Marshall Opponent Preview - East Carolina|
July 27, 2012
The following is the final installment of a 12-part series, previewing Marshall's opponents for the upcoming football season.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall concludes the regular season with a game at East Carolina on Nov. 24.
The game in Greenville, N.C. takes place during the same week as last season's matchup when the Pirates and Thundering Herd met with five wins each and a chance for the winner to become bowl eligible. Marshall won the wildly exciting overtime game (34-27), improved to 4-9 all-time against ECU and went on to play in the Beef `O' Brady's Bowl. Meanwhile, ECU went without postseason play for the first time since 2005 with a 5-7 record.
Third-year head coach Ruffin McNeill begins his third season in Greenville with 15 starters returning which is why experts have touted the Pirates as one of the nation's most improved teams. ECU will return roughly 70 percent of its production in four major defensive categories from last season - tackles (70.2), tackles for loss (70.9), sacks (67.4) and turnover production (76.2 percent of combined interceptions and fumble recoveries).
McNeill will have to break in a new quarterback as Dominique Davis graduated last season after a record-breaking two-year career at ECU. Junior Rio Johnson is expected to take the starting reins and will have plenty of weapons at his disposal.
The Pirates return five of their top six receivers from last season and add Arkansas transfer Lance Ray. The offensive line returns seven of its top 10, a welcome site from last season when they had to brake in four new starters and by the end of 2011, had multiple injuries.
The defense returns experience, but not overwhelming talent. Last season's leading tackler Jeremy Grove returns as an inside linebacker. He recorded 122 tackles while being named a freshman All-American and Conference USA Freshman of the Year. Five of the top eight defensive backs return, but just one starter and will rely on junior college transfers Adonis Armstrong and Godfrey Thompson to be productive.
Offensive Player to Watch
Defensive Player to Watch
Can ECU get more out of its rushing attack? Last season, the Pirates ranked 11th in C-USA with 109.1 yards per game.
Can the Pirates stay healthy? Injuries played a key part in ECU losing three of its final four games and finish just shy of bowl eligibility.
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