter Jaeden Amaya is also new this season, having sat the last few years behind former punter Cooper Waller. Amaya doesn't have the same power as Waller, but he is expected to be just as good. He is a smart punter who knows how to angle his punts and let the gunners get down field.


              ECU should improve this season. They have a tough schedule, but they should perform at a higher level than last season. They have a new, QB who is a better passer, they have several strong running backs again, the defense have improvements all over the field despite being so young. As long as they play smart, as long as they remember their gameplan, they should be able to steal a couple games and continue their bowl streak.

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