East Carolina spring wrap

2009 overall record: 9-5

2009 conference record: 7-1 (C-USA champions)

Returning starters

Offense: 5, Defense: 2, Punter/Kicker: 0

Top returners

WR/KR Dwayne Harris, WR Darryl Freeney, OG Cory Dowless, CB Emanuel Davis, CB/PR Travis Simmons, DT Josh Smith

Key losses

C Sean Allen, RB Dominique Lindsay, QB Patrick Pinkney, DE C.J. Wilson (drafted), DT Linval Joseph (drafted), DT Jay Ross, LB Nick Johnson, FS Van Eskridge, P Matt Dodge (drafted), PK Ben Hartman

2009 statistical leaders (* denotes returners)

Rushing: Dominique Lindsay (239-1,180 yards, 6 TD)

Passing: Patrick Pinkney (440-259-12, 2,947 yards, 15 TD)

Receiving: Dwayne Harris* (83-978 yards, 7 TD)

Tackles: Van Eskridge (102)

Sacks: C.J. Wilson (5.5)

Interceptions: Van Eskridge (6)

Spring answers

1. Bringing in new schemes: Installing both the new offensive and defensive schemes this spring was the main priority for first-year head coach Ruffin McNeill. At the end of spring, he said he was pleased with the installation progress of new systems on both sides of the ball, moving from a pro-set scheme to a passing-oriented spread look on offense and implementing more of an attacking, blitzing and man-cover concept on defense.

2. Looking for more options: Dwayne Harris emerged as the Pirates' go-to receiver last season, but in the offense, the Pirates need multiple weapons and found them in redshirt freshmen receivers Mike Price, Reese Wiggins and Torrance Hunt. Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley even converted 6-foot-8 tight end Justin Jones to the “Big Y” position, which will utilize Jones as a third-down option or possession receiver.

3. Front-seven fiasco: ECU lost its front seven from a year ago, but made big strides this spring in replacing those key players, especially on the line. Redshirt freshman end Matt Milner, tackles Josh Smith and Antonio Allison and hybrid rush end Marke Powell, who lined up as a true freshman linebacker in 2009, all made impacts this spring. Middle LB Steve Spence and WLB Dustin Lineback also have potential for 2010.

Fall questions

1. Can the walk-on hold on? Sophomore walk-on quarterback Brad Wornick unexpectedly climbed to the top of the depth chart to earn the starting nod out of camp, but he’ll have to earn the spot again in the fall against Rio Johnson, Josh Jordan, and transfer Dominique Davis, a former Boston College quarterback who attended spring workouts as an observer but did not play.

2. Running game woes: The running game was a source of consternation for Riley, who was expecting better from a team that was known for its running efforts under former coach Skip Holtz. Senior Jonathan Williams could be the starter if he can stay out of off-field trouble and redshirt freshman Michael Dobson turned heads during spring drills. Seniors Giavanni Ruffin and Norman Whitley missed most of the spring and Brandon Jackson was removed from the team for disciplinary reasons.

3. Reloading on defense: East Carolina’s back-to-back Conference USA titles have been largely a product of stellar defense, but with nine starters gone, McNeill is really starting from scratch despite an encouraging spring. Only cornerbacks Emanuel Davis and Travis Simmons return, but everyone will be learning a new scheme.