The top 10 East Carolina football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
WR Isaiah Jones, Sr.
That Jones is East Carolina’s top returning offensive player is not even up for debate. He more than answered the call after record-setting Justin Hardy graduated, catching a league-high 98 passes for 1,099 yards and five touchdowns out of the slot. And he did it despite an unsettled situation behind center. The 6-1, 197-pound Jones has the surest hands on the team and a hunger to follow in the footsteps of his father, Robert, who played for a decade in the NFL.
DE Fred Presley, Sr.
Presley has made up plenty of ground since arriving as a walk-on. He came off the bench a year ago to start the final nine games, leading the team’s D-linemen with 44 tackles, four stops for loss and a couple of forced fumbles. As one of ECU’s most fundamentally sound big men, the 6-3, 271-pounder rarely misses tackles and is an asset up front against the run.
OG J.T. Boyd, Sr.
Boyd will begin this season as the Pirates’ most accomplished blocker, earning honorable mention All-AAC as his team’s 11-game starter at right guard. He’s an experienced and physical 6-4, 298-pounder who rarely misses downs. Boyd struggled against the better defenses on the schedule, like Florida, Temple and UConn, but was playing his best ball at the end of the year.
FS Travon Simmons, Jr.
Simmons is on the verge of contending for all-star recognition after laying the ground floor in 2015. He’s coming off a strong season at free safety, headlined by a team-high nine pass breakups and 45 tackles. At 5-10 and 185 pounds, he’s not going to light up opposing ballcarriers, but he does have the feet and the agility to give the Pirates the equivalent of a third cornerback on the field.
WR James Summers, Sr.
Somehow, someway, East Carolina needs to find ways to get the ball in the hands of Summers. The 6-3, 210-pound senior ought to be a factor in the offense, whether he’s running the ball, catching passes or even lining up behind center in certain situations. Think former Duke change-of-pace Brandon Connette. Summers came off the bench last season to spark the offense at quarterback, doing a lot of damage with his legs, including rushing for 169 yards and two scores in an upset of Virginia Tech. He has the most diverse skill set on the offense.
CB DaShaun Amos, Sr.
Amos is coming off his best season in Greenville, starting seven games and building momentum that he plans to carry into 2016. He closed the year with 32 tackles, five pass breakups and a pair of fumble recoveries. Fingers are crossed around the program that the 6-1, 189-pounder can develop into a borderline lockdown cover corner that quarantines half the field for opposing quarterbacks.
NT Demetri McGill, Sr.
Powerful and low to the ground, yet just quick enough to get penetration, McGill possesses many of the attributes to be a successful nose tackle. The 6-1, 314-pounder from Virginia Beach was a nuisance for opposing blockers a year ago, making 38 tackles, 5.5 stops for loss, 2.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries. When McGill commands two blockers, the athletic linebackers are the beneficiaries.
LB Jordan Williams, Jr.
The former walk-on and Shaw University transfer began to contribute to the Pirates as a 10-game starter inside in 2015. Williams ranked second on ECU with 81 tackles, six stops for loss and a pair of sacks. Williams stands 6-0 and 230 pounds, with the mix of measurables to be more than just a run stopper. He can occasionally be an effective pass rusher as well.
WR Trevon Brown, Jr.
The Pirate staff is excited by the potential of Brown. And for good reason. After missing the first three games to injury, Brown started to bloom into a consistent weapon. He ended the season with 41 receptions for 496 yards, four touchdowns … and elevated expectations for the season ahead. At 6-2 and 210 pounds, Brown, like most of the ECU wide receivers sports the length to beat defensive backs vertically.
WR Davon Grayson, Sr.
New head coach Scottie Montgomery knows wide receivers, and he has inherited some good ones in Greenville. Grayson, for instance, a steady complement to Isaiah Jones and Trevon Brown. The 6-2, 195-pound Grayson is one of the Pirates’ best all-around athletes. And he’ll be looking to build off his best season at East Carolina from “Z”, 33 receptions for 448 yards and three touchdowns.