4. East Carolina Pirates College Football Preview 2021: Defense
– The defense showed a glimmer of hope late in 2020. After a disastrous first seven games, the D shut down Temple and held up against SMU in wins. Even with the slight improvement, ECU allowed 447 yards and 35 points per game, having the biggest issues against the run. With 14 of the top 15 tacklers returning, get ready for a jump in production.
– The linebacking corps has a big hitter in Xavier Smith to anchor around, and he’s got speed around his size with Bruce Bivens and Jireh Wilson – who’ll work more as a safety – two strong tacklers who get all over the field. They’re the biggest playmakers behind the line, too, but the front four has to do its part.
There needs to be more bulk in the interior, but the young combination of Rick D’Abreu and Elijah Morris are active. Chris Willis is gone from one end, and hybrid linebacker/end Damir Faison has to become more of a pass rushing factor.
– Sophomore CB Ja’Quan McMillian is an all-around baller with a team-high four picks and 33 tackles, and sophomore S Shawn Dourseau is a good-hitter who finished third on the team with 58 tackles. Everyone of note is back in the secondary, but the group needs more help from the pass rush.