East Carolina Pirates Preview 2022: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the East Carolina season with what you need to know and keys to the season.
East Carolina Pirates Preview
Head Coach: Mike Houston, 3rd year at East Carolina, 14-19
12th year overall, 94-44, 2021 Preview
2021 Record: Overall: 7-5, Conference: 5-3
Keys To The Season | Season Prediction, What Will Happen
East Carolina Top 10 Players | East Carolina Schedule
East Carolina Pirates Preview 2022
East Carolina was fun.
It was the first winning season since 2014, the seven wins were as many as the first two years in the Mike Houston era, and the program was going bowling again only to see the game get canceled.
The offense was strong, the defense wasn’t totally miserable, and the team did exactly what it had to in a stepping-stone season – it beat the teams it was supposed to. Now the next step is to start beating the better ones.
It was a weekly thrill ride with seven games decided by a touchdown or less before the battle with Cincinnati that – for a while – was closer than the 35-13 final score.
It’ll take some patching to get the offense up to speed, but the defense has experience, the key backups from last year should be ready to shine, and with what’s coming soon in the American Athletic Conference, this is the year for the program to reposition itself as the future star of the league.
For now, just getting bowl eligible again would be good enough.
East Carolina Pirates Preview 2022: Offense
The Pirate offense was better than it’s been in a while, but it still has to be a whole lot better in pass protection and it could stand to be a tad more explosive.
The yards were there, and few teams were better at scoring after getting in the red zone, but the receiving corps has to be redone, the line needs to be stronger, and – more on this in the Keys section – the running game has to be good every time out.
The passing game will be fine. QB Holton Ahlers is a longtime veteran quarterback who knows what he’s doing – he’ll throw for at least 200 yards every time out – and the receiving corps should be fine.
Tyler Snead took off early, but CJ Johnson is a dangerous deep threat and Ryan Jones is a nice tight end who caught 37 passes and five scores. Like last year, Ahlers will spread the ball around.
The line will at least be experienced. Now it has to block a pass rusher. Too many teams lived rent free in the backfield, but there’s a decent base of starters returning, West Virginia’s Parker Moorer should find a spot at left tackle, and overall the front five will be better.
The Pirates went way young in the running back rotation. Ahlers will take off and add yards, too, but the combination of sophomore backs Keaton Mitchell and the more thumping Rahjai Harris should once again push for well past 1,500 yards. Getting North Carolina transfer Kamarro Edmonds is going to be a big deal at some point.
East Carolina Pirates Preview 2022: Defense
The defense was okay. Don’t blow that off as any sort of dismissive thing – 2015 was the last time ECU didn’t give up six yards per play. It’s not like it was a brick wall, but the D was at least in the middle of the AAC pack. That’s a massive improvement, and now there’s experience after taking a whole lot of lumps with underclassmen in key spots.
The Pirates used a whole lot of parts, and now it should pay off. All-star LB Bruce Bivens and S Jaquan McMillian are both gone, but they only made 57 and 56 tackles, respectively. Myles Berry is back at one inside linebacker spot, Jeremy Lewis will once again be a key pass rusher from his hybrid spot – however, he only led the team with four sacks – and Xavier Smith is about to play a much bigger role.
The secondary had a nice mix of parts last year. Again, the rotation mattered, and now the safeties should be okay after getting their feet more than wet. Malik Fleming is a veteran all-around corner to build around.