College Football: 2017 East Carolina Pirates Preview 


The East Carolina Pirates were buried by injuries on defense last season. Young coach Scottie Montgomery was never in a good position to get the most out of his team. Even a veteran coach would have had a hard time adjusting to a very challenging set of circumstances. The Pirates can only hope that their defense will both be better and luckier. Younger defenders need to show they have what it  takes, and the injury bug needs to stay away so that this team can begin to fulfill its potential.

How Did They End 2016

The Pirates didn’t stop trying, but they lacked both the talent and the depth to withstand the strain of a season in which they were young, unlucky, and ultimately pounded into submission. The final scores of the last four games of ECU’s season say it all. The Pirates, in their closing four games, allowed 45, 55, 66, and 37 points. They were overmatched and outmanned. This was not a failure of scheme or preparation, but a convergence of horrible circumstances. It is hard to use the 3-9 season as a definitive indication of how good this program and coach will be in 2017 and beyond.

Offseason Changes

ECU has a situation at quarterback which is not necessarily problematic, but could certainly become a thorny problem if not handled well. Last year, Philip Nelson piloted this offense. Nelson was a transfer from Minnesota who moved to a less competitive conference for a chance at additional playing time under less pressure. Now, it seems that another player from another program has made a similar choice. Daniel Jones has become the top quarterback at Duke. The man who had been ahead of him on the depth chart before the 2016 season, Thomas Sirk, suffered an injury. Rather than try to compete with Jones, Sirk transferred from Duke to ECU. He will become another transfer quarterback. If these players perform great, the coach has nothing to worry about. However, if they don’t pan out, they reveal that a head coach can’t live on transfers alone. He has to recruit players to this position and show people in the program that he can home-grow talent. ECU is nervous about Sirk’s prospects this season.

Team X-Factor

The East Carolina defense collapsed in November of last season. Accordingly, it needed defensive help. Auburn transfer Tim Irvin, a cornerback, will try to shore up a secondary which was out of its league last season. If Irvin makes a big impact, the Pirates won’t give up nearly as many downfield passing plays this season.

What To Expect From The Pirates This Year

It is hard to think this team will be 3-9 again, and that’s because it’s hard to imagine this team getting the injury bug on a scale akin to last season. ECU won’t be spectacular, but it will improve in a positive direction. A 6-6 season seems reasonable.

Record Last 5 Seasons

2016: 3-9

2015: 5-7

2014: 8-5

2013: 10-3

2012: 8-5

Schedule & Outlook

The Pirates have such a low regular season win total that it’s worth examining to see if they can somehow get to four wins. By all accounts, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. 3.5 wins is among the lowest regular season win totals that you’ll see on the board but it is underrating what this team is capable of. They should be able to push for .500.

The first win of the season should come in Week 1 against James Madison, which means they have to find three more along the way. Their next three games will beat them down but if they can get through that without damaging their morale, they should find those three wins. Those next three games are at West Virginia, home to Virginia Tech and home to South Florida off a bye. They still have four home games beyond that, which includes Templte, BYU, Tulane and Cincinnati – the latter of which two should provide wins.

The Pirates will fit in somewhere between five and seven wins. Even a modest improvement on defense should move the needle in the right direction. The question is not if this team can win five games, but if it can win seven and put together a bigger leap than some expect.

Regular Season Win Total Prediction: Over 3.5

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Written by Geoff Harvey

Geoff Harvey has been creating odds and betting models since his days in the womb, just don't ask him how he used to get his injury reports back then. Harvey contributes a wealth of quality and informational content that is a valuable resource for any handicapper.


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