Preview 2017: Pressure On The Pirates
After a disastrous season, the pressure is on East Carolina for Scottie Montgomery to have a far better Year Two.
East Carolina should be a player in the American Athletic Conference. It’s built to be a star, it’s able to recruit relatively well, and it has the upward mobility to really and truly believe it could someday be a part of the Power Five – expansion dreams into the Big 12 aren’t insane.
But now there’s pressure on head coach Scottie Montgomerie more than almost any other second year head man among the Group of Five programs. ECU went bowling from 2012 to 2014 and won ten games in 2013 – this isn’t supposed to be an also-ran.
And it’s certainly not supposed to be a bottom-feeder.
The Pirates came up with their worst season since going 2-9 in 2004 with a team that started out well, but in many ways, got progressively worse.
With one 33-30 win over a very good NC State squad, followed up by a tough 20-15 loss at South Carolina, Montgomery looked like he had something. This was going to be a fighter in the American Athletic race with a ton of upside and potential.
The offense was hitting, the D wasn’t bad, and the passing game had the potential to be something special. The air show kept on rolling – with WR Zay Jones catching a record-setting 158 passes – but all of a sudden, the points weren’t coming and the defense couldn’t seem to make a meaningful stop.
There weren’t a ton of penalties, and the offense moved the ball, but there wasn’t any semblance of a return game, the defense couldn’t come up with a takeaway – just eight on the year overall – and the great O just couldn’t keep up the pace with a defense that got ripped to shreds by everyone but UConn over the back half of the season.
Montgomery will keep the offense cranking. The former Duke offensive coordinator has a former Blue Devil in Thomas Sirk coming in to push for the quarterback job, and while there isn’t another Jones around, the receiving corps is good enough to keep on rolling.
Three starters are back up front, and there should be enough of a running back rotation to be a little better running the ball. Sirk should help with that, too.
And while the defense isn’t going to be challenging Alabama for national dominance, it can’t be worse. With seven starters back, there has to be a better pass rush – just eight sacks on the season – and the run defense has to be far more aggressive and far more effective.
53 lettermen are back. 18 starters return, and the coaching staff got its redshirt season out of the way. This year, East Carolina football can’t be this bad again.