ECU Football First Half Grades and Second Half Predictions
Halfway through the season, the Pirates are 3-3 and 0-2 in conference play. Here are grades on each position group.
The Pirates are right where I thought they would be to this point. They’ve been able to win the games they should win, which is something they haven’t been able to do the past few years. Just winning these types of games won’t be enough, as they’re unlikely to be favored in a game outside of UConn. Let’s see how much each position group has contributed to this 3-3 record.
With backup QB Reid Herring transferring, Holton Ahlers has a little extra weight on his shoulders. Ahlers has clearly been making an extra effort to avoid injury because of the lack of experience behind him. Bryan Gagg is the new backup and has yet to appear in a college game.
Ahlers has had a solid season to this point, but there is plenty of room for improvement. He has posted a 53% completion percentage thus far. He has thrown for six touchdowns and five interceptions. There is plenty of work to do but Ahlers has done a solid job of managing the game for the Pirates.
After coming off a season where Ahlers led the team in rushing yards, head coach Mike Houston really wanted to discover a lead back that can get the ground game going. Darius Pinnix looked to be just that but was injured after the first two games.
The Pirates needed someone to step up, and I believe that a couple of guys did. Freshman Demetrius Mauney leads all running backs with 57 attempts for 244 yards but has yet to record a touchdown in a Pirate uniform. Sophomore Trace Christian is second with 32 attempts for 137 yards and zero touchdowns. The running backs have done a great job of protecting the ball but there have been zero touchdowns from running backs not named Pinnix.
The Pirates lead the NCAA with seven straight seasons with a 1,000-yard receiver. The Pirates were hoping to find the next one this year, but that is extremely unlikely. With half of the season in the books, the leading receiver is Blake Proehl with 315 yards. There have been a ton of drops and they have really struggled to get separation. The future does look bright at this spot with the top-two receivers being a freshman and sophomore.
The offensive line has been one of the worst positions on the team for years. There is absolutely no depth at this position this year and they can’t seem to hang in the game with anyone. They haven’t been able to create any holes or protect Ahlers.
Tight Ends have a combined five catches for 60 yards. There has been very little production, but there have been two TDs both by Anthony Watley. Houston wanted his tight ends to really get involved, but we just haven’t seen it to this point.
There was a lot of uncertainty on the defensive line going into this season after defensive end standout Nate Harvey was not granted an extra year of eligibility. Alex Turner was expected to lead this group going into the season, but it is Kendall Futrell that has led the line in tackles with 35. The defensive line as a whole has been solid and has definitely exceeded expectations, but they need to create a better pass rush going forward.
This group has been flying around the field so far this season. The starting corps in Xavier Smith, Bruce Bivens, and Gerard Stringer have taken the top three spots in total tackles. They have done a solid job of containing the run game and have helped put pressure on the QB. The three have only combined for two sacks but Stringer already has two interceptions The best part is that they’ll all be back next year.
A star has emerged as freshman Ja’Quan McMillian has been dominant. He has come in and has immediately secured a spot as the top corner on the team. McMillian has already made two interceptions and forced a fumble. He grabbed the attention of the ESPN crew against Temple by shutting down their top receiver who was nearly a foot taller than him. Many are comparing him to former Pirate and current Philadelphia Eagle Josh Hawkins. Overall the secondary has impressed but will be tested next week at UCF.
Special teams was a major emphasis for the coaching staff heading into the season. In the first couple of games, we saw great improvement when it comes to the return game, but since then it has been irrelevant. ECU kicker Jake Verity is taking care of business as usual. He has yet to miss an extra point and has missed four of his 15 attempted field goals. Half of his misses have come from 50+ yards. ECU also has a blocked punt TD to their credit as well.
Rest of the Season Predictions
@ UCF L
vs. USF W
vs. 25 Cincinnati L
@ 21 SMU L
@ UCONN W
vs. Tulsa W
Final Record 6-6